Where are electric cars hitting the road in the greatest numbers? Japan, the US, China and Europe are leading the way, with a wide...

Where are electric cars hitting the road in the greatest numbers? Japan, the US, China and Europe are leading the way, with a wide variety of programs and incentives encouraging city-dwellers in particular to switch to plug-in-based transport.

Just 16 cities in nine countries account for nearly one-third of all the electric vehicles (EVs) in use today, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The circumstances and strategies in each of these leading areas, though, can vary dramatically.

In an effort to better understand what best drives adoption of plug-in cars, the IEA and several other organizations — including the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Clean Energy Ministerial and C40 — compiled a review of some of the most successful city programs to date. That review, the “EV City Casebook: A Look at the Global Electric Vehicle Movement,” takes an in-depth look at the energy infrastructure, travel patterns and initiatives of the world’s top EV cities.

Since 2009, for example, a government-university-industry consortium in Japan has worked to promote electric cars and “intelligent transportation systems” across Nagasaki Prefecture. That’s led to the relatively small population on the Goto Islands being able to “experience a society where EVs operate widely in daily use.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles — long known as one of the most car-dependent big cities in the world — is “building upon the city’s historic
EV deployment in the 1990s from which there remains a handful of vehicles and 117 public access legacy chargers.” There, the push for more plug-in vehicles promises an assortment of benefits: better local air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and more revenues coming into the municipally owned utility instead of going out through gasoline taxes.

So which cities currently have the most electric cars plying their streets? Following are the top 10, according to the “EV City Casebook”:

  1. Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan: 2,183 EVs, with 109 quick battery chargers and 341 100/200-volt outlets for charging EVs;
  2. Los Angeles: 2,000, with 106 EV chargers;
  3. Shanghai: 1,633 (1,614 public-service EVs and 19 private-sector vehicles), with seven charging stations, two battery-swapping stations and 687 charging poles;
  4. Portland, Oregon: 1,300, with 225 chargers;
  5. Rotterdam: aiming for 1,000 within five years, with 100 chargers already in place;
  6. BrabantStad (the name given to the region encompassing five cities in the Netherlands: Breda, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Tilburg, Eindhoven and Helmond): 755  (including 500 hybrids, 50 plug-in hybrids, 200 EVs and five public buses), with 500 charging stations;
  7. Amsterdam: 750, with 350 public charging stations (the highest number per-capita of any city in the world);
  8. Barcelona: 480 (280 public fleet vehicles, 100 privately owned EVs), with one fast-charging station and 248 slow-charging stations;
  9. Berlin: 350, with 220 public charging points; and
  10. Hamburg: 350 (including 268 passenger EVs, 80 light-duty EVs and five hybrid buses), with 100 public and 100 corporate charging stations.


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