Survey: California Plug-In Car Owners Drive Less, Make More Money

Among alternative fuel advocates, there is a raging debate as to the viability of pure electric cars. Many people argue that the limited range of EVs makes them impractical for most Americans. But a new survey of America’s largest plug-in car market, California, reveals that plug-in car owners drive a scant 26 miles a day, while recharging during the nighttime hours when electricity is the cheapest.

EVs Make Sense, Most Of The Time

So for me, this begs the question; are the people buying electric cars the ones who fit the bill? Or do Americans simply not drive as far as they think they do? As usual, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Not doubt early adopters of EV technology are the kinds of people who figure it can work within their lifestyles. These people probably have short, or even non-existent commutes, as evidenced by the average 26 miles driven per day, and over 800 miles driven per month. That’s only about 200 miles per work-week, and well within the EV range of cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

In fact, the study reports that EV owners used their electric car for about 85% of all their driving, which only leaves about 100 miles or so on the table. This last 15% probably comes all at once, just beyond the driving range of EVs for those occasional long trips to see Grandma, or visit the aquarium.

Would You Like Organic Granola With Your Latte?

Another interesting factoid gleaned from the study is that EV owners are plugging in most often at night, at home. Electricity is cheaper at night, and it seems that the EV charging infrastructure isn’t developed enough to the point where most people can charge from a station during the day, even though 70% of respondents had access to charging stations at work.

Even so, by plugging in at night at home EV owners are paying the equivalent of between $0.90 and $1.90 per gallon in electricity to power their EV. Most EV owners had a Level 2 charger installed in their home as well.

Here’s the thing though; over half of plug-in car owners in California had household incomes of over $150,000. Another 25% have a household income of between $100,000 and $150,000. That’s a lot of loot, and explains who these early adopters really are. They’re the wealthy, the people who already have access to pretty much whatever cars they want or need. EVs need to come way down in price before they’ll make any mainstream impact. For now, EVs are fitting the bill as a plaything of the wealthy liberal elite.

Sometimes, stereotypes are true.

Source: Green Car Congress


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.