Electric Cars Rising in the South

With climate changed-fueled wildfires raging in the West, the cost of unabated climate change is becoming increasingly clear. To avoid even worse outcomes, we need to move to clean energy, not just California but across the rest of the US. That's why another important, hopeful trend caught my eye, the rise of electric cars in the South.

That's right, 3 out of the top 15 markets for the best-selling pure electric car, the Nissan LEAF, are in the South: Atlanta (#3), Nashville (#9), Dallas – Ft.Worth (#14).  Another two are in the heartland, St. Louis (#10) and Chicago (tied for #11). 

LEAF Sales Map PNG.png

According to Nissan, there are a variety of reasons why electric cars are breaking through in what Nissan calls “New Wave” EV markets.

  • In Atlanta, Georgia offers generous incentives, access to car pool lanes in notoriously congested Atlanta, and has one of the largest utilities in the nation, Southern Company championing electrification. According to Polk, Atlanta ranks #5 for total sales of electric cars, including plug-in hybrids, like the Chevy Volt,
  • In Nashville, the electric vehicle is embedded in the state economy with Nissan headquarters and LEAF battery and vehicles manufacturing creating thousands of jobs.
  • In St. Louis, Nissan credits “enthusiastic dealer engagement”  and “corporate and university outreach and midwestern pragmatism.”
  • In Dallas – Ft. Worth, corporate America is again leading the charge with NRG has the headquarters of its charging subsidiary, eVgo, and Texas Instruments and BNSF Railroad providing support such as convenient workplace charging. 

Unless we cut carbon pollution, extreme weather events like this summer’s wildfires will become more frequent in the future. The good news is that as solutions to avoid major climate disruption start to spread beyond the coasts, creating tens of thousands of jobs, it has become more difficult for the issue to be hijacked by partisan interests.

This year, the Midwest and South rejected attempts to roll back renewable electricity standards in Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as a “new wave” of clean energy supporters--farmers, businessmen and utilities--combined forces with environmentalist to protect the standards. 

And as electric cars become more embedded in the economic fabric across our country, it will become more difficult for partisans to attack renewed DOE efforts to put the U.S. clean car industry into high gear by re-starting its, highly successful, but moribund auto retooling loan program for clean cars.   

Let’s hope the rise of electric cars in the South helps tip the scales towards clean energy, and away from partisan politics.

About the Authors

Roland Hwang

Director, Energy & Transportation program

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