January 26, 2024

California Electrification Statistics


9 Min. Read

California is currently the highest-ranking state when it comes to EV adoption, a milestone reflecting its innovative plan to phase out ICE vehicles by 2035.

But although California is the most EV-friendly state, there are still challenges that EV owners within the state may experience. When it comes to finding public chargers and determining the most cost-effective charging solution for their electric vehicle, public charging might not be the best option for drivers looking to maximize their experience and their savings.

In this article, we explore how California EV statistics paint a comprehensive picture of EV adoption and access to charging and what EV drivers and owners within the Golden State should know when it comes to the future of electric vehicles in their state.

What Do I Need to Know About Charging My EV in California?

California is already the most EV-friendly state, with more than 93,000 public and privately shared EV chargers available. However, with the fastest growing rate of adoption for electric vehicles, it also means that competition for public charging can be fierce and waiting lines can be long, with a ratio of one charger per 75 electric vehicles.

In 2023, Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) represented 25% of new vehicle sales in the state, a trend that will further limit the number of chargers per EV until the charging infrastructure catches up.

Distribution is also somewhat unequal, with major cities and highways featuring more charging locations than the north or southeast regions of the state.

Thankfully, the state also has robust at-home EV charger installation and charging incentives that can help reduce the reliance of EV drivers on public charging, provide the convenience of at-home charging, and offer greater cost savings than utilizing public EV charging stations.

Keep in mind that if you are looking for an at-home EV charger installation on your property or in your home, California also has clear laws for EV charger installation to ensure the safety and proper installation of all at-home EV chargers. Additionally, you will need to work with your licensed electrician so they can pull the appropriate permits for your home or property to meet all local and federal code and NEC requirements.

Electric Vehicle Charging Basics in California

California is actively developing its EV charging infrastructure and updating its power grid. As a result, EV owners have access to thousands of public and private facilities that deliver Level 2 EV charging stations and DC Fast Charging (DCFC), also referred to as Level 3 EV charging stations.

Most EVs will come with a Level 1 EV charging cable that can be plugged into any standard 120V wall outlet. This is often referred to as “slow charging” as it can take over 40 hours to fully charge an EV with a Level 1 EV charger but is a great option to keep on hand for emergencies, during travel, and for EV drivers with limited commutes who will not need to fully charge their EV overnight.

As Level 1 EV charging can take days to fully charge an EV, most EV drivers find that it is insufficient for their driving needs and choose to invest in at-home Level 2 EV charging equipment and a professional Level 2 EV charger installation to benefit from faster charging speeds of up to 19 kWh. With a Level 2 EV charger installation in your home, you can fully charge your electric vehicle’s battery in four to ten hours, making it convenient to charge overnight and wake up to a full EV battery.

However, as Level 2 EV charging will require a dedicated 240V circuit with either a hardwired connection to your EV charging station, also referred to as an EVSE, or a commercial-grade outlet designed to withstand routine use of high-powered current, you will need to hire a licensed electrician skilled in EV charger installation to ensure they are using the appropriate materials and designing your EV charging station to be safe and efficient for years to come.

The other alternative is utilizing public DC Fast Charging, a charging method that can fill a battery in an hour or less. This charging option is not available at the residential level due to the high voltage required, the commercial infrastructure needed to support DCFC, and the cost of purchasing, installing, and maintaining Level 3 EV charging stations. For drivers, there are also some downsides to consider when it comes to potentially causing increased battery degradation over time, the higher cost to charge using public charging stations, the reliance on a public charging infrastructure that continues to experience station outages, and longer wait times to access charging stations. While highly convenient for road trips, topping off a battery, and providing an alternative source of EV charging, most drivers find that relying primarily on public DCFC charging stations is less convenient than charging at home and 80% of EV charging occurs at home.

Important California EV Statistics

California EV statistics show the full extent of EV adoption in the Golden State. In 2022, ZEVs represented 3.9% of light-duty vehicles on the roads, with Battery Electric Vehicles accounting for 2.61% and Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles for 1.15%.

Electrification is also growing for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, with more than 1,700 electric buses already operating on California’s roads and many initiatives to expand this growing EV fleet in the future.

However, EV adoption can be described as uneven, with electric cars representing up to 14% of vehicles in some communities but being far less popular in other areas across the state. California EV statistics reveal that EV ownership rates are higher among educated consumers, and this trend suggests the Golden State must address this socioeconomic disparity and provide better access to EVs and more information on the benefits of electric vehicles to achieve its zero-emission goals by 2035.

Electric Vehicle Charging Costs in California

The EV charging cost varies based on current electricity prices and whether a public or private charger is used.

Public Charging Costs in California

Public charging facilities use different billing models, usually incorporating the cost of the energy used as well as various operating costs.

California EV statistics reveal that operators charge an average of $0.20-$0.30 per kWh for public Level 2 EV charging stations and $0.40-$0.60 per kWh for DC Fast Charging. With an electric car adding 3-4 miles of range per kWh depending on the efficiency of your vehicle and an average battery capacity of 75 to 100 kWh, driving a distance of 13,489 miles per year on average, or the typical mileage an America drives each year, will cost approximately $675-$1,350 to exclusively use public Level 2 EV chargers and $1,349-$2,698 to exclusively charge with DCFC chargers.

Costs to Charge at Home in California

The typical household in California pays $0.1534 per kWh, and with the average driver covering 13,489 miles per year on average, that will cost approximately $517-690 when charging at-home – significantly less than a gas-powered vehicle would require for the same range and cheaper than utilizing public charging stations as well.

Even though utilities charge an average price of $0.1534 per kWh in California, many consumers qualify for Time-of-Use programs with more competitive pricing outside peak hours, which are determined by the utility depending on when people are most likely to need and use electricity.

For instance, Liberty Utilities charges as little as $0.13 per kWh after 10 P.M., lowering the cost to charge an EV to somewhere between $9.75 and $13. If you plan accordingly and use a smart EV charger or even a smart panel to set your charging hours during off-peak times, you can save even more by charging your EV at home.

Cost to Install a Charger at Home in California

At-home EV charging comes with a lower per-kWh price and long-term savings, which can help justify the initial cost of a Level 2 EV charger installation in your home.

While the charging equipment itself typically costs $500 to $800, depending on the features and charging speed you want, it can cost significantly more as well.

Additionally, hiring a professional EV charger installer to perform your EV charger installation is an absolute must, but can add up to another $1,600-$2,000, on average, or more depending on the complexity of your installation and any additional infrastructure upgrades your home will need to support a Level 2 EV charger, such as a panel upgrade or load management device.

Are There Free Public Electric Car Charging Stations in California?

Free public charging is offered by some municipalities, such as the city of Los Angeles, with more than 600 free charging stations. However, relying solely on free public charging isn’t recommended as a reliable source of daily charging as options are more limited, lines can be longer, and charging stations may experience frequent outages.

Finding free charging stations can also be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the area, as more apps are available to direct you to paid charging stations, so trying to utilize free charging while traveling can create additional stress on your journey.

Where Are Public Charging Stations Located for Electric Cars in California?

You can expect to find charging options in the streets of major cities like San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, or Los Angeles. These metropolitan areas also have various parking garages, hotels, and other businesses that offer charging for customers and guests, so locating charging in more urban areas is relatively easy.

For EV drivers in more rural locations across the state, California recently invested $40.5 million to build EV charging stations along major highways, a measure that will facilitate access to charging along busy axes. Additionally, town centers may begin to install EV charging stations as popularity continues to grow and demand continues to rise.

How Much Electricity Is Needed to Charge an Electric Vehicle Every Day in California?

The amount of electricity needed to keep an EV charged depends on the make and model of your electric vehicle, as well as your driving habits.

On average, EVs have a range of three to four miles per kWh, but driving in heavy traffic can extend this range since regenerative braking will help conserve energy and refill the battery. Data shows that EV drivers typically use 408 kWh of energy a month, which translates to driving 1,200 to 1,600 miles a month. This number breaks down to around 13 kWh a day.

Going Further With Electrification In California

At-home EV charging can also be combined with other energy transition technology, such as battery storage, which allows you to store power when TOU rates are low, so you always pay the lowest possible rate for charging your EV.

Additionally, some EV owners are also investing in solar, a clean energy source that can recharge your home battery and provide clean and affordable power for your EV. With 1.8 million solar roofs in California, the Golden State has an ideal climate for solar energy.

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Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network