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Why some electric car owners return to gas – the reasons aren’t surprising

A study has looked into why about 18% of electric car owners go back to gas-powered vehicles.

The reasons are mostly exactly what we expected.

University of California Davis researchers surveyed just over 4,000 households who own or owned electric vehicles in California and found that about 20% of plug-in hybrid owners and 18% of all-electric vehicle owners end up going back to gasoline-powered vehicles.

This number will be surprising to some, but the focus of the study was the reasons that led them to switch back to gas, and when you look into those, they are not really surprising.

Researchers Scott Hardman and Gil Tal wrote in the study posted in the Nature Energy journal:

“Here, on the basis of results from five questionnaire surveys, we find that PEV discontinuance in California occurs at a rate of 20% for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle owners and 18% for battery electric vehicle owners. We show that discontinuance is related to dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging, having other vehicles in the household that are less efficient, not having level 2 (240-volt) charging at home, having fewer household vehicles and not being male.”

Therefore, loyalty is higher to battery-electric vehicles than plug-in hybrids, which is not too surprising considering plug-ins have been seen as a compromising technology to help the transition to all-electric.

The main problem appears to be access to level 2 charging at home, which is the most obvious reason and a problem that the industry has been trying to address.

Arguably the biggest consumer advantage to all-electric vehicles for consumers is the potential of always having “a full tank” overnight without having to go to the gas station.

If you can’t charge at home for whatever reason, like not having a parking spot or no parking with access to charging, which is often the case for apartment dwellers, it really hinders the EV ownership experience.

Those EV owners have to rely on public charging stations, which is not as smooth of an experience, but charging networks are trying to add more capacity in urban areas to address the issue.

The most surprising factor that appears to influence going back to gas is that women EV owners go back at a higher rate than men.

But that may also play a role in the kinds of electric vehicles people are buying.

The study found that people buying Tesla vehicles are the least likely EV owners to go back to gas, while Fiat 500e buyers are much more likely to go back to gas.

That’s not surprising when you look at how the former compares to gas-powered cars in its segments in comparison to the 500e in its own segment.

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