Annual Electric Miles Traveled Varies Widely For 8 Plug-In Electric Cars


The Nissan LEAF Faced Some Re-Sale Headwinds In March

The Nissan LEAF recently found and explored Idaho National Laboratory’s research on all-electric miles driven, presented by engineers Matt Shirk and Barney Carlson to the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.

INL got a lot of data on several models and compiled it to see estimated annual eVMT (electric vehicle miles traveled).

As you can see, all plug-in cars with an engine drive, on average, a lot more miles (1,000-1,260 instead of around 800 a month). This seems obvious as customers bought those cars because they drive more with longer journeys.

On the other hand, all-electric miles in case of the Chevrolet Volt is similar to BEVs, despite the smaller battery pack and lower all-electric range (compared to BEVs). Chevrolet Volt is almost like a regular BEV… with extended range.

Plug-in hybrids from Ford, Honda and Toyota of course have less all-electric range, which means that their all-electric miles traveled will be lower (2-4 times).

With more range, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt possibly could overtake Nissan LEAF in such stats, but we think that the LEAF will get more range soon too.

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt Is Expected To Launch In Early Fall(Photo: InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney @ NYAIS - April 2015)

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt Is Expected To Launch In Early Fall(Photo: InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney @ NYAIS – April 2015)


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43 responses to "Annual Electric Miles Traveled Varies Widely For 8 Plug-In Electric Cars"
  1. Braben says:

    Interesting numbers. But I think when comparing e.g. the Ford Energis to the Volt, range is not the only reason why the Volt gets more EV miles. The other reason is that most Energis are probably driven in standard mode (“EV Auto”), which means the engine will come on in certain driving situations (e.g. when accelerating at highway speeds). This is much less common with the Volt (where the engine rarely comes on unless the battery is close to empty). The numbers would probably look different if they looked at drivers who use the “EV Now” mode on the Energis.

    1. alain says:

      let’s face it 7kw bat is way to small .thw volt sould be the min.

      1. Braben says:

        You could argue that the Volt’s battery is too big (in terms of dimensions) for the car, which forced some compromises on interior room. Cramped interior and no real 5th seat in the back is probably a killer for many potential buyers. I’ll never understand why Chevy didn’t make the Volt 2 a bigger car.

        1. ozzie says:

          You could also argue that MOST of the time ALL of the above vehicles are driven with a SINGLE occupant and the MOST of the time even having a back seat is irrelevant.
          Conclusion… folks who don’t need the room, (or are being logical) buy the Volt. It’s just me and my partner and the back seat gets very very little use. Last year we put 7000 electric miles on our car and 6000 were single occupant miles. So nana nana boo boo!

    2. Carl says:

      I drive a C-MAX Energi–

      ~8000 ev miles/year after 2 years.
      I always drive in EV Now mode.

  2. Nick says:

    What about Tesla?

    1. alain says:

      yes we are sure these were electric miles

      1. Josh says:

        ?, I think he was asking why Tesla was not included in the study.

        I think it would be interesting to see if people drive more miles in a 200+ AER BEV vs. an 80 AER BEV.

        1. George CH says:


        2. liberty says:

          I know why tesla data is not included in many of these. The roedster was very low quantity and already had chargers, the model S only started shipping at the end of 2012, so if you want two years of data we are just getting it now. Model S of course should be included in later numbers.

          1. Josh says:

            Model S has been around longer, and in larger numbers, than C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, Fit EV, and Accord PHEV. There is no excuse for not including it.

            It is the 3rd most popular plug-in after LEAF and Volt.

    2. Braben says:

      You can find the reason why Tesla wasn’t included if you follow the source link:

      “the study looked at eight mainstream priced plug-in cars”

  3. Mikael says:

    What would really have made this interesting were if there would also be stats for a 12-ish kWh PHEV.

    Right now it looks like the benefit of the Volt and the C Max/Fusion energi in percentage of electric drive per kWh.

    What would be interesting to see would be if a 12 kWh PHEV would have a higher or similar percentage.
    Or in other words where the optimal kWh per car lies assuming lots of possible cars to be sold (true) and a set amount of total batteries (not true).

    Anyway it’s linear enough to make it very obvious that the large battery of the Volt is not a waste.

    1. Mikael says:

      Right now it looks like the benefit of the Volt and the C Max/Fusion energi in percentage of electric drive per kWh… is about the same.

      1. Assaf says:

        How so? The Volts did 75% electric miles whereas the Ford PHEVs are more like 35%.

        IMHO this is not just a range issue, but a different driver culture.

        Volt drivers are closer on average to “hard-core” EV early adopters, whereas a large chunk of Energi drivers are ordinary Ford buyers lured into getting a PHEV b/c with incentives it costs the same as an ICE hybrids, so why not? But many of those apparently don’t bother to plug in at every opportunity.

        With the PiP of course it’s different, not only super-short range but never fully driving as an EV (at least as I’ve understood it).

        1. Mikael says:

          Yes, the Fords are about 33% and 35% on electric. Or 4,3% and 4,6% per kWh.

          The Volt is about 74% electric and about 4,4% per kWh.

          If you would be taking the drivers into consideration and what you said was a general truth then the Fords would have been better per kWh than the Volt in the long run when the spread of owners get higher.

    2. jdbob says:

      I’m surprised the Energi percentages are that low. There are probably a couple different types of owner: Those that bought them for perks (green stickers and such) and may never plug them in, and those that bought them for mostly EV driving. The two types are going to have radically different percentages of EV driving.

      The last time I checked I was running about 55% EV. My driving falls into two very different categories. 340+ days a year the car stays in EV Now for my trips into town a few days a week. The 7.6kWh battery has enough range, so the extra range in the Volt wouldn’t do me any good. The other times I’m on a 1000+ mile long trip in mostly EV Later. In that case the extra 20 miles of EV range in the Volt wouldn’t make much difference.

      The new Volt seems like a very good upgrade, it will be interesting to see if Ford gets off their butt and does similar upgrades to the Energis.

      1. Bro1999 says:

        I’m wondering how they counted EV miles…I’m assuming they just took info straight from the cars? The Energis actually count EV miles a little different from the Volt. Whenever the engine shuts off, the miles are counted as EV miles in my Cmax. For the Volt, once the battery is depleted, all miles count as ICE miles, even if the engine switches off for periods of time.

        1. jdbob says:

          Looking at the report, I’m guessing they made a lot of it up. They say customer data, but don’t say how they got that data. And there is a section about what assumptions they made based on EPA ratings.

          1. Breezy says:

            There are a couple of slides showing the numbers of vehicles that participated in the study. Not sure where you get the idea they “made a lot of it up.”

            It appears they weren’t directly recording EV miles, but trip miles then using EPA range to calculate EV and total miles. A reasonable assumption. Certainly a long way from making things up.

        2. jdbob says:

          Back in the middle of 2013 there was an Autoweek article that said something like: “It appears that Ford owners are driving their hybrids in electric mode nearly 60 percent of the time”. Of course, “60 percent of the time” could mean multiple things in marketing speak, it doesn’t necessarily mean 60 percent of the miles are electric.

          Mikael’s observation that the percentage tracks to a remarkable degree with battery size suggests to me that they aren’t actually using real data.

      2. abc123 says:

        That’s a good point, bro.

  4. Ken says:

    The numbers seem way low to me. I had a Mini E for a year and drove it 23,196 miles. Had my 2012 Leaf for 2.5 years and drove 64,000 miles. My 2015 Leaf has 10,000 miles on it already and ive only had it since december. They sampled alot of Leafs but didnt sample my state. I wonder if this was part of the failed Ev Project with the crappy Blink chargers.

    1. Speculawyer says:

      Well, you need to realize that you are a bit of an outlier. Most people don’t want to spend that much of their lives driving their cars and thus live closer to work.

    2. Lensman says:

      The average U.S. driver drives about 14,000 miles per year. That’s the average for all passenger vehicles, including gas guzzlers.

      I’ve seen statistics suggesting BEV drivers average somewhat less. However, that may be counting only the car, not the driver. It may be that a lot of BEV drivers also own gas guzzlers, which they use for longer trips.

      1. Speculawyer says:

        14,000? People need to drive less. That is ridiculous. Didn’t it used to be 10,000 back some 20 years ago? Who wants to spend that much time in their car and stuck in traffic?

        1. Spider-Dan says:

          I live 13.5 miles from my work and I drive on surface streets with no traffic, never dropping below 45MPH (except for stoplights, of course). I don’t have any kids and I drive more than 15 miles away less than 10 times a year. I drive right around 12,000 miles annually.

          I would be interested in hearing the driving patterns of anyone who drives less than 10k miles per year. You’d have to live VERY close to your job, have no kids to shuttle around to and fro, no weekend trips, etc.

          Either that, or you live in an urban area and you take a lot of public transit.

  5. GRA says:

    The real solution to mass adoption, as long as the battery remains the most expensive component, is to have PHEVs with a wide range of AERs to fit all lifestyles, so that everyone can find a car that will allow them to do their routine local driving on the battery, and use the gas engine for longer trips. That gives the greatest possible reduction in GHGs/air pollution at the lowest possible cost.

    Having a battery that’s bigger than your routine driving needs is expensive and inefficient, as the extra weight decreases efficiency all the time. In addition, anyone who lives in rental accommodation is unlikely to have access to anything more than L1 at home (if that), and having a car with a battery larger than can be charged overnight on L1 is a waste of money, weight and space for them unless they’ve got workplace charging (and the charging costs less than buying gas). Most renters aren’t going to install 240V electrical circuits, even if they could persuade their landlords to let them do so at the renter’s cost, and good luck getting most landlords to do so at their expense.

    1. Lensman says:

      GRA said

      “Having a battery that’s bigger than your routine driving needs is expensive and inefficient, as the extra weight decreases efficiency all the time.”

      Not so. Here are the benefits of a larger battery pack:

      1. Longer range

      2. Longer battery life

      3. Faster charging possible (in terms of miles added per minute of charge)

      Any “inefficiency” in hauling around a few more hundred pounds of batteries is certainly more than compensated for by not needing to replace the battery pack after just a few years.

      “…having a car with a battery larger than can be charged overnight on L1 is a waste…”

      So, your argument is that having a small battery is “better” because a weak charger can fully charge it overnight? Well, in the same way that having less money is “better” because it will fit into a small wallet more easily.

      If you want a vehicle with a really small battery, then buy an electric bicycle. Most people interested in EVs want a car which can actually compete with gas guzzlers.

  6. Thanh Lim says:

    I’m at 18K for my first year of owning a Leaf and it will probably continue at that pace for a few more years.

  7. Breezy says:

    “Chevrolet Volt is almost like a regular BEV… with extended range.”

    Exactly. And that was a 35-38 mile Volt. A 50-mile Volt will do that much better.

  8. Darkj says:

    Guess I’m the perfect Energi customer – I only drive 6,000 miles/year, but 4000 of those are electric.

  9. David Murray says:

    I think it is not a good idea to just look at numbers like this from a perspective of miles driven. It doesn’t tell the whole story. Take my Chevy Volt. Of the 365 days in a year, it is an EV on 355 of those days. The other 10 days it is a hybrid getting great fuel economy on a multi-hour long drive. Of course, those 10 days do add up to a lot of miles. In my case, about 20% of the miles on the vehicle. But if you look at it from a perspective of days, it is an EV 97% of the time.

    1. Lensman says:

      I completely agree; what is important is what percentage of your trips can be performed without burning any gasoline/diesel at all. Someone with a short-range EV isn’t likely to try to stretch out its range for a long trip by repeated en-route charging; he’s just going to use a different vehicle for the trip — very likely one which will be powered by gasoline. Of course, with the Volt you don’t have to switch cars.

      Here’s hoping we’ll see a lot more PHEVs with a range as good as the Volt — or even better. If the Volt had an all-electric range of at least 60 miles (70 would be even better), it would be the best fit for my needs.

      I won’t claim that everyone needs 60+ miles of electric range in their daily driver, but the graph of actual miles driven per day by actual Volt drivers makes it quite clear that its ~40 miles range isn’t adequate to cover 90% of daily driving needs:

  10. ELROY says:

    I thought the belief was that Volt drivers drove more EV miles than the LEAF because they had no problem utilizing 100% of their EV range. According to these stats, even Focus owners drive more EV miles.

  11. JeffP says:

    Interesting that the INL data show Volt drivers doing 74.4% of their miles on electricity while the database shows a “fleet total” average of 71.3% electric. The Voltstats database should include newer Volts with the slightly larger battery capacity, but maybe the INL data are from “hardcore, early adopters” who do everything they can to avoid using gasoline?

    1. Nix says:

      Too many of the earlier 2011/12 Volts may be dragging down the numbers over on

      A quick check of the “Groups” tab shows that newer Volt owners are doing better than older:

      2014 Volt Owners Group 75.8%
      2013 Model Year Volts 75.1%
      2012 Volt Owners Group 66.8%
      2011 Volt Owners Group 62.9%

      This study may include more newer Volts.

  12. Speculawyer says:

    I’m so glad they killed off that Plug-In Prius POS. Such an under-batteried and under-motored car that was an embarrassment to plug ins.

  13. PHEVfan says:

    I’m not so sure I buy this analysis. For one they say “estimated eVMT” but don’t explain how they estimated it. If you compare the % difference between the PHEVs and the miles per charge, you get almost EXACTLY the same percentage. Meaning that they just assumed 1 charge per day and once your X EV miles were gone you used gas. That is a poor assumption and gives a useless analysis.

  14. Spider-Dan says:

    I don’t understand how they arrived at the car numbers. They have the Focus EV outselling the Volt, and the Fusion + C-Max Energis outselling everything else combined. Where are these stats coming from?

    1. Braben says:

      I assume these are just the number of cars that were included in the study. It has nothing to do with sales.

  15. Martin T says:

    & Yet the least EV car the Prius has the least amount of EV Miles.
    Not a surprise there.

  16. Nix says:

    The elephant in the room is how many miles did these EV owners drive in ICE cars because they felt the trip was too long for their EV’s?

    How many miles did they drive in a rental car, loaner car, or in other gas cars they own?

    For example, Volt owners drove over 12K miles per year, with 3K with the gas engine running. Leaf drivers drove less than 10K miles per year. Did they also drive 3K miles in other gas vehicles, leaving the Leaf at home?

    If so, it certainly makes the case for the new 2016 Volt with its longer EV-mode range that should do even more miles in EV mode.