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Charged EVs | Which urban neighborhoods have the highest EV adoption rates, and why? Leave a comment


To date, most EV buyers, at least in the US, have been suburban dwellers, and these folks may not understand what the fuss is about charging. They install a charger in their carport or driveway, and never look back. But for EV adoption to reach the next cohort of drivers, there needs to be a solution for those who live in dense urban areas, and can’t install chargers at home (the Plight of the Drivewayless).

For those who follow the industry, it’s self-evident that most existing EV owners will be found in low-density neighborhoods where homes have driveways. But it’s always good to back up the anecdotes with data, and that’s what Matthew Lichtash has done in a recent LinkedIn post.

Lichtash was struck by a curious claim in the Wall Street Journal (hardly a source of accurate information about EVs). The WSJ article asserted that “most [EV] buyers are in urban areas, where public charging infrastructure is more readily available.” Of course, the opposite seems more likely to be true: EV adoption is highest in neighborhoods where houses tend to have their own garages.

To test his hypothesis, Mr. Lichtash found publicly available data for Brooklyn, where he lives, and fed it into the data visualization tool Tableau. Two neighborhoods stood out: Brooklyn Heights, a wealthy neighborhood with low rates of car ownership (but comparatively high numbers of EVs); and South Brooklyn, which has much higher car ownership and more detached, single-family homes.

Lichtash mapped existing public chargers, and compared their locations to areas of high EV ownership (using Atlas EV Hub’s EValuateNY database). Sure enough, he found little correlation between charger locations and high densities of EV ownership. “In fact, there are virtually no public chargers at all in the southern pocket of Brooklyn with high EV demand,” Lichtash writes.

Next, Lichtash looked at which zip codes had the greatest prevalence of on-site parking (using data from the US Census American Community Survey). He found that Brooklyn Heights has one of the lowest on-site parking access rates in the borough, while the southern zip codes have high rates of on-site parking access.

Matt reached a couple of key conclusions from looking at the data:

1) Wealth is a huge driver of EV adoption. The median household income in Brooklyn Heights is well over $100,000, and wealthy people can afford to secure dedicated parking, either on-site or at a nearby garage equipped with EV chargers.

2) Access to on-site parking is the predominant driver of owning an EV in a city. While the southern parts of Brooklyn are middle-income areas, most homes have their own garages or private parking spaces.

Again, neither of these insights will be news to regular Charged readers. However, companies investing in charging infrastructure need data, not just anecdotes and common sense. Of course, charging network operators such as Electrify America, ChargePoint and EVgo do this sort of analysis all the time, using increasingly sophisticated AI-based algorithms to help them determine the best locations for charging sites. Any of those companies might have been happy to provide the WSJ with more accurate infomation about where high EV adoption rates are to be found—but that would have spoiled Mr. Lichtash’s fun, and it’s interesting to see how much an EV enthusiast (or maybe even a journalist) can learn using publicly available data and commonly-used software tools.

Source: Matthew Lichtash on LinkedIn


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