By David Ferris

Electric vehicles in California logged half the miles on the roads of gas-powered cars and didn’t draw the big quantity of energy that grid planners expected, according to a new study.

The results of the study, set to be published today by the National Bureau of Economic Research, feed into a topic of intensifying interest to the new Biden administration and in the states: How many resources should be devoted to supporting electric cars?

Researchers, including Fiona Burlig, an energy and environmental policy professor at the University of Chicago, analyzed utility industry data to reveal how much EVs are actually driven compared with their gasoline counterparts.

The findings surprised the academics. As of four years ago, EVs in the Golden State drove on average 5,300 miles a year, less than half the distance driven by an average gas-powered car. And their energy usage is a small fraction of what state officials assume.

“If it turns out there are various reasons that people drive their EVs less,” Burlig said, “it means that the EV is a less-good substitute for the gas car than we thought.”

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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....