I’m of the opinion that most households could actually do just fine with a Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, Ford Focus Electric, or the like — and then also benefit as a consumer from the wonderful inherent features of an electric car. One key reason I think so is because I’ve seldom known a household that needed to drive all the cars in their household a super long distance on the same day. Many households in the US have 2–3 cars, and when one is out on a road trip, the others are still enjoying a slow-paced, short-trip city life. So, why couldn’t one of them be a medium-range electric car?
The average number of cars per household in the US is 1.9, but also remember that many people live car-free. Another reason that I don’t naturally understand the need for a long-range electric car is that I’ve lived car-free for ~13 years — I just don’t see the great need to own a car that can easily drive hundreds of miles in a day.
If your household has one car and that car is routinely used for long-distance trips, the challenges of a medium-range electric car become much more apparent.
Not having seen much research on car ownership among electric car drivers, I wondered if EV drivers were more likely to have 2–3 cars in the household, making it easy to take road trips with other car(s) when needed. I wondered if there were many EV drivers with just one car at home. We dove into the matter as part of our recent EV driver report. The general finding is that EV households don’t seem to be much different from the norm, which means that there aren’t many single-car EV households, but the percentage of respondents in that category weren’t insignificant, especially in Europe. Jump down below the line for a closer look.
If you’ve read the report intro in one of our previous articles about the new report, just jump down below the line to get into the article itself. In case you missed previous intros, though, here’s a short summary of the report:
We surveyed over 2,000 electric car drivers living in 28 countries (49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces). We wanted to find out what early electric car adopters require and desire from their next electric cars and from EV charging networks, as well as what EV life is like so far for them.
This report segments responses by three distinct electric vehicle groups (Tesla drivers, pure-electric but non-Tesla drivers, and drivers of plug-in hybrids) as well as by continent (North America versus Europe). This segmentation unveils clear differences on many topics — which is sensible given the vast variation in user experience for each type of EV and for the two regions, but which we’ve never seen uncovered before.
You can get the full 93-page report — Electric Car Drivers: Desires, Demands, & Who They Are — for $500, or you can check out the first 30 pages for free. (If you contributed to the report/surveys and want a free copy, drop us a note and we’ll send the entire report your way.)
Our core partners for this year’s report included EV-Box, Tesla Shuttle, and Important Media. Other report partners included The Beam, EV Obsession, and the Low Voltage Vehicle Electrification summit.
How Many Cars Do Electric Car Drivers Have?
The number of cars respondents had in their households was similar to the European and North American populations on the whole. In general, North American respondents had more cars than European respondents. This matches more auto-oriented development patterns in North America and thus more dependency on automobiles.
Again, it may also relate to the higher cost of parking in Europe (including residential parking) compared to widespread “free”/subsidized parking in North America.
Across the three groups, 23–29% of Europeans had only one car in the household, versus 11–17% for North Americans. On the flip side, 15–25% of Europeans had three or more cars in the household, whereas 39–48% of North Americans had three or more cars.
Nonetheless, two cars in the household was the most common response for all groups, ranging from 46–60% for Europeans and 42–46% for North Americans.
The implications from these findings are hard to nail down. On the one hand, if a household is less likely to have a second car, they may feel their only car needs to have longer range to support occasional long-distance trips. On the other hand, if they have only one car, they may simply be less dependent on cars and they may take long-distance trips via train or plane instead of car, both of which could make them feel less of a need for long range on a single charge. Having no car in the household for nearly 13 years, I can certainly relate to the latter.
However, if you consider that the vast majority of respondents (and Europeans and North Americans in general) have more than one car in the household, it seems likely that one of the household’s cars could have low to moderate single-charge range without really affecting the owners’ lives. How often would all of the cars in a household need to drive 100+ miles (150+ kilometers) in a day and inconvenience the drivers by needing to charge at a public charging station in the middle of that? Indeed, that’s part of the reason why an MIT study has found that range anxiety is illogical for the vast majority of people.
The topic of EV range diversity within households is a topic we would like to explore in further detail in the coming years. As households adopt 2+ electric cars, how will they view the range (and charging) needs of each of their cars?