New data suggests that electric vehicles may not be an easy future substitute for the gasoline-powered fleet, as EVs currently travel less than half as much as the US fleet average.

A team from the University of Chicago, University of California, Davis, and UC Berkeley combined billions of hourly electricity meter measurements with address-level EV registration records in California—home to about half of the EVs in the United States. They found that the arrival of an EV in a household increases household electricity consumption by 2.9 kilowatt hours per day—less than half the amount assumed by state regulators.

Adjusted for the share of out-of-home charging, the electricity consumed translates to about 5,300 electric vehicle miles traveled (eVMT) per year—roughly half as large as EV driving estimates used by regulators and also half as large as vehicle miles traveled in gasoline-powered cars.

They reported their findings in a working paper published on the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) website.

“There’s still so much we don’t know about the costs and benefits of EVs, so it seems appropriate to have some humility around this energy transition. Approaches that leave multiple technology pathways open are desirable; bans and mandates seem premature.” —co-author David Rapson, an associate professor at the UC Davis Economics Department

“The takeaway here is not that EVs should never or will never be our future. It’s rather that policymakers may be underestimating the costs of going fully electric.” —co-author Fiona Burlig, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy

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Mobility is central to economic activity. Yet, a lack of fuel diversity and continued demand growth have made the transportation industry a major contributor to global pollution and carbon emissions....