Electric vehicles?  Hybrid?  Utah’s data reveals the changing ways we drive.

The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles has released the latest data on vehicle registrations, meaning every vehicle that received a Utah license plate sticker last year. Here’s how cars and trucks are changing in the state:

More people than vehicles, but the gap is closing

Utah had about 3,417,734 people on July 1, 2023 and 2,942,473 vehicles that received 2,024 registration stickers last year. We’ve added about 56,000 people a year in recent years. Last year we added 77,536 vehicles. The ratio of vehicles to people is similar to national statistics.

They fix trucks and SUVs

(Christopher Cherrington | Salt Lake Tribune)

The SUV/truck love affair continues. As of 2020, Utah has added 393,875 “light trucks,” which include pickup trucks and SUVs, including small SUVs like the Subaru Forester. This is an increase of 32%. During the same period, the number of passenger cars in the state fell by 154,421, a decrease of 12%.

Heavy and dirty

Heavy trucks, defined as everything from delivery vans to semi trucks, have increased by 11,868 since 2020, a 13.6% increase. Heavy trucks are largely powered by fossil fuels, mainly diesel. Of the 99,293 heavy trucks in Utah, there are only 95 electric trucks and 12 hybrids.

Natural gas is losing ground

(Christopher Cherrington | Salt Lake Tribune)

Compressed natural gas vehicles, once thought to be a clean air solution, are on the decline. There were 6,064 natural gas vehicles in 2020. This is now down to 4,744. One segment, heavy trucks, has seen an increase in natural gas vehicles, rising from 792 trucks in 2020 to 1,012 trucks in 2024.

Level 3 is coming on strong

(Christopher Cherrington | Salt Lake Tribune)

As Utah’s fleet is updated, it’s getting cleaner, largely because of the federal Tier 3 program that combines cleaner fuel with cleaner-running cars.

Four of Utah’s five gasoline refiners have converted to Tier 3 fuel, and the fifth, Big West Oil, plans to convert this year. When Tier 3 fuels are put into Tier 3 cars (model year 2017 or newer), it reduces pollution by up to 80%. About 37% of passenger cars and light trucks in Utah are now 2017 or newer, up from 32% last year and 17% in 2020.

EVs grow, but still a small number

(Christopher Cherrington | Salt Lake Tribune)

Electric vehicles are the fastest growing segment in Utah, but they remain a small fraction. Utah registered 37,175 electric vehicles in 2023, up from 25,532 in 2022, a 45.6% jump in one year. EVs now make up 1.26% of Utah’s fleet.

Last year’s numbers for all states aren’t yet available, but a U.S. Department of Energy comparison of 2022 numbers puts Utah 10th among states (and the District of Columbia) for the percentage of electric vehicles. Utah’s 0.93% in 2022 was slightly above the national average of 0.86%.

Utah’s ranking comes despite the fact that it is not a “ZEV” state. There are 17 states that have mandated a certain percentage of vehicles to be “zero emission vehicles” and automakers prioritize shipping clean vehicles to those states.

Of the eight states and the District of Columbia that have a higher percentage than Utah, only Arizona is not a ZEV state.

Twice as many hybrids as EVs

Hybrid vehicles have been around longer than EVs (Toyota brought the Prius to the US in 2000), and there are twice as many hybrids (76,598) as EVs (37,175) in Utah. But we added roughly the same number of each last year: 11,643 EVs and 12,671 hybrids.

We also had 11,777 plug-in hybrid cars registered last year, 2,633 more than the year before. (Like hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids have a gas engine and an electric motor. Plug-in hybrids can be charged from a charger. Regular hybrids charge their batteries only when they are being driven.) Plug-in hybrids are still a small part of the fleet, but they have grown by 126% in the last five years.

Where are the clean cars?

Combined, EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are now 4.27% of the state’s motor vehicles.

In general, EVs and hybrids are more common in higher income areas. They are also more common in larger cities, where there is more charging infrastructure. There are a few exceptions to that in rural money towns like Rockville and Hideout.

Here are the top 10 cities and towns in Utah in percentage of clean cars:

• Holaday 8.84%

• Brighton 8.42%

• Millcreek 8.40%

• Cottonwood Heights 8.18%

• Rockville 8.15%

• Vineyard 7.90%

• Hide 7.79%

• highlands 7.57%

• Park City 7.56%

• Draper 7.56%

Samiti presides over the districts

Summit County is the clean car leader among Utah’s 29 counties, with 5.99% of registered vehicles either EVs or hybrids. Rural counties with little charging infrastructure — and oil-producing counties — are at the bottom.

• Summit, 5.99%

• Utah, 5.11%

• Salt Lake, 5.07%

• Davis, 4.81%

• Washington, 4.28%

• Wasatch 4.11%

• Cache 3.65%

• Morgan 3.64%

• Weber 3.29%

• Great 2.65%

• Iron 2.47%

• Tooele 2.36%

• Box Elder 2.22%

• They have 2.01%

• Garfield 1.71%

• Wayne 1.69%

• Image 1.65%

• San Juan 1.61%

• Sanpete 1.59%

• Rich 1.50%

• Beaver 1.41%

• Sevier 1.24%

• Carbon 1.20%

• Millard 1.17%

• Emery, 0.98%

• Uintah, 0.98%

• Duchesne, 0.85%

• Daggett, 0.85%

• Piute, 0.79%

Editor’s note • This story is only available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

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