electric cars

If you’ve been driving around a large city anytime recently, you’ve likely seen someone driving an electric car. Electric vehicles (EVs) currently make up a small percentage of the overall market, but sales have been booming in recent years. There are more EVs on the road than ever before.

What’s driving people to buy an electric car? In cities, electric cars make a lot of sense. Owners can easily drive to and from work, get errands done, and then plug in and recharge overnight. But this doesn’t explain what’s actually increasing adoption.

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) looks to answer this in a new report. The ICCT found 4 main factors that are driving growth.

1: Strong consumer incentives

Subsidies, at the local, state, and federal level, are actively driving EV adoption in many cities. This chart shows just how much money consumers stand to receive thanks to various incentives:

The amounts vary widely, with a few locations even charging a fee specific to EVs. This is still one of the most important factors currently driving adoption. Wouldn’t you want to get money back for buying a new car?

2: A broad range of electric car offerings

Let’s face it, consumers like to have choice. The Nissan Leaf may be the best-selling electric car out there, but it’s not the only one. Some cities simply have more options to choose from than others. You can see just how much it varies here:

Everyone’s taste and requirements are different, which is why having more vehicles to choose from ultimately attracts more customers.

3: Strong promotional activities

A number of state, local, and utility promotions encourage electric car adoption. Some of these are financial incentives. But other benefits motivate people, too. Perks like carpool lane access and dedicated, free parking spaces are hard to quantify in terms of dollars but factor into people’s decisions.

How much influence do different factors have on people? You can get some insight by looking at how promotional activities, and charging infrastructure in particular, compare to electric car adoption:

These benefits can be the deciding factor that ultimately convinces someone to make the switch. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, carpool-lane access is a much-sought-after benefit of owning an electric car.

4: A well-developed charging infrastructure

It may seem repetitive to mention charging infrastructure again, but it’s important enough to merit its own discussion. One of the biggest concerns people have with electric cars is that they might run out of juice while away from home. Having an extensive charging infrastructure can help to alleviate this fear.

In truth, most electric car owners do the majority, if not all, of their charging at home overnight. But being able to plug in for free while getting something else done is a very attractive proposition. After all, it would be nice to know you could top off your battery charge while grocery shopping or going to the gym.

Where people are buying the most electric cars

Looking across the charts, it becomes clear that different approaches are being used to drive sales in different cities. Strong incentives are still helping to drive electric car sales — but with prices dropping, this will become less important in the future.

A look at the 25 most populous cities in the USA shows that they remain hubs of electric car adoption, with sales there representing 1.1% of total vehicles sold. This may not sound like a lot, but it’s roughly 40% higher than the nationwide average. When the ICCT looked at the top 7 cities, EV uptake was between 2 and 7 times the national average!

If you’re in one of these cities, or even if you aren’t, driving electric may be a smart choice for your next car.