Zero-emission vehicle mandates have been an important tool for spurring EV sales, but some states have managed to do pretty well without them, according to new government data.

In fact, three of the five U.S. states with the most EV registrations don't currently have mandates in place requiring the sale of zero-emission vehicles by the largest-volume automakers, according to the Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC).

The top five states for EVs are California, Florida, Texas, Washington, and New York, according to the AFDC, but Florida, Texas, and Washington haven't had zero-emission vehicle mandates.

California, which pioneered such mandates, has been the number-one state for electric cars for some time. It's positioned to finish 2021 with more than one of 10 new vehicle sales offering a charge port, and aims to eliminate sales of most new vehicles with combustion engines by 2035.

U.S. EV registrations as of June 2021 (via Energy Department Alternative Fuels Data Center)

U.S. EV registrations as of June 2021 (via Energy Department Alternative Fuels Data Center)

In contrast, Texas wasn't even on the map when we checked in on EV registrations seven years ago. The Lone Star State, which doesn't let Tesla and other EV startups directly sell cars in the state, has offered some incentives over the years though.

Texas laissez faire attitude toward regulation also allowed electric utilities to build and operate charging stations for profit, something that's proven controversial in other states. The state is also one of the largest U.S. new-car markets, and a rising tide lifts all ships.

Washington wasn't previously requiring electric vehicles in the mix, although it has become more ambitious recently with the passage of a bill establishing a 2030 goal for making all light-vehicle sales EVs. The governor vetoed it, but the state remains on the path toward adopting California's rules.

On the national level, President Biden's recently-announced target of 50% EV sales by 2030 is only an "aspiration," not something that's backed by regulations. Expected stricter emissions standards could boost the amount of EVs in automakers' U.S. lineups but, will that be enough for EV registrations in other states to catch up with the current leaders?