By Tom Ozimek
A new study shows that electric vehicles (EV) are being driven much less than than their gas-powered counterparts, suggesting that the claimed emission-reducing benefits of the big push for an EV transition are overblown.
Americans behind the wheel of fully electric cars drove nearly 4,500 miles per year less than they did gasoline-powered vehicles, according to a recent study that sought to quantify EV mileage in the United States.
Fully battery-powered EVs were driven an average of 7,165 miles annually compared to 11,642 miles for conventional gas-powered ones, a difference of 4,477 miles, per the study, which was published in the academic journal Joule.
The study is one of the largest on EV mileage to date, with researchers examining odometer data from 12.9 million cars and 11.9 million SUVs between 2016 and 2022.
“Our study shows that the current generation of EV owners aren’t using them as much as gas cars,” John Halveston, study co-author and Assistant Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at George Washington University, said in a statement.
Given that the current assumption among climate modelers and regulators is that EV owners drive their cars about the same as gas-powered cars, the research has significant implications.
The revelation that EVs are spending more time sitting in the driveway instead of being driven has major implications for planners and policymakers who are drafting emissions regulations and making assumptions about the impact of mass EV adoption on climate change.
“If you’re going to craft a model that predicts how much emissions can be saved from EV adoption, that model heavily depends on how much you think EVs will be driven,” Mr. Halveston said.
“If federal agencies are overestimating true mileage, that results in overestimating the emissions savings,” he added.
One example of where incorrect assumptions about vehicle mileage could have an impact is an analysis underpinning a rulemaking proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The analysis assumes that EVs are being driven the same number of miles as conventional vehicles.
The EPA proposal (put forward in April), is the most aggressive vehicle emissions reduction plan to date. If adopted, it would require 13 percent of annual average pollution cuts and a 56 percent reduction in projected fleet average emissions over 2026 requirements.
As part of his administration’s fixation on fighting the supposed ills of climate change, President Joe Biden has set a goal of 50 percent of all new vehicles by 2030 being either EVs or plug-in hybrids.
Besides cautioning that understanding EV mileage is key for planning and policymaking, Mr. Halveston also pointed out that large climate and energy models, such as the REPEAT Project (which informs Congressional legislation) rely on accurate assumptions of vehicle mileage and so should be updated to take into account this latest research.
The Epoch Times has reached out to EPA and the REPEAT Project with a request for comment.
Even though it wasn’t the focus of the study, the research suggested several factors that could influence how far EV owners are driving their cars, including a lack of EV charging infrastructure. Another reason could be multi-vehicle households, which use gas-powered vehicles for longer trips and their EVs for shorter ones.
“For maximum impact, we need the highest-mileage drivers behind the wheel of EVs rather than low-mileage drivers,” Mr. Halveston said.
A major worry among Americans considering switching to an EV is range anxiety, which is the fear of driving an EV and running out of power without being able to find a charging port—and ending up stranded on the side of the road.
A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that EV range can fall by up to a quarter when the vehicle is carrying heavy loads.
“Range anxiety remains a top reason consumers are hesitant to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs,” Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson for AAA, said in a statement.
Another recent study (pdf) by consultancy Ernst & Young—in collaboration with European energy industry body Eurelectric—found that range anxiety is the second-most cited concern about switching to an EV, with a lack of public charging stations in the top spot.
The study points to an estimated need for 68.9 million chargers across the United States and Canada by 2035 to support the pace of the EV transformation.
‘True Cost’ of EV Fueling Equivalent to Over $17 Per Gallon
In a challenge to the prevailing narrative that EVs cost less to operate, a recent study from the Austin-based think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) has found that, when taking into account various subsidies and regulatory credits, the actual cost of operating an EV is equivalent to running a gas-powered car with prices at a whopping $17.33 per gallon.
The report found that various subsidies, regulatory credits, and charging costs of an average EV from the model year 2021 add $53,267 to the vehicle’s price over a decade.
Assuming that the EV is driven for 10 years at 120,000 miles, this would make the “true cost of fueling” equivalent to an EV owner paying $17.33 per gallon of gasoline—many times higher than the $1.21 per gallon claimed by other estimates.
“This analysis shows that electricity is a long way from becoming a cost-effective transportation fuel compared to gasoline,” the report reads. “Without increased and sustained government favors, EVs will remain more expensive than ICEVs [internal combustion engine vehicles] for many years to come.
An earlier study from Anderson Economic Group (AEG) found that, with electricity prices trending higher, “most traditional gas-powered vehicles cost less to drive than their EV counterparts.”
While the differences varied across segments and depended on whether charging was done at home or commercially, the results of the AEG study made a strong case that going electric simply costs more to run.
For example, in the Entry segment (which includes cars like the Chevy Bolt and Honda Civic), a gasoline-powered model costs on average $9.78 per 100 miles to fuel, per the study. By contrast, the average EV in the same segment costs $12.55 to charge per 100 miles—but only if charged mostly at home. If charged mostly commercially that cost soars to $15.97 per 100 miles.
The only segment where going electric can be cheaper is Luxury, where a high-end ICE vehicle such as a Tesla Model X costs an average of $13.50 to charge per 100 miles compared to an ICE vehicle like a BMW 5 Series, which on average costs $17.56 per hundred miles to fuel with gas.
But again, that advantage in favor of EVs only holds for mostly home-based charging. The cost of charging a luxury EV climbs to $17.81 per 100 miles for mostly commercial charging, which is slightly more than for a high-end gasoline-powered vehicle.
Naveen Athrapully contributed to this report.