Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the Bay Area

By Mengyuan Dong

In August 2022, California regulators passed rules banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035. It’s a move hailed as a significant victory in the fight against climate change, but it’s not without challenges. With the predictable surge in zero-emissions cars, many are also concerned about whether the infrastructure will be able to keep up.

As the tech center and one of the most economically developed regions in the state, the Bay Area is seeing rapid growth in the number of public electric vehicle charging stations. It’s interesting to see if infrastructure development has been balanced in different communities and if there are places left behind. According to National Equity Atlas, the overall vehicle ownership rates are far lower for households of color than for white households in Bay Area counties. Does the infrastructure show the same patterns?

The first EV charging station in the Bay Area was opened at the parking lot of Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf in 1998. The region didn’t see many more stations in the next decade, until all nine counties started to build their EV infrastructure in 2011.

In September 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on the 2035 plan. The number of new EV charging stations surged in the following year. Santa Clara County, the most populous county in the region, added 930 stations in 2021 and owns approximately 1,500 stations in total as of 2022.

As EV infrastructure continues to scale up, people are concerned about how different racial groups are affected in the region with 59 percent of people of color.

Across the roughly 1,700 Bay Area census tracts, 629 have more than 50 percent white population. Nearly 250 census tracts are dominated by the Asian population, 166 by the Latino population, and only nine have a Black majority.

When looking at how the population shares public EV charging stations, areas with a White majority appear to have more stations than other racial or ethical communities. In mostly White areas, there are approximately 25 stations per 100,00 people, slightly higher than in Asian and Latino areas. However, none of the nine census tracts with a Black majority has a charging station.

And when it comes to stations by area, the accessibility for each racial group looks a lot different. Although White-majority tracts have slightly more charging stations relative to population, they have many fewer by area since they are primarily large and rural. As Latino and Asian communities are more compact and urban, the density of chargers is also higher in these areas.

The map below demonstrates how charging stations are more scattered in mostly White areas. It also shows how stations seem to be centered along East Bay, South Bay and Peninsula, and are still in shortage in areas further inland. By clicking on each circle, which represents a charging station, people can see the specific address and access time of the station. With the search mechanism, people can explore what the EV infrastructure looks like in their own communities.