Owners of electric vehicles don’t drive as much as other car owners, a new study from the University of Chicago, University of California, Davis, and UC Berkeley posits. In fact, the average EV owner hasn’t quite met the expected metrics anywhere along the road, both in terms of mileage and in terms of things like household energy usage.
I’m going to run you through some of the big findings here, but the first thing to note is that this study has not been peer-reviewed. That basically just means that several other researchers haven’t gone over the findings to confirm them, but it doesn’t immediately discount them. We’ll likely see changes in the future.
Now, onto the goods!
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) conducted this study, not based on odometers or personal reporting, but on calculations that look at the increase in home energy usage for homes with EVs in California. It was a way to regulate information, since most EV makers don’t want to share mileage information and drivers can’t always be relied upon to provide accurate information.
Instead, the researchers looked at a sample of residential electricity meters in California and compared meter readings to EV registration records. Out of 362,945 households analyzed, 57,290 hosted EVs. The purpose was to look at how much extra electricity was used to charge EVs, from which point researchers extrapolated on how many miles these EV owners were driving. They were able to do this using information from the California Air Resources Board that estimates 85 percent of EV charging occurs at home.
The eventual conclusion is that “EVs travel 5300 miles per year, under half of the U.S. fleet average.”
Of course, we’re not getting all of the data here. EV owners could be charging more frequently outside the home than within it. The researchers were working with a pretty small sample size and were using data from 2014-2017, when there were fewer EVs on the road than there are now. It’s entirely possible that things are drastically different now.
The study was released to incite discussion and further study; it’s a jumping-off point more than it is conclusive research, designed to raise “important questions about the potential for the technology to replace a vast majority of trips currently using gasoline.”