Today’s Electric Cars Are Good Enough for Most Driving Trips, Study Finds

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images / STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

The average U.S. driver could buy an electric car and not worry a bit about changing their driving patterns to accommodate it. A new study published in Nature Energy estimates the distance most Americans drive per day, finding that it’s well within the range of modern battery electric vehicles (BEVs), even the non-Tesla options, Ars Technica reports.

The charge on an electric vehicle varies based on things like air conditioning or heat usage and whether you’re driving through a city or on the highway. In this paper, MIT researchers analyzed data on U.S. driver behavior from the National Household and Transportation Survey, using 120,000 GPS-tracked trips across nine cities. Then, they applied their models of driver behavior to the capabilities of the Nissan Leaf, an electric car that retails for about $29,000. The researchers also incorporated data on weather temperatures and how much people in different cities tend to drive.

Nissan claims that the Leaf has a travel range of up to 107 miles, but the researchers estimate that the 2013 Leaf probably gets more like 73 miles per charge, since batteries wear down over time, and most people run the AC or heater while they drive, sucking up more energy.

Based on this figure, the Leaf (and other electric vehicles at its price point) could meet U.S. driving needs on around 87 percent of days when people are on the road, the study finds, figuring that everyone is charging their car once a day (typically at night). Realistically, even more trips could be covered with electric vehicles, since other car models boast even higher ranges—the 2017 Chevy Volt promises a 200 mile range, and the next generation of the Nissan Leaf is expected to match that. Ford also hopes to release a long-range electric car sometime in the near future.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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