Columbia University, Solar Journey USA Find 95% of Daily Commutes Fit EV Performance Metrics

January 30th, 2012 BY njkaters | No Comments
Nissan LEAF EV

A pair of Columbia University graduate students studied the National Household Travel Survey to determine the feasibility of EV adoption. The report entitled “Assessment of Electric Cars’ Range Requirements and Usage Patterns” notes that current EVs could meet 95% of daily driving needs by the average consumer. This report draws from a 2009 report by the National Household Travel Survey that followed the commuting habits of 150,147 households. “Assessment of Electric Cars’ Range” coincides with efforts by the Solar Journey USA project to travel across the United States using only solar power.

The National Household Travel Survey from 2009 used data about commuting distance, city size and driving habits from March 2008 to May 2009. The authors of the report found that vehicles used within this period traveled about 40 miles per day. Participating drivers often traveled less than 30 miles (95% of trips) and 99% of trips were less than 70 miles. “Assessment of Electric Cars’ Range” notes that 95% of total daily commuting was below 120 miles and 99% fell below 250 miles. The average participant traveled only 12.6 miles in one direction for a daily commute.

Plug-in and battery-electric vehicles hitting the market in the next five years meet these commuting requirements with some leeway. The Nissan LEAF can achieve a 138-mile range when fully charged, which would handle 95% of all commutes. “Assessment of Electric Cars’ Range” also concludes that the 2011 Tesla Roadster could meet 98.5% of commutes even if the driving range was reduced 15% from EPA estimates. This report highlighted the oft-mentioned distinction between urban and rural commutes. Consumers in compact spaces from New York City to Honolulu travel only 24 miles per day while Midwestern drivers average about 49 miles per day. EV owners in urban and rural areas could balance adequate range with smart grid use based on these findings.

Organizers of the Solar Journey USA project are highlighting these findings prior to a cross-country excursion this summer. Rob van Haaren and Garrett Fitzgerald will use a vehicle powered by solar paneling to cover 3,200 miles in 17 days. “Assessment of Electric Cars’ Range” and the Solar Journey USA trip highlight the reliability of EV technology at a precarious economic moment. This message must be repeated ceaselessly by researchers, automakers, government agencies and utilities to keep consumers looking forward.