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Study: 1 out of every 5 California electric car owners switching back to gas

Many people switch to electric vehicles with high hopes of finding a better way to drive that also helps the environment. However, once reality sinks in, some new electric vehicle (EV) owners are yearning for the simplicity of owning a traditional car – and replacing their EV the first chance they get with one that runs on gas.

A study carried out by researchers from the University of California, Davis, found that one out of five plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) owners who purchased their car between 2012 and 2018 switched back to cars powered by gas. According to the study, which was published in the Nature Energy journal, the main reason for the switch was the inconvenience of charging the cars.

Although EVs have made great strides in recent years when it comes to technological features, safety and comfort, charging is another story entirely.

Consider the example of the gas-powered Ford Mustang and its electric Mach-E variant. The original Mustang’s tank can be filled in about three minutes at a gas pump, giving you a range of around 300 miles with your V8 engine. But Bloomberg automotive analyst Kevin Tynan reported that charging the car with his household outlet for an hour provided just three miles of range. That amounts to just 36 miles of range after charging it all night, which is pretty disappointing.

Part of the problem is that a standard home outlet only delivers 120 volts, which is what is considered Level 1 charging. Higher-powered specialty connections that deliver 240 volts are called Level 2, but these are hard to find. Tesla has superchargers available for its cars that use 480 volts and can charge their cars fully in just over an hour.

Among those PEV owners who switched back to gas, more than 70 percent did not have access to Level 2 charging at home, and a similar percentage lacked those connections at their workplace. Of the 42,000 public charging stations available in the U.S., just 5,000 can be considered fast chargers; the rest operate more like home chargers and require eight hours or so to give a longer-range battery a full charge.

According to Tynan, even using faster chargers, a Chevy Bolt he tested needed six hours to get its range topped up to 300 miles from almost empty. This, he notes, is something that takes just a few minutes at the pump with his family’s SUV.

Electric vehicles are not living up to their promise

The researchers say that the auto industry, which is betting big on EVs dominating the market, needs to make serious strides on the charging front if they want to be successful. Many are already working hard on developing EVs that can charge up faster and drive farther per charge – but the charging stations available need to keep pace and offer the higher power needed for these faster charges.

They warned: “It should not be assumed that once a consumer purchases a PEV they will continue owning one.”

“What is clear is that this could slow PEV market growth and make reaching 100% PEV sales more difficult.”

More charging stations are also needed, with super-fast chargers particularly important on highways where people need to travel long distances and must charge quickly as well as in urban areas where most people live in apartments and lack access to home chargers.

However, until EV ownership is as convenient as having gas cars, the widespread adoption the industry is hoping for seems out of reach. There’s also the question of the impact charging so many cars will have on the grid. Moreover, assessments show that electric cars have a worse carbon footprint than diesel cars when their manufacture and the energy needed to keep them charged is considered, not to mention the energy used to extract materials needed to make their batteries. In short, these cars are not living up to their promises.

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