Electrifying the U.S. transportation sector is an essential piece of the decarbonization puzzle because it accounts for the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Electric vehicles are the key to this but so is investing in electrifying public transportation and making it more accessible so that fewer new cars need to be on the road.

Public transportation can not only help lower CO2 emissions by reducing cars on the road, but it can also deliver equitable access to communities that have been overlooked. Today, effective public transportation is hard to find outside major cities and urban areas. Suburbanization and underinvestment have led to an aging public transportation infrastructure that is strained and ineffective. The other challenge is America’s love affair with cars. Over the past 65 years, the country has spent around $10 trillion on infrastructure around highways and roads, and only a quarter of that on public transportation. President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan represents one of the most ambitious efforts yet, by proposing more spending toward the country’s public transportation sector.

In this article, we take a look across the U.S. at where each state stands in electric vehicle and public transportation adoption.

Why does electrifying our transportation matter?

In order to stay on target for limiting global temperature rise, we need to address all transit options. The International Energy Agency recently announced that reaching net zero emissions by 2050 would require that electric vehicles account for over 60% of global passenger car sales by 2030.

The biggest barrier to adoption of electric vehicles has been the initial purchase cost and lack of charging outlets across the country but that is starting to change. As battery technology improves and charging infrastructures spreads, the number of electric vehicle models available to consumers is expected to more than triple in the next few years. As more electricity generation moves to zero-carbon generation and more EVs get on the road, we can move closer to net zero.

Federal government plays an important role in pushing for EV and transportation adoption. But state policymakers must also work to familiarize more individuals with EVs by encouraging their purchase, diversifying their state’s transportation fleet and improving their coverage.

Which states offer incentives for purchasing EVs?

Today, only 23 states offer incentives for purchasing EVs. Electric vehicle purchasing incentives can lead to an increased EV adoption. This is already happening in several states across the country including California, Colorado, New York and more. As an example, the state of Georgia used to have one of the largest purchasing EV incentives in the country. The Peach State enacted a $5,000 tax credit for EV purchases, that led the state to become the second in highest number of electric vehicles on the road. However, EV sales in Georgia have plummeted since the end of the state’s incentive in 2015.

Although energy costs for EVs are generally lower than internal combustion vehicles, purchase prices are still too high for some individuals. To mitigate these costs, many states have implemented incentives to promote the adoption of EVs.

As of 2020, 45 states and D.C. offer incentives to support the deployment of electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure, which include high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane exemptions, vehicle inspections or emissions test exemptions, parking incentives, utility reductions, and financial incentives for purchasing electric vehicles or electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

How many electric charging outlets are in each state?

Charging costs for EVs are actually lower than the conventional fuel vehicle. According to the Department of Energy, based on the national average of 12.5 cents/kwh, fully charging an EV with a 100-mile range and depleted battery would cost about the same as operating your average central air conditioner for 6 hours.

While the costs are great, finding an available charger can be another story. Charging infrastructure is key to assuring EV adoption across the country. Whether from a home charger or on the go, the need for charging outlets is becoming more pressing as the nation continues to push its efforts in achieving net zero by 2050.

Today, California ranks number one with the most charging outlets in the United States, just over 33,000 charging outlets. On the contrary, Alaska has the least amount of charging outlets (67) followed by North (115) and South Dakota (131).

Which states offer incentives for installation of EVSE?

Today, more than half of states (38) offer incentives for installation of EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment), which includes EV charging stations – Level 1, Level 2 and Direct Current Fast Charging. All three differ in amount of energy they require, infrastructure, charging time

and cost. In Massachusetts, the Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, also known as MassEVIP, provides grants for 50 percent of the cost of a Level 1 or Level 2 workplace EVSE (up to $25,000).

While the Golden State is seen as a leader EV adoption and infrastructure, the challenge remains in figuring out how to make these charging outlets accessible to everyone. The state is currently working on phasing out sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035, creating an urgent need to expand EV charging infrastructure. In 2020 California, pledged to spend $384 million to fill equity gaps in the states EV charging network, with 50 percent of the investment carved out specifically for low-income communities.

Following California’s effort is the Empire State, with a $750 million program to create more than 50,000 charging stations across New York – 25 percent of that funding set aside for low-income communities. From businesses to a city hall, to even right at home, state incentives for installation of EVSE helps further infrastructure that supports electric vehicle adoption across the country.

What percentage of commuters use public transportation in each state?

EVs are not for everyone yet, so how can all of us take part in reducing transportation emissions? Taking public transportation is one of the most efficient actions individuals can take to reduce CO2 emissions emitted from the transportation sector. In fact, riding public transportation far exceeds the benefits of other energy saving household activities like using energy efficient appliances. A single individual who switches from a 20-mile commuting alone by car to public transportation, can reduce their annual CO2 emissions by up to 20 pounds a day. That’s more than 48,000 pounds a year.

While not a state yet, D.C. sits at the top in public transportation with 57% of its commuters using public transportation, walking, cycling and carpooling. Following D.C., New York remains the number one state with the most public transit ridership at 41%. This also includes taking public transportation, walking, cycling or carpooling.

In order to stay on target for limiting global temperature rise, we need to address all transit options, including electrifying public transportation fleets and improving their overall coverage. The more accessible public transportation becomes, the more likely people will ride, thus delivering more benefits to the environment.

Decarbonization is critical to combating the climate crisis. Our ability to fully decarbonize as a country will come down to our collective efforts across all 50 states. While consumers are key in decarbonizing our transportation sector, state policymakers and private players must work to incentivize a consumer ecosystem that encourages the movement towards electrifying our transportation sector.

Follow us to learn more in the coming weeks about how your state is performing in its decarbonization efforts across, clean-energy friendly policy, environmental justice (accessibility) and building energy efficiency.