One-Fifth of EV Owners Surveyed Go From Green to Gasoline

For California drivers, the hassle of charging is the main reason they are going back to conventional cars, UC Davis study finds.

May 04, 2021

Empty Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Roughly 20% of electric vehicle owners in California have replaced their cars with gasoline-powered vehicles, according to The main reason for the switch, drivers report, is the inconvenience of charging.

That finding is the main takeaway of a study by University of California Davis researchers Scott Hardman and Gil Tal. The pair surveyed Californians who purchased an electric vehicle between 2012 and 2018. About one in five plug-in EV owners switched back to owning a gasoline-powered car largely because EV battery charging is slow and inconvenient.

The study makes clear the new challenges facing the growth of the emerging EV market. In about three minutes, a driver can fill the gas tank of a Ford Mustang and have enough fuel to go about 300 miles. But after the electric Mustang Mach-E has been plugged in for an hour to a household outlet, it will go just three miles, according to automotive analyst Kevin Tynan.

"[After being plugged in] overnight, we're looking at 36 miles of range," he said.

Standard home outlets put out about 120 volts of power at what EV aficionados call "Level 1" charging. The high-powered specialty connections that offer 240 volts of power are known as "Level 2." By comparison, Tesla's "Superchargers," which can fully charge its cars in a little over an hour, offer 480 volts of direct current. Among the EV owners who switched back to gasoline-fueled vehicles, over 70% lacked access to Level 2 charging at home, and slightly fewer than that lacked Level 2 connections at their workplace.

"If you don't have a Level 2, it's almost impossible," said Tynan, who has tested a wide range of makes and models of EVs over the years for his research.

Even with the faster charging, a Chevy Bolt that Tynan tested needed nearly six hours to top its range back up to 300 miles from nearly empty, Business Insider reports. Nearly two-thirds of drivers in the survey said they didn't use public charging stations, but the study didn’t indicate why that was the case.

EVs have come a long way in recent years in terms of range, safety and comfort, but the researchers say that EV charging has made minimal progress. They warn that this trend could make it harder to achieve ambitious EV sales targets in California and grow the market overall. 

"It should not be assumed that once a consumer purchases an EV, they will continue owning one," Hardman and Tal wrote. "What is clear is that this could slow EV market growth and make reaching 100% EV sales more difficult."

Resolving the charging issue will require more participation from automakers, who have yet to find a profitable way of producing electric vehicles. Even Tesla, the leader in the industry, was only able to squeeze out a first-quarter profit by selling energy credits and bitcoin, Business Insider reports.

As the EV market continues to grow and charging expands in North America, the Fuels Institute’s Electric Vehicle Council is providing guidance for companies to evaluate how, when and why to enter the market. The Fuels Institute last month published the “EV Market Regulatory Report” to guide retailers looking to offer EV charging in the decision-making and strategic planning process by exploring regulations that could affect installation of electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE). The report also helps policymakers identify and implement appropriate regulatory provisions. Download the EV Market Regulatory Report.

For more information on EV infrastructure, watch this YouTube video by the Fuels Institute and NACS.

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