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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Electric vehicle owners in California drive them less than half as many miles annually as the average gasoline-powered car in the U.S., a new analysis shows.

Why it matters: The finding "raises important questions about the potential for the technology to replace a vast majority of trips currently using gasoline," the working paper concludes.

  • The estimates are important for assessing the climate and pollution-cutting benefits of EVs, and have implications for investment decisions about power distribution equipment, it states.

How it works: The paper syncs data from a big sample of residential meters in the Pacific Gas & Electric service area with addresses of EV registrations in 2014-2017.

  • Study authors with the University of Chicago and the University of California explored how much home electricity use changes after the EV purchase.
  • They then used this data to estimate how much these EVs were being driven, factoring in estimates of out-of-home charging.

By the numbers: Power consumption growth is about 2.9 kWh per day, which is a 16% rise over average daily usage in the PG&E meter sample.

That's less than what would be expected if EVs were used in a way akin to traditional cars.

  • "Given the fleet of EVs in our sample...this translates to approximately 5,300 electric vehicle miles traveled (eVMT) per year," the paper finds.
  • The power use is much less than prior estimates by California regulators, the working paper notes.

The big picture: California officials and President Biden plan to implement policies aimed at greatly accelerating EV deployment to fight climate change and cut pollution.

What we don't know: That's why, exactly, EVs seem to be driven much less than their internal-combustion counterparts. But the paper says future research should explore possibilities including:

  • EVs may be complementing gas-powered cars instead of replacing them.
  • EV buyers to date don't represent the "broader vehicle-owning population."
  • A combo of too few public charging stations, "range anxiety" and other aspects of EV ownership.

The bottom line: Getting a handle on the relatively low usage is important because "the vision of transportation electrification rests on EVs leading to a substitution of [vehicle miles traveled] away from conventional cars," it states.

“The takeaway here is not that EVs should never or will never be our future, but rather that policymakers may be underestimating the costs of going fully electric," said co-author Fiona Burlig, a University of Chicago economist.

Projecting the future of EV growth

Wood Mackenzie is out this morning with new projections about their future growth.

State of play: The consultancy sees yearly sales topping 7 million combined in China, Europe and the U.S. by 2025.

  • "Improved EV costs will propel sales and double EV numbers to a combined 15 million a year in those three regions by 2030," they note.
  • They see EVs outselling internal-combustion vehicles shortly before midcentury.

Yes, but: "Despite the growing dominance of EVs, global oil demand from light-duty vehicles is projected to reduce by only 24% over the next 30 years," Woodmac analyst Ram Chandrasekaran said.

  • "Slow erosion of [internal combustion engine] stock and an increased demand from emerging economies are the main reasons for this lethargic drop," Chandrasekaran said.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
45 mins ago - World

Americans increasingly see China as an enemy

One in three Americans, and a majority of Republicans, now view China as an enemy of the United States, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: Just 9% of Americans consider China a "partner," while 55% see Beijing as a "competitor" and 34% as an "enemy."

Scoop: Leaked HHS docs spotlight Biden's child migrant dilemma

A group of undocumented immigrants walk toward a Customs and Border Patrol station after being apprehended. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fresh internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show how quickly the number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming the administration's stretched resources.

Driving the news: In the week ending March 1, the Border Patrol referred to HHS custody an average of 321 children per day, according to documents obtained by Axios. That's up from a weekly average of 203 in late January and early February — and just 47 per day during the first week of January.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Mounting emissions data paints bleak picture on Paris climate goals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Researchers keep finding new ways to reveal that nations are together showing very few signs of getting on track to meet the Paris Agreement's goals.

One big question: That's whether a spate of recent analyses to that effect, and scientific reports coming later this year, will move the needle on meaningful new policies (not just targets).