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Why Are 20% Of EV Owners In California Switching Back To Petrol?

You’d think that in a US state like California, which always seems to be so progressive, liberal and with-it – and which has a governor who has decreed that by 2035, all new cars sold will be EVs or at least “zero-emissions” cars – you’d see people flocking to taking up EVs left right and centre.  After all, if you think about it for a moment, Governor Gavin Newsom’s call would rule out not just your good old-fashioned petrol or diesel vehicle but also hybrids, which have both petrol and electric engines. It also applies to trucks (although the article may mean what we call utes and they call pickup trucks in the US of A), which makes me wonder how they’re going to ship goods about the place, as electric big-rigs are still at the developmental stage.

Anyway, given these points, it was something of a surprise to read a study carried out in California that found that about 20% of those surveyed said that they had gone back to petrol-powered vehicles after having owned an EV. OK, to be more precise, 20% of hybrid owners had gone back and 18% of battery-powered EV owners had switched back. You can read it for yourself here: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00814-9 (this will take you to the summary – to read the full thing, you have to pay).

The big question is, of course, why they’re doing this. The answer seems to be the issue of charging speed. The study seemed to find that Tesla owners didn’t seem to want to switch back, given that Tesla provides superfast charging for life for their vehicles – although I dare say that the cost of a Tesla has something to do with the fact that their owners aren’t switching back. However, those with other types of EV are more likely to switch back (compared with Tesla owners).

The people who were most likely to switch back were women, those living in rental homes, those living in high-rise apartments and those who didn’t have access to a Level 2 charger or higher at home or at work.

Some of these factors are easy to understand.  If you live in a rental home, you probably don’t want to pay to have a Level 2 EV charger installed in something that you don’t own – if your landlord would let you do this in the first place.  Landlords probably don’t want to pay to put in Level 2 EV chargers in rentals – although this might change in future; in the past, they didn’t always put in dishwashers but it’s common enough now.  In the case of an apartment, when you think that the garage or other parking space is all the way down there while you live right up there, or if you have to park your vehicle in a shared space and someone else has bagged the charger… well, you can see just how inconvenient it is.

The length of time it takes an EV to charge also probably has something to do with why women were more likely to ditch their EVs. If your EV is parked up and charging in a shared garage in an apartment building, you’ll have to nip down now and again to check how it’s going. In the case of a public charger, you may complete your errands before the car has finished charging and have to wait around. This means that you’ll be hanging around for a while. Unfortunately, it can be a nasty world out there for a woman. Even though 99% of guys are decent blokes, there’s always that 1%.  And you never know if that guy on the other garage or looking in your direction or walking towards you is Mr 1% or not.  This means that no woman really wants to spend longer than she has to in a public space that may not be all that well lit at night, with her only safe space being a car that isn’t quite charged up.  I’m speculating here, but speaking as a woman, that would be a concern I’d have – to say nothing of the hassles of trying to keep kids entertained while the car charges and being held up waiting for the car to charge when there’s a ton of things to do.

The issue seems to be charging time and access to Level 2 chargers. Let’s take a bit of a look at different charger types and you’ll get an idea of what’s involved:

Level 1 chargers: Slow as a wet week – it takes up to 25 hours to charge a typical EV with enough to get 100 km of range. However, it’s good for topping up plug-in hybrids. The advantage of these is that they can plug into the standard Australian power outlet without any need for the services of an electrician.

Level 2 chargers: These are faster than Level 1 chargers, taking up to 5 hours to give a typical EV 100 km of range. However, because of the charge they carry, they need special installation and older homes may need the wiring upgraded to carry the load, and it needs a special plug, which means you’ll need an electrician to come in and do the job of installing them.

Level 3 chargers: These use DC rather than AC power, and they are very expensive to install – putting one of these chargers could cost nearly as much as a brand new car. Your house doesn’t have this type of power supply, so they’re only available commercially. However, they’re faster, giving 70 km of range in 10 mins of charging.

Of course, these times are approximate and will vary from vehicle to vehicle – like charging times for other electrical things vary.  However, full charge times are usually measured in hours rather than minutes. If you’ve got grumpy kids in the car, even 10 minutes for a top-up charge at a fast charge station can seem like eternity…

 

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