Like many other developed nations around the globe, the United States plans to decarbonize its economy as part of efforts to mitigate global warming and stop climate change. This will require mass adoption of electric vehicles, alternative energy cars that use rechargeable batteries rather than fossil fuel to run.
Electric cars still make up a relatively small percentage of total vehicle sales in the U.S., but Americans are adopting EVs in steadily increasing numbers. According to a recent study published in “Joule,” it seems that America’s growing number of EV owners may be driving fewer miles per year compared to fossil fuel vehicle drivers.
Before this research, regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assumed that EV owners and gas vehicle owners traveled similar distances each year. However, the research presents evidence that counters this assumption and raises the question of whether we have been overestimating electric vehicle emissions savings.
Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the George Washington University recently carried out one of the largest EV mileage studies so far, examining odometer data collected from 2016 to 2022 from 11.9 million used SUVs and 12.9 million used cars.
The researchers discovered that battery electric vehicles traveled nearly 4,500 miles less per year compared to diesel and petrol-powered cars. Fossil fuel SUVs traveled 12,945 miles while electric SUV owners drove their EVs only 10,587 miles annually in comparison. Additionally, passenger fossil fuel cars traveled 11,642 miles and electric passenger cars traveled 7,165 miles.
John Helveston, study coauthor and a George Washington University assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering, said that while many people are under the assumption that switching to electric vehicles is good for the ecosystem, the impact of EVs on carbon emissions scales with their mileage.
Helveston said the research team’s findings indicated that current electric vehicle owners aren’t using the vehicles as much as fossil fuel car drivers are using theirs, potentially reducing the positive environmental impact of electric cars. To maximize the environmental benefits of electric cars, Helveston said that the nation’s highest-mileage drivers, rather than low-mileage drivers, should own and operate EVs.
The research team also discovered that Teslas are driven more compared to other electric vehicle brands, likely because Tesla models often have higher ranges and can access a wide network of fast-charging stations. Plug-in hybrid and hybrid drivers also traveled a relatively similar amount of miles as fossil fuel car drivers.
For manufacturers that are looking to make inroads into the American market, such as VinFast Auto Ltd. (NASDAQ: VFS), strategies must be found to ensure their models can access charging facilities in more places across the country so that the increased use of these vehicles can encourage more people to buy EVs.
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