If you were asked what the best U.S. city for electric cars will be, what would you say? A compact city where keeping within your new e-car's range would be a cinch? Or would you guess the best city for electric cars will be the one with the most charging posts? Wrong on both tries, says General Electric (which by the way makes a charging post, the WattStation): the "best" cities for EVs will be those where nearly everybody already drives to work.
Detroit was once a mecca for electric cars - will it be so again? Photo credit bobster855 via flickr and Creative Commons license.
According to GE, which said it used its own data and some from Deloitte to draw up a list of U.S. cities "best positioned" for electric cars, the EV winner is Dallas, followed by Houston, Detroit, St. Louis, and Atlanta.
GE said they took American Community Survey (Census) data and looked at cities with the most car commuters, and then cross-tabbed those numbers with cities where most commuters also live within a 50-mile radius, since range anxiety is one of the top concerns supposedly inhibiting people from planning to buy an e-car.
The result? Cities like Dallas and Houston get top marks. (In Dallas, 91.5 percent of commuters drive to work. Compare that to a place like Seattle, where just 53% percent of commuters drive to work.)
But what's the use of a study like this - it doesn't actually say anything about the cities that are making the most effort to get ready for, or give preference to, electric cars. Well, GE spokesperson Lauren Talamini says the point is to "highlight cities where EV infrastructure investment would be best spent moving forward."
GE's designated top candidates don't match up with another recent study, by Roland Berger and the Rocky Mountain Institute, that rated 50 major metropolitan markets for what it called "plug-in electric vehicle readiness."
Bergers' and RMI's winner was Austin, Texas, followed by Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and Orlando, Florida.
It was these cities, according to Berger's researchers, that excelled at infrastructure, regulatory environment, consumer readiness, and something called overall operating environment.
While GE's idea of best U.S. cities for electric cars and Berger's conclusions don't jive when looking at the top five, GE's top cities do show up in Berger's top 50, under the categories of "Aggressive Followers" (Detroit and Houston) and "Fast Followers" (Atlanta, Dallas, and St. Louis).
While Berger's study seems much more reliable than GE's in predicting what the best U.S. cities for electric cars will actually be in future, both studies turned up interesting tidbits. From the RMI study was the interesting observation that 40 percent of the top 50 metro areas in the U.S. have done nothing to prepare for electric cars. I
In addition, both studies mentioned the fact that public infrastructure, i.e. publicly-available charging stations, are not as important as we may have thought in spreading EVs, because most users will charge at home.
Both these studies also (unintentionally) seem to contribute to the slowly growing meme that electric vehicles may not benefit transport, the environment, or livability in our cities. Shifting from a gas-guzzler to an electricity guzzler really doesn't change the transport paradigm - it just gives car companies and those like General Electric something new to sell.
Read more about the downside of electric vehicles:
Electric Vehicles: Good for Climate, Bad for Water
Today on Planet 100: Are You Falling for These Common Electric Car Myths? (Video)
12 Myths About Electric Vehicles