The best and worst states to own an electric vehicle

Electric vehicle ownership is on the rise — but not everywhere in the U.S. is EV-friendly. Here are the best and worst places to own an electric car.

Best and worst states for electric cars

Natalie Nelson

Anna Swartz

By 

Anna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Published February 28, 2022 | 8 min read

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The buzz around all-electric vehicles (EVs) has never been bigger. In August 2021, President Biden announced an ambitious new goal: By 2030, half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. will be electric. [1]

With the majority of consumers indicating that they’d consider buying an EV, along with highly anticipated new electric vehicles on the way like the all-electric Hummer and the Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck, which opened orders in January 2022, the EV industry may be on the verge of a major tipping point. [2]

But while some states have lots of electric vehicles on the roads, plenty of charging stations, and incentives to encourage EV ownership, not every corner of the country is EV-friendly. That means it’s all the more important for drivers to know which U.S. states are the best for EV owners, and which are lagging behind.

How we ranked states

Our scores are based on five key metrics that contribute to the quality of electric vehicle ownership in every state: 

  • Number of laws and incentives to promote EV ownership. Some states offer laws and incentives targeted at EV drivers, like exemptions that allow EVs to use HOV lanes or state-specific tax credits to encourage drivers to switch to EVs.  

  • Percentage of EVs out of the total number of cars registered. A higher ratio of electric vehicles on the road suggests that there are more mechanics familiar with electric vehicles, more EV dealers for buying new vehicles, and more advocates for EV infrastructure. 

  • Number of EV charging stations per square mile. The number of electric charging stations in a state matters a lot to EV drivers, and in order to make sure smaller states were fairly represented, we broke it down by each state’s size in square miles.  

  • Average cost of electricity in each state. While you won’t be paying for gas in your EV, installing a charger in your garage will affect your electric bill, so states with where electric bills are lower are better for EV owners

  • Average cost to insure EVs. We took a look at the average cost of insurance for four of the most popular EV models in the U.S. — the Tesla Model 3, the Tesla Model Y, the Nissan Leaf, and the Chevrolet Bolt EV — to see where it costs the most, and the least, to insure an EV. 

Best states to own an electric vehicle  

5. Vermont

Even with cold winters that may cause EV batteries to drain faster, Vermont earned the fifth spot on our list of EV-friendly states. The Green Mountain State ranked well thanks to its low cost of car insurance (it costs just $1,790 a year, on average, to insure an EV in Vermont, compared to the U.S. average of $2,431) and a relatively high ratio of electric vehicles to total registered vehicles. 

4. Massachusetts

The Bay State may be relatively small, but with nearly 2,000 electric vehicle charging stations, it has a high number of chargers per square mile. And since about one out of every hundred cars on the road is an EV, EV drivers in Massachusetts have lots of company — meaning there may be enough EV-friendly mechanics and dealerships offering EVs to go around. One drawback? The average cost of electricity is higher in Massachusetts than in most other states.

3. Oregon

Oregon is another state with a relatively low average cost of car insurance and a high percentage of registered electric vehicles. It also scored high for laws and incentives to promote electric vehicle ownership: Low- and medium-income Oregonians can get a rebate of up to $5,000 for the purchase or lease of a plug-in EV.

2. Washington

Like its neighbor to the south, Washington scored well on our list, boosted by a low average cost of electricity and a high percentage of electric vehicles out of the total number of registered cars. There are more than 50,000 electric vehicles in Washington state, making up almost 2% of all cars on the road, so new electric vehicle owners there will be in good company.

1. California

Is it any surprise that California, birthplace of Tesla, Inc., topped our list of best states to own an electric vehicle? While the average costs of electricity and car insurance are relatively high in the Golden State, California residents have registered more than 425,000 electric vehicles, meaning nearly 3% of all cars on the road in California are EVs. And California boasts robust state laws and incentives promoting electric vehicle ownership.

Worst states to own an electric vehicle  

5. Arkansas

Arkansas scored at the fifth-worst state in the U.S. for owning an electric vehicle thanks in part to the low percentage of electric cars on the roads — just 0.15% of registered vehicles are electric. The cost of insuring an electric vehicle in Arkansas was also high, at $2,833 per year, on average (for comparison, the overall average cost of car insurance in Arkansas is just $1,772 a year). 

4. Kentucky

One of the reasons for Kentucky’s poor score is the high cost of insuring an electric vehicle in the Bluegrass State. Car insurance costs are already higher than average in Kentucky, but the cost of insuring an electric car came out to a whopping $3,115 a year, making it the fourth-most expensive state for insuring an electric car. That cost might help explain why only 0.16% of cars on the road in Kentucky are electric. 

3. North Dakota

North Dakota ranked lowest on our list for the ratio of electric vehicles to total registered cars, and it also scored poorly for access to charging stations. The state has only about 60 charging stations in over 70,000 square miles.

2. Mississippi 

Another state with a relative handful of charging stations for its residents, Mississippi has fewer than 800 electric vehicles on the roads. It also lags behind in incentives and laws encouraging EV ownership and alternative fuels. 

1. South Dakota

The absolute least-EV-friendly state on our list, South Dakota scored poorly for having a high average cost of car insurance, low access to charging stations, and only a few hundred electric cars on the roads already. South Dakota also has no incentives on the books that specifically encourage EV ownership — but it does have an annual fee of $50 that plug-in electric vehicle owners must pay each year in addition to registration fees.

How the rest of the states stack up

Spotlight cities

We ranked the best and worst states for electric vehicle owners, but these four cities stood out as some of the top areas in the country for EVs.

✭ San Jose, CA

Is it any surprise that San Jose, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, would be a standout city for electric vehicle owners? Of every city in the U.S., San Jose boasts the most EV charging stations per million residents, according to a 2020 report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). [3]

✭ Cincinnati, OH 

Cincinnati earned its spot on our spotlight cities list thanks to its All-Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, which offers free city parking to all-electric vehicles. [4] Drivers just have to apply for their free parking permit, and then they can park at any city meter, kiosks, and one city garage for free.

✭ Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles earned a shoutout for having the most laws and incentives promoting the ownership and adoption of EVs of any U.S. city, according to the ICCT report. Los Angeles features a city-sponsored electric carsharing program, city-owned EV chargers, and access to HOV lanes for electric vehicles. 

✭ Portland, OR 

Portland earns a place on our spotlight cities list for its ambitious EV plan, which is aimed at ensuring that by 2030, at least 13% of all non-commercial vehicle miles traveled in Portland should be in EVs. [5] The plan includes a streamlined process for getting EV charging permits and a partnership with ZipCar to allow EV owners without garages to use fast chargers in central locations around the city. 

Methodology

States were scored by rating each state on a scale of 1-51 in five separate categories. The highest score represented “best” for electric vehicles and the lowest score was “worst” for electric vehicles. 

The scores were added together, with different weights applied (the number of laws and incentives in a state were weighted at five times the baseline, while the percent of electric cars and number of charging stations per square mile were weighted at three times the baseline and cost of insurance and electricity were unweighted). The highest score earned the top spot on our list.

Electric vehicles laws and incentives: Total number of EV-related laws and incentives (including state tax credits, HOV lane access, and EV-related grants and rebates) sourced from an up-to-date database maintained by the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC). [6] Because some states had identical numbers, there were only 27 distinct values in this category. The state with the lowest number of EV-related laws and incentives earned a score of 1 and the state with the highest number of EV-related laws and incentives earned a score of 27.

Percent of electric cars per total registered cars: This score was calculated by comparing the number of electric vehicles registered in each state (according to 2020 data from the AFDC) to the total number of registered vehicles in that state (according to 2019 data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the most recent year for which data was available). [7] [8] The state with the lowest percentage of electric vehicles earned a score of 1 and the state with the highest percentage of electric vehicles earned a score of 51. 

Number of electric car charging stations per square mile: This score was calculated by dividing the total number of electric car charging stations, according to a database maintained by the AFDC, by the square mileage of each state according to the U.S. census. [9] [10] The state with the lowest number of electric car charging stations per square mile earned a score of 1 and the state with the highest number of electric car charging stations earned a score of 51.

Average cost of electricity: Average costs sourced from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on the most recent data released Nov. 2, 2020. [11] The state with the highest average cost of electricity scored a 1 and the state with the lowest average cost scored 51.

Average cost of car insurance: 2021 rates courtesy of Quadrant Information Services for every ZIP code in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and were based on full coverage policies with liability coverage of 50/100/50 for four of the most popular electric vehicle models in the U.S., the Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model Y, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Bolt EV.

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