Electric Vehicle Monday: Utilization

A team of economists contends that electric vehicles travel about half as much as their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, about 5000 miles for EVs compared to 10,000 for ICEs. The researchers speculate that this information supports the hypothesis that EVs and ICEs are complements, rather than substitutes.

That is, EVs may not take over the world, but multi-car households may choose to own both an EV and an ICE, and utilize them for different types of trips.

The effort that went into the study is impressive — the team linked data from the California utility PG&E with data from the California DMV, in order to figure out which households owned EVs, how much more electricity they purchased, and thus how many miles they likely drove. There seem to be some careful corrections, for example, the data accounts for solar panel ownership and the resulting drop in demand from the electrical grid.

The results of the study seem plausible and maybe even intuitive — the type of households that purchase EVs seem plausibly likely to also be low-mileage households, generally, and also multi-car households.

Perhaps because of that plausibility, I’m hesitant to conclude too much from the study, other than electrification is still relatively new and limited technology. Presumably, as electrification expands, the types of households that purchase EVs will come to more closely resemble the median household. At the same time, EV range seems to be ever-increasing.

For now, EVs are still largely a status and luxury good for consumers that can afford the cost and other limitations. But they seem to be moving steadily mass-market.

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