Pennsylvania Plug-in Map Shows Higher Concentration Around Cities

By · January 30, 2013

Pennsylvania Plug-in Adoption

Pennsylvania plug-in adoption by county. Dark green shows relatively high numbers of awarded plug-in rebates, while yellow counties have no EVs.

Pennsylvania has released a geographic breakdown of plug-in vehicle adoption based on data culled from a statewide incentive program that launched in 2011. Using a color-coded Google Maps overlay, the number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle rebates approved in each county can be seen at PennLive.com.

In all, 593 rebates have been approved over the first two years of the program, which offers $3,000 for fully electric vehicles and PHEVs with larger battery packs like the Chevy Volt, and $1,000 for PHEVs with smaller batteries like the Toyota Prius plug-in or Ford C-Max Energi. In all, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection plans to distribute $3.3 million dollars in rebates to more than 1,100 drivers over the course of the program—though that may number may increase in the future, as the state has already chosen to extend the program beyond its initial 600-vehicle target.

Most of the rebates are concentrated in the state’s most populated, wealthiest counties, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with similar findings from other states. Plug-ins tend to be most popular in urban areas with higher population densities, particularly those with higher average income and level of education. These trends seem to hold true in Pennsylvania.

What is a bit surprising is that plug-ins have achieved no market penetration whatsoever in more than half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. In fact, more than half of the state’s total plug-in sales have come from just seven counties surrounding or including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (though roughly 45 percent of Pennsylvanians live in one of those seven counties.)

Pennsylvania’s charge infrastructure is even more concentrated. A quick look at the map of publically available charging stations in the state (either those online or currently in development,) reveals that there are fewer than 10 stations outside of the Philadelphia or Pittsburgh areas. Erie County, which has logged 13 plug-in sales, appears to have no public infrastructure, despite being one of the more plug-in-dense counties in the state.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

Why is any of this surprising or news worthy?

· · 1 year ago

Actually, Brian, I find this article to be of interest. Most of that, however, is probably because I grew up in State College, Pennsylvania. It's in Centre County, which is that one in the exact geographic center on the map, shaded light green. Following the hyperlink to the map's source yields a duplicate map that's interactive, where one can find how many EVs populate any given county.

Centre County has 4 EVs . . . and I'm going to guess that all of them are in State College, where the expansive Penn State University campus is located. Perhaps what's surprising, though, is the paucity near the larger metro areas. Dauphin County, where the state capital of Harrisburg, is located, only has 3. The counties surrounding Philadelphia are among the better represented. But, even here, it's just a handful each, with metro Philly itself only showing 7. Further west, in the Allegheny County seat of Pittsburgh, it's an even 10. Further north, in Erie, there are 7.

Given the generous state rebate, these are very meager numbers. Perhaps part of the problem is the cold winters, which are going to limit ranges on the current generation of EV batteries, and the rather hilly terrain that is prominent throughout most of the state. Even so, most round trips aren't uphill both way, despite the hardship stories my parents would share with me about traveling in their youth.

· · 1 year ago

Certainly the data is interesting, but this article is not at all newsworthy. It can be summed up in one single line:

"Pennsylvania released a cool map showing where EVs and chargers are".

Thats it. There is not one single surprise in this whole thing, nor is any of it unusual.

In fact this paragraph:

"What is a bit surprising is that plug-ins have achieved no market penetration whatsoever in more than half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. In fact, more than half of the state’s total plug-in sales have come from just seven counties surrounding or including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (though roughly 45 percent of Pennsylvanians live in one of those seven counties.)"

Is almost opposite of what should be written. That is not surprising *at all*. In fact, it not only is what most people with any sense would expect, but it is also pretty much following the same pattern as everywhere else in the nation.

It's simple.

Electric cars (currently) cost more to purchase, and are not as useful to people in rural areas but are perfect fits for cities and urbanized areas.

There isn't a ton of need to get into elaborate demographics to solve this one. As my smart arse friends in high school would say:

"No Sh*t Sherlock!"

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead,

I have been through much of the state of Pennsylvania, though I have never lived there. State College is quite the town - it has a heartbeat of its own despite being surrounded by virtually nothing for 100 miles in all directions. For me, PA is more of a drive-through state although my inlaws have a beautiful summer cottage there.

That said, I've seen the types of cars many of the people drive. Pickups are immensely popular. There are many late-model cars on the roads as well (10 years old, or more). In the rural parts, where the locals sometimes refer to as "Pennsyl-tucky" (to my surprise, this was a complimentary term! ...says the ignorant New Yorker...), people don't have the means or the desire to be "cutting edge". It would surprise me if there were any number of EVs registered there.

By contrast, Philly is one of the largest cities in the country, and as a result rather progressive. It doesn't surprise me a few EVs are registered there.

Plus, as valkraider said, "Electric cars (currently) cost more to purchase, and are not as useful to people in rural areas but are perfect fits for cities and urbanized areas." The map shows that rather well.

· · 1 year ago

"Pennsyl-tucky" . . . too funny, Brian. It's been years since I've heard that. But, yes, drive 5 miles in any direction from State College and you're in a different world, like a foreign country compared to "Hippy City" (which is what the 18-wheelers called State College back in the 70's, and probably still do.) Worth noting that State College had a contingent participating in last fall's National Plug In Day celebration.

I haven't been back to "Pennsly-tucky" since the mid 80's. I miss the beautiful woods from time to time and can only hope the countryside hasn't been totally f*cked up by all the recent fracking activity. Curious, also, to know how many of those pickup trucks (you, know, the ones with dragster-like racked rear suspensions and side-dump exhausts) now run on natural gas.

Perhaps, again, I'm surprised that there are so few EVs in Philly and surrounding counties . . . and that there are as many in Erie (?!) as there are in Philly.

· · 1 year ago

The most interesting thing about pennsylvania is they send their Radioactive Radium fracking water entrails to Oswego Ny to be dumped since due to a loop hole in NYState law (3 guesses as to who put that in there) the water is not tested for radiation.

· · 1 year ago

Hmm....

http://xkcd.com/1138/

· · 1 year ago

I should probably wait for an article titled something like “Why EVs Aren’t Taking off as Fast as Some of Us Hoped” to post the following. But Ben’s comments sum most of the explanation quite succinctly:
“Perhaps part of the problem is the cold winters, which are going to limit ranges on the current generation of EV batteries, and the rather hilly terrain that is prominent throughout most of the state.”

Here in Tucson, of course, the problem is not cold winters but hot summers – though after the last couple of weeks there are people who might dispute that statement. And it looks like it is going to be a long time before those problems – and another Ben didn’t mention, the lengthy down time required for charging (at least without frying your battery – Chevy Spark possibly excepted) are solved.

IMHO GM, with the Volt, has done a bang-up job engineering for the world we live in, one in which most people are not going to have the interest, inclination or money to purchase a ‘pure’ EV just to be ‘on the cutting edge’ or even to save their children from inheriting a climate hell or at least the need to forage the world, a la ‘Mad Max’, for oil and / or poison the water their bodies need to survive. I now have close to 600 miles on my Volt and have burned a massive .2 (that’s two tenths) of a gallon of gas.

Both burns were optional, to test some of the Volt’s capabilities – though as soon as Mt. Lemmon warms up a little the burns may no longer be optional. Right now, I know I can make it about half way up before the gas engine generator kicks in. But that gas backup allows the Volt to do more that just climb big hills or go the extra mile. The really big contribution is providing the energy to take care of the Volt’s expensive battery. Since this is not an option for the LEAF – or any other ‘pure’ EV – car makers really have no choice but to given EV buyers access to more of their batteries’ power than may be good for their pocketbooks and hope they will use that power wisely.

Failure to do so, given the present state of battery technology, is likely to set off an epidemic of range anxiety that will indeed ‘kill the (pure) electric car’. Even GM with its forthcoming ELR Cadillac has deemed it necessary to dip into the current Volt battery’s protected reserves to give the Caddy a little more performance. (Maybe GM figures anyone who can afford one can afford the extra risk, IF there is any?)

So what we have now is ‘pure’ EV partisans participating with ‘pure’ EV vendors in conspiracy of silence about what I will call ‘differences’ rather than short-comings of pure EVs. The attempts of the marketing departments at Nissan and other EV vendors to disguise the fact, notwithstanding, EVs ARE different that the good old ICEs most people have come to love (or hate). They may indeed ‘make sense’ for people who can afford a second car with the range safely achievable with present battery technology.

Come 2015 Nissan needs to put an active thermal management system in its LEAF – or stop selling them in hostile environments like Arizona. (Or Pennsylvania?) I really think Nissan was on the right track when it was considering a period of free rental for LEAF purchasers for those limited occasions when they might really need to drive further than their LEAFs could safely take them. Nissan and other pure EV vendors should ‘celebrate the differences’ – or at least come clean about them and not sell pure EVs to anyone for whom they would not be a smart, appropriate choice.

· · 1 year ago

A little diatribe against public charging stations was supposed to be part of the above post. I have nothing against providing them in places where they make sense, e.g. the soon to be covered with solar panels parking lot at the Tucson airport. When (hopefully!!) Nissan builds an active thermal management system into its LEAF - one that like the Volt's can turn on when the car is plugged in but not running - in addition to getting you home such charging stations could keep your EV's battery from frying or freezing.

But scattering these charging stations everywhere on the public's nickel is worse than waste. It is a fraud, an attempt to fool that public into believing that pure EVs are no different than their old gas burners. Helping people or employers defray the cost of installing Level 2 charging stations is one thing. Spreading them everywhere, including places they are unlikely to be used - make that accessible in a timely manner - is another thing entirely.

· · 1 year ago

"They may indeed ‘make sense’ for people who can afford a second car with the range safely achievable with present battery technology."

I totally agree. My daughter used to live in Bellefont and commute to the college. A Leaf would be perfect for this. The 2013 model with the heat pump would help in the winters. With a seat and steering wheel heater, you don't have to run the heater that hard.

Pennsylvania, like our state (South Carolina), desperately needs quick chargers between cities. Right now, I can't drive more than 70 miles out of town and would have to rely on a dealerships charger that they're not too willing to let you use. So it's the ICE car for long trips.

Pennsylvanians are extremely lucky that the state offers a $3000 tax incentive. This along with the US Gov. $7500 is huge. I honestly don't know why you wouldn't want to lease or buy one in an urban area. As a Leaf owner, I get nothing from my state. A Volt owner (plug in hybrid) would get a $2000 tax incentive. Of course our state is probably dead last when it comes to alternative energy.

· · 1 year ago

It would be interesting to look at county rebate distribution on a per capita basis. Naturally, there are higher total numbers of EV, lightbulb, tennis racket, and pet owners in counties with big populations. Alas, the map as drawn tells us nothing about PROPENSITY to own an EV by county.

· · 1 year ago

As one of the first $3500 rebate recipients in Lancaster County for my iMiev purchase last June, I found this article interesting. I'm glad to read that they are extending the rebate (albeit at a lesser $3000 amount). I would say that part of the problem for many is getting information about this rebate. We had actually cancelled my order for the iMiev, only to go back and buy one after I found out about the rebate. People (including EV enthusiasts who SHOULD know about it, like myself) might not even know about it.

But it is still sad that more people haven't taken advantage of it. I guess most Pennsylvanians are bad at math and very risk averse. Over 100k miles we will save $10,000 in fuel ($0.03 vs. $0.13 per mile). We'll also save on emissions tests and oil changes of at least $1500 in that time. So, although the initial cost (after incentives) is a bit high at just under 19k, it will be competitive with any new gas car under 10k, when looking at total cost of ownership. Yes there are battery costs and yes there are range limits ... but you can't even get a new crapbox for under 10k - maybe 15k is more realistic. Then for a few more thousand you can get an iMiev and save tons of money. My numbers assume 28mpg average on the gas car, $3.75 fuel, and expensive electricity at $0.13/kwh. With cheaper electricity (using solar panels, for example), or higher fuel costs the cost benefit is even better with an EV.

It's hard to be more cost efficient than the iMiev with a personal vehicle, but comparing apples to apples, the total cost of ownership is generally better for an EV.

Anyway, a little off topic. Back to the chart, as some others have said, it is basically a statement of the obvious. On the other hand, it's neat to see empirical data for EV and hybrid rebates by location. I would say that the rate of adoption has little to do with the number of chargers available (even in Philly there are only a few) and more to do with more progressive, affluent, and educated populations in the larger cities of the state. Yet, the differences aren't as stark as I'd expect. For example, it's not that great to have only 18 EVs in a county next to Philly, and 6 for the relatively rural Cumberland county. Or, perhaps to make another obvious statement: the sample size is so small it's hard to make any meaningful conclusions from the data.

· · 1 year ago

@walkinwolk - Before you give opponents yet more red meat with which to attack the whole concept of EVs and plug-in cars, ask yourself if you and your state really do "desperately need quick chargers between cities". How many times would you actually use those chargers (in the process hastening the early death of your expensive battery) - chargers you would presumably like the non-EV owning public to help pay for? My guess is stopping 28 minutes every 50 miles or so would get old really quickly.

Even the numbers above are being generous. With the current generation of LEAFs, Nissan allows drivers access to too much of the battery's capacity for their own good. It is possible that with its Spark, GM has solved the problems connected with quick-charging. But I think I read somewhere these problems were inherent in the chemistry of today's LI batteries.

Bottom line is that all those inter-city quick-charging are likely to do much more harm than good to the progress of the plug-in car movement. The best way to encourage that progress is to not encourage those who could truly benefit from driving a 'pure' EV to believe those EVs are just like the good old ICEs they know and love - the ones destroying theirs and other children's lives on oil battlefields around the planet -and ultimately the planet itself.

If they really want to help stop this lemming-like mass suicide but need to drive on a regular basis further than today's 'pure' EVs can take them, encourage your friends to buy a Volt or one of its lesser clones like the Ford whatever.

· · 1 year ago

@world2steven "If they really want to help stop this lemming-like mass suicide but need to drive on a regular basis further than today's 'pure' EVs can take them, encourage your friends to buy a Volt or one of its lesser clones like the Ford whatever."

I think the necessity for some people to commute 60+ miles on a regular basis by personal vehicle speaks much more strongly to the abysmal state of our mass-transit infrastructure and our deeply engrained car culture than any shortcoming of technology. If I had a time machine I'd give Robert Moses a good swift kick to the balls!

(P.S. the lemming-suicide thing is also nonsense... maybe Walt Disney should get the other foot!)

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