Electric vehicle “charging deserts,” places where electric-vehicle recharging stations and the number of charge ports are in short supply, stretch across states, largely divided by economic and racial lines, according to new analysis by Bumper.com.
Looking at a range of fiscal and societal factors, our Distressed County Index shows that the top fifth of US counties account for nearly one-third (32.60%) of all EV charge ports in the country. The bottom fifth of US counties have access to less than 20% of EV charging stations and charge ports.
The divide becomes even more pronounced when we analyze the data by income: More than seven out of every 10 EV charge ports are in the richest US counties.
Our analysis also shows that nearly 95.6% of EV chargers are in counties with majority white populations, compared to 4% in counties with predominantly black populations. Measured by income groups, the top fifth of US counties for EV charging stations are 80% white and 6.7% black; the bottom fifth is about 70% white and 18% black.
These disparities show the challenges and opportunities the Biden administration faces in expanding the EV charging network nationwide. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $7.5 billion is being invested to build a national EV recharging network of 500,000 charging stations. The administration’s goal is for 50% of new vehicles to be electric by 2030.
The state of EV charging among US counties
To put together a nationwide network of EV chargers is a daunting task—over one-third of US counties don’t have public EV charging stations, according to analysis by Bumper.com, the go-to for low-cost vehicle history reports and a platform for buying, selling and owning a vehicle.
As of March, there were 131,195 charge ports at 51,012 publicly accessible EV charging stations in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Charge ports are to EV charging stations what gas pumps are to gas stations, indicating how many electric cars can charge at any one time. The average publicly accessible EV charging station has 2.57 ports, according to government data.
Of the 3,143 counties and county equivalents in the US, 63.50% (1,997 counties) have public EV charging stations. The remaining 1,146 US counties (36.50%) currently do not.
There are currently 2.94 EV charge ports per 10,000 members of the population in the US, our analysis shows.
Distressed County Index: How EV chargers fall across economic lines
As the map above shows, we ranked US counties into five groups based on how they scored nationwide across nine factors, including per capita income, poverty, housing and education levels, as well as unemployment, access to health insurance and percent of population on government assistance (see Methodology for full list). The gray circles indicate the locations of the 51,012 publicly accessible EV charging stations in the US.
The least distressed counties make up the top 20% (or quintile one) in our Distressed County Index and are home to 32.60% of EV charge ports, or 3.24 ports per 10,000 population. The second and third quintile county groups each roughly have one-fifth of US charging ports, with 3.04 and 3.01 charge ports per 10,000 people, respectively.
The bottom two quintiles have only 11.74% and 19.27% of public EV charge ports, or 2.67 and 2.76 per 10,000 population, respectively.
EV chargers: Richest US counties dominate supply
Looking at the five county groups ranked by per capita income, the divide between the have and have-not counties becomes more stark: Our analysis shows that 71.68% of public EV charge ports are in the top fifth of counties based on income. In comparison, 15.89% of charge ports are located in counties in the second-highest income group.
Combined, the top 40% of the richest US counties account for nearly nine of every 10 charge ports (87.57%). The next three income groups have access to 6.48%, 3.90% and 2.05%, respectively, of available EV charge ports—or a combined total of just over 12%.
As noted above, there are on average 2.94 charge ports per 10,000 population in the US. The top fifth of US counties, however, have an average of 5.67 EV charge ports per 10,000 people—nearly twice the national average, and more than twice the average of the second income group (2.71 per 10,000 people). The next three income groups average 2.37, 2.10 and 1.87 EV charge ports per 10,000 people, respectively.
Related: What Does It Really Cost to Own an Electric Car?
A comparison of counties with and without EV charging stations by income group further shows the financial divide. Only 101 of the highest-income earning US counties—or 16%—don’t have any EV charging stations; whereas 371 counties in the lowest income group—59%—don’t have access to chargers.
Racial factors impact EV deserts
As noted above, our analysis also shows that nearly 95.6% of EV charge ports are in counties with majority white populations, compared to 4% in counties with predominantly black populations. In 2021, 87% of US counties had a majority white population.
Looking at demographics across five county income groups, the disparity becomes even more striking. In 2021, the US population was 59.3% white, 12.6% black, 5.9% Asian, 0.7% American Indian/Alaska native and 0.2% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, according to the US Census Bureau.
In the highest-income US counties—which have nearly 72% of the nation’s supply of EV charge ports—the population is 79.99% white, 6.72% black, 3.59% Asian,1.28% American Indian, 0.17% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 2.84% reporting some other race.
In the bottom fifth of US counties by income—which have less than 2% of all public EV charging stations and just 2.05% of the nation’s EV charge ports—the population is 69.68% white, 17.74% black, 4.25% American Indians, 0.57% Asian, 0.07% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 2.71% reporting some other race (see graphic below).
The highest-income earning areas also tend to correlate with higher numbers of white and Asian residents; since there are more charging stations in those prosperous areas, more white and Asian residents have access to readily available public charging stations. Black and Native American residents are overrepresented in the least prosperous areas, the same ones that have the lowest numbers of charging stations.
Counties where the largest race group population is Asian have nearly three times (2.98) more EV charge ports per 10,000 members of the population than those of majority American Indian/Alaskan Native descent and 2.4 times more than Black communities.
EV charge disparity: A state-by-state look
Looking at state averages of charge ports per 10,000 people against the national average (2.94), several states punch above their weight: Nevada has the highest level (17.63), nearly five times higher than the national average), followed by Colorado (12.92) and the District of Columbia (12.87), Vermont (12.84) and California (12.26).
The worst states per capita are Louisiana (0.46), Mississippi and Kentucky (0.71), Alabama (0.91) and Illinois (1.05).
Top states per capita EV chargers:
Bottom states per capita EV chargers:
A more nuanced way to compare states is to evaluate by the number of charge ports we would expect to see based on state per capita income. Evaluating states by counties that have at least one charging station, there is an average of 1.66 charge ports per $1,000 of income. Here, California is king, with an average of 15.44 charge ports per $1,000—an 828.44% increase from the national average, with a total of 34,087 more charge ports than the national average.
That is followed by the District of Columbia (13.00), Massachusetts (7.98), Arizona (5.58) and Hawaii (5.43).
States with the lowest average based on income are North Dakota (0.26), Wyoming (0.27), Iowa and Alaska (0.31) and South Dakota (0.32).
Related: Best and Worst States to Own Electric Cars
States punching above their weight:
States punching below their weight:
Access to free EV charging stations
One bright spot in our analysis for the most disadvantaged US counties: They have, on average, slightly more access per capita to free charging stations compared to other income groups.
In our analysis, we see that the top income group has 0.19 free charging ports per 10,000 population. The lowest income group has access to 1.1 free charging ports per 10,000 population, 325.48% above the average of 0.37 charge ports per 10,000 members of the population.
To determine county quintiles, we created the Distressed County Index with nine metrics of economic health and prosperity across counties in each state.
We are using interstate quartiles, comparing counties only within the same state on a quintile basis. The metrics used are from the American Community Survey (ACS) five-year 2021 dataset and are as follows:
- Percent of the population with no diploma
- Percent of the population below the poverty level
- Percent of the non-institutionalized civilian population without health insurance
- Percent of occupied housing units without access to indoor plumbing
- Percent of occupied housing units without access to a car
- Percent of the population using SNAP benefits
- Percent of the population that is unemployed
- Percent of vacant housing units
- Per capita income (dollars)
For our income analysis, we categorized into income quintiles all US counties and county equivalents (such as parishes in Louisiana and boroughs in Alaska) based on per capita income:
- Income group 1: ≥$35,331.20
- Income group 2: <$35,331.20
- Income group 3: <$31,076.20
- Income group 4: <$28,088.00
- Income group 5: <$24,824.00
We then analyzed the counties that were home to 131,195 charge ports at 51,012 public, open EV stations, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Excludes Puerto Rico. Figures were current as of March 15, 2023. Per capita figures represent average number charge ports per 10,000 population.
Population majorities, percentages and totals are based on members of the population who reported being only one race in the American Community Survey five-year estimates by the US Census.
Free charge ports were determined by stations who indicated free in their pricing data submitted to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Full data sets can be found here.
For more information, contact Kerry Sherin ([email protected]) or Erin Kemp ([email protected]).
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