No, electric vehicles aren’t driven less than gas cars

UC Davis Transportation and Climate blog: No, electric vehicles aren’t driven less than gas cars
By Debapriya Chakraborty, Scott Hardman, Seth Karten, Gil Tal

Some studies from 2019 and 2021 suggest that electric vehicles are driven much less than gasoline vehicles. Our research and data tell a very different story. We find overwhelming evidence that electric vehicles are driven as much as, if not more than, gasoline vehicles. We focus on battery electric vehicles (EVs), since those are the most hotly debated, though we also present data from plug-in hybrids.   Using multiple sources of data, we find that battery EVs are driven on average about 11,000 to 13,000 miles per year, while gasoline vehicles are driven about 9,000 to 11,000 miles per year. Our estimate of annual EV miles is much higher than previous studies report. There are three explanations: (1) prior studies used data mostly from short range EVs; (2) the range of newer EVs is much greater; and (3) data collection methods in earlier studies had certain biases and limitations.   On the issue of increasing driving range: five years ago, most EVs had a range of around 80 miles. These vehicle models have been largely phased out. Today there are 13 EV models with more than 200 miles of range. These longer-range models tend to be driven more and now dominate the market. In 2020, only 448 EVs with less than 100 miles of range were sold in the United States, compared to 251,333 EVs with more than 200 miles of range.   On the issue of data collection: previous studies were based not only on shorter range vehicles, but, in some cases, they underestimated vehicle miles traveled based on measures of at-home charging, without accurately measuring away-from-home charging or hybrid miles traveled by plug-in hybrid vehicles.   To address the debate on EV use, we analyzed four datasets—from the outdated 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), the California Energy Commission 2019 Consumer Vehicle Survey, and two UC Davis studies. One of these two UC Davis studies used the most reliable source of electric miles traveled—measurements from data recorders onboard vehicles. The second used data from multi-year questionnaire surveys completed by 19,304 EV and plug-in hybrid owning households, a far larger sample with a greater variety of households and vehicles than the samples in other data sets (for information on this survey see here and here). The figure below shows the results from each data set for all EVs (i.e., all ranges), short-range EVs, long-range EVs, plus plug-in hybrids, gasoline hybrid vehicles, and gasoline cars.

EVs are driven as much as, or more than, gasoline vehicles. In this chart, the average annual vehicle miles travelled for each vehicle type is shown, with the bars color coded to indicate the source of the data. (Figure adapted from this UC Davis report.)