MIT study finds that electric vehicles could handle 87% of American car needs

We all know that electric vehicles are not yet able to match combustion engines in terms of range, but we also know that most vehicle owners, most of the time, use their cars for short trips. Wanting to put some hard numbers on those truisms, a team of researchers at MIT conducted a study to find out just what proportion of Americans’ traditional car usage could be covered by existing commercial electric vehicles, charged overnight.

The answer, published in Nature Energy this month, is 87%. That figure, covering shorter trips, would account for 61% of American’s daily gasoline consumption. The figure also held steady across different American cities, even where per-capita gasoline consumption was quite different.

The team studied millions of driver trips in data sets based on GPS data and travel surveys to find out the daily requirements for American’s driving habits. For their model vehicle they used the Nissan Leaf, an electric vehicle with an “average and median lifetime cost below the 94 most popular vehicles on the US market today”.

Despite the good headlines, the study also confirmed the barriers that still stand in the way of an electric vehicle revolution. Although only 13% of trips sit outside current range barriers, those trips include significantly longer drives which could not be covered by a standard battery charge even after significant capacity increases. Furthermore, while most people don’t need to cover long distances on their average days, they want the flexibility of being able to make an occasional longer drive when they need to. Electric vehicles have come a long way, but without a more reliable charging network they are still not quite able to match the reliability of combustion vehicles.

Other news

Our partners