Comprehensive Study of EV Drivers Reveals Plug-in Attitudes

By · November 14, 2013

PlugInsights, a new electric vehicle research firm, issued its first report today. The firm, part of Recargo Inc.—the company behind PlugShare and—conducted a series of recent surveys about the experiences and opinions of EV owners. The publication, entitled “2013 U.S. PEV Charging Study,” used responses from 3,700 American drivers of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. That represents more than 2 percent of U.S. EV drivers, and “the most comprehensive look at the topic,” according to PlugInsight.

“The list of driver suggestions that emerges from this study is long and constructive,” said Brian Kariger, CEO of Recargo. “It ranges from seemingly trivial things like wanting longer cables at public stations, to fundamental needs like a more robust charging infrastructure, broader availability of workplace charging, special utility rates, and everything in between.”

The growing online panel assembled by PlugInsight will continue to be tapped for a series of upcoming PEV studies.

One of the key themes of the first study, according to Norman Hajjar, managing director of PlugInsights, is the need for more public Quick Charging. “Until fast charging becomes broadly available, mid-range battery electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF are trapped on a leash, close to home,” he said.

Longest trips in an electric car

PlugInsights identified the average longest trip of plug-in car drivers.

Top Five Insights

Responses from nearly 4,000 EV drivers revealed the following issues:

1. There is a lack of Quick Charging.

Level 2 240-volt charging is too slow and impractical to bridge distant locations. As a result, the average “longest trip” for mid-range BEV owners is only 96 miles, compared to more than 300 miles for plug-in hybrids and Tesla vehicles. Bottom line: Without fast charging, mid-range battery-electric vehicles are confined to “commuter car” status, and lack appeal to a broader audience.

2. Pay-based public charging is rare and undesirable.

Only 2 percent of public charging today requires a fee. In essence, Level 2 charging is slow and impractical, according to drivers. Therefore, it is not an attractive product deserving of fees. Drivers said that public for-pay stations don’t charge a reasonable amount, and membership cars are less than ideal.

Where charging takes place
Public charging preferred rates

3. Public charging stations are too crowded.

Two of the chief problems with public charging is that popular locations are too crowded, and a significant number of the locations have frequent equipment failures.

4. Home charging stations are too expensive.

EV owners believe home charging equipment, EVSEs, are more expensive than they should be. Nearly a third of owners found the cost of installation to be “much higher” than expected.

EVSEs are too expensive

5. Special EV utility rates spur vehicle sales.

Time-of-use rates—when electricity is cheaper during off-peak hours—have been adopted by a large majority of drivers, when those rates are available. More than 15 percent of all drivers say these cheaper rates (usually for charging during the wee hours of the night) were an important factor in the decision to buy an EV.

The study goes on sale today at, where you can also see pricing, table of contents, and a complete list of the more than 65 tables and figures included.


· · 4 years ago

Kind of obvious....

This study basically confirms the fact that limited range BEV are limited...

We all want long range BEV but they are too expensive at this point and only solution is to go with PHEV which is cheaper until the long range BEVs are ready for the mass market.

· · 4 years ago

I've taken my plug-in hybrid 700+ miles in a day. Mostly on petrol, tried to recharge in Reno and the (level 2 EVSE plug) had been removed!

· · 4 years ago

Almost all of the public charging structure is based on L2 charging and I agree and this study highlights that the focus on L2 is wrong.

If charging is available on my end destination then L2 is nice but just a spare 120V socket would already be sufficient in many scenarios.

When trying to top up during a trip the L2 stations just takes too long (who is able to hand around a charger for four hours)?

Ideally I would drive an 80 mile range Volt with fast charging option with fast charging stations every 40 miles along highway routes or a 200 mile Tesla with super chargers available on my route.

· · 4 years ago

DC fast charging is "over rated" for small/limited range BEVs. Stopping 30 mins for every 1 hour of Hwy driving is NOT practical in the real world. People can always do that to make a point but nobody would do it unless it is "FREE" and they have a lot of time on their hand.

For larger battery BEV, it is useful. Stopping 30 mins for every 2-3 hours is somewhat reasonable. Even then, there would have ben sufficient charging stations at key locations to make that practical. If we do, then the peak demand rate for those stations would be fairly expensive as well.

Until we have the battery technology and infrastructure, PHEV is still the cheapest and best solution.

· · 4 years ago

@MMF, you keep pretending that DC quick-charging is somehow only useful to Teslas out there. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As evidenced by this survey (you saw point 1 above, didn't you?), and QC usage statistics e.g., people who actually drive an EV understand how useful and beneficial quick-charging can be.

It's not about turning road trips from impossible to cumbersome (although, sure, it could help with that too).
It's about being able to go beyond what the battery capacity alone can provide, to not be limited to destination charging only.

QC makes charging on-the-go and/or on very short notice practical. Merely having it available lifts that otherwise need to "save XX miles for unexpected errands" and other concerns.
Not only this makes the vehicle more versatile, it also results in less of the battery being effectively wasted -- which is all the more significant if it's small in the first place!

Batteries only improve a little each year. QC helping, those advances could be directed at making EVs more affordable, eventually undercutting ICEVs on purchase price, instead of only increasing their range, in an attempt to compensate for a lack of on-the-go refueling capabilities, remaining pricey and therefore a niche.

Quick-charging makes lower cost EVs practical, and is in my opinion one key enabler to their wide(r)-spread adoption.

(btw, you might note that most EVs are cheaper than PHVs already. As to which one is "best", it entirely depends people's needs and preferences; obviously mine are quite different than yours already).

· · 4 years ago

@Mr. O

QC only extends the range of the short range BEVs, it will NOT turn them into a long range car.

I have read your link before. That is meaningless link until the same study is done again for the period of which the DC charging is NO longer FREE. Also, if you look at the data on that 10,000 session on 14 station in about 16 months... That is less than 2 charging session per day per station. Even the high usage September showed only on average about a little over 2-3 charging session per day. And those are the "busy" one alone THE major hwy on the West Coast.

Many of the SF Bay Area L2 chargers are frequently used too until they started charging for it....

Like I said, DC charger is only extending the leash but won't eliminate it.

Also, here is another way to look at it. If DC is so important and range is NOT nearly as important according to you, then why have a 80 miles BEV? Why NOT 40 miles BEV and add DC charging as FREE standard option? Then drop the price by another $10K per car...

· · 4 years ago

@Mr. O

QC only extends the range of the short range BEVs, it will NOT turn them into a long range car.

I have read your link before. That is meaningless link until the same study is done again for the period of which the DC charging is NO longer FREE. Also, if you look at the data on that 10,000 session on 14 station in about 16 months... That is less than 2 charging session per day per station. Even the high usage September showed only on average about a little over 2-3 charging session per day. And those are the "busy" one alone THE major hwy on the West Coast.

Many of the SF Bay Area L2 chargers are frequently used too until they started charging for it....

Like I said, DC charger is only extending the leash but won't eliminate it.

Also, here is another way to look at it. If DC is so important and range is NOT nearly as important according to you, then why have a 80 miles BEV? Why NOT 40 miles BEV and add DC charging as FREE standard option? Then drop the price by another $10K per car...

· · 4 years ago

@Mr. O.

You do have some points about price and affordability. But here is another issue, battery life.

Let us say that we have the same battery chemistry. Battery A is only 20KWh and has a range of 80 miles and Battery B is 60KWh and has a range of 200 miles (due to heavier weight and less efficient).

By the time battery A reaches 100,000 miles, it would have to go through at least 1250 charging cycles (full equivalent). The Battery B has only gone through 500 charging cycles (full equivalent). Which one is going to last longer?

Sure, battery B is more expensive up front. But during the its entire life, it is more usable and will last at least 2x longer if everything else is the same.

This is why I support larger battery cars....

· · 4 years ago

BEVs are impractical for long distance travel, even with DC fast charging. No one wants to wait around an hour for every three hours of driving, and no one wants to slow down, or turn off A/C to try to make it to the next charging station. Range extended EVs make sense for long distance needs.

· · 4 years ago

While it's probably true that "No one wants to wait around an hour for every three hours of driving", I'm perfectly happy to take up to an hour or so for a food-and-uhm-err-"rest"-stop and regain lots of miles.

For that matter, I'm happy to take that same time and regain even just a few miles.

Opportunistic charging is a clear win. Need a rest room break even for just a few minutes? Gain some range while you lose some weight! :-) Seriously, there are some cost issues, and this works much better with Tesla superchargers than with Level 2 EVSEs, but it's still an obvious win.

· · 4 years ago

Chris, you must be spending a lot of time in the rest room. :-)

The last time I came home from a Vegas trade show, I left right when it closed, and got home at 12:15am with work the next morning. I was thinking to myself, "I sure am glad I didn't have to stop at a Supercharger for an hour." I would have gotten home at 1:15am, assuming I could even keep up my 80 mph pace (once I got out of the Vegas traffic) and the heater on.

BEV's don't make sense for this.

· · 4 years ago

I *hate* this attitude:

"Stopping 30 mins for every 1 hour of Hwy driving is NOT practical in the real world."

Just like driving for 16 hours at a stretch is NOT practical compared to air travel?

Your idea of what's "practical" is warped by what you're used to. Just take an easy counterpoint: in 1861 there was a gold rush to central British Columbia before the railway was built. Travelling there from say, Vancouver (the nearest port) meant that the *fastest* way to go was by steamship up the river to Yale, which was about a hundred miles and took about a day. Then you started out on horseback, which got you about 60 miles per day. It took over a week to get to their final destination. To this day, there are entire towns along the way every 60 miles, built primarily to house travellers going up and down this trail. Every last one of those travellers would have handed you their left kidney (heck, riding on horseback is hard on the kidneys anyway) to be able to travel a whopping 120 miles in only two and a half hours, and you complain that the *extra* half hour is completely impractical.

Excuse me while I break out the very small violins.

Personally, I'm going to take my kids on that trail and use those charging opportunities as educational tools about the trek those prospectors took. It'll be lots of fun!

· · 4 years ago


Well said. Unfortunately, people are used to getting more rather than less. Constant growth / improvement is a foundation of modern society, and that has to give sooner or later. But that's another topic all together.

As for stopping for 30 minutes every hour, for me it depends on the total length of the trip. Today a trip to visit grandma takes 4 hours. Adding 1.5 more hours would certainly be less than ideal. But then again I have two kids under 5, so getting their energy out is a good thing. If I'm only traveling 2 hours and have to add a 30 minute charge, it's hardly a big deal. Of course there will be those who focus on that occasional trip and miss the bigger picture of every day convenience of plugging in at home. For many, a Volt is a good compromise. For others, it's not good enough.

Today, QC turns the Leaf from a local car into a regional car. It still isn't really a good long distance car. I long for the day when QCs are as commonplace as gas pumps. It may never happen, but if it does, a BEV driver will be able to drive as confidently as an EREV driver, with similarly little planning. And without having to lug around a gasoline engine.

· · 4 years ago

"Your idea of what's "practical" is warped by what you're used to"

Well, people move forward, NOT backward. You are just making justifications for a "substandard" long range travel vehicle.

Let us look at the real world case. Plenty of people drive between SF and Lake Tahoe or LA to Vegas. In the case between San Jose and Lake Tahoe, that is about 240 miles with the last 60 miles going uphill. A typical car can make it there in about 3.5 hours with maybe a 5 mins stop. But a LEAF would have to stop for at least 3 times (80% charge) b/c the last 60 miles are going uphill. That is additional 1.5 hr travel on a already long 3.5 hr medium trip. If the weather is cold, then either the stop has to be longer or additional stops would have be planned... And people do that for day trips and weekend trips...

Can it be done? Yes. But like I said, people like to move forward instead of backward... Plenty of people already proved that you can make it from B.C. to B.C. But most people don't want to travel in that form or fashion....

You want the EV to take off for mass market, it is "easier" to change the car than the market.

· · 4 years ago

@MMF (re previous post), I don't think QC cost matters; I happily pay 5$ for a 10-minute session (~8 kW*h) when I need it, but otherwise won't bother staying or stopping even for free electrons; a minimum-wage job makes more money.

Slashing half the range off a Leaf/Spark/500e won't save 10k$, at most 1/3 of that after accounting for a 2k$ drop in incentives.

Your point about longevity is more interesting I think; let's dig a little deeper.

Say battery A lasts "only" 100k miles, so needs replacement after 8 years or so.
I'd reckon that by 2020+, swapping the cells, or buying a new pack while returning the old for credit, will cost at most half what the full battery assembly is today; likely much less. So:
Option A (20 kW*h): 1x initial cost, 0.3~0.5 added after 8 years; max 1.5x total.
Option B (60 kW*h): 3x initial cost -- still twice as much, best case.

Moreover, this assumed that the only battery degradation was from cycling. Li-ion isn't like this, it also ages with time regardless of use, further shifting the cost advantage towards A, the smaller but better-used battery.

Previous surveys show a great discrepancy between the range people say they want (100 to 150 miles) and how much they typically drive (less than 30 miles/day).

For those who want extra range primarily out of concerns of being "caught short" in exceptional situations, I think quick-charging offers a very compelling alternative to extra batteries or even a range-extending engine.
(How many i3 buyers would take the REx if CCS quick-chargers were everywhere?)
Weighting convenience vs costs savings (and slight gains in efficiency, performance and handling) will be a personal decision. They key thing is, more options help make EVs attractive to a wider public.

Re long trips (really, did this long-dead horse deserves some more beating?), just like say, moving furniture, towing stuff, going off-road, etc:
if that's something you do frequently, always on your own, meaning you don't have easy access to another vehicle, newsflash, don't get one of the current EVs as your only ride.
Otherwise, just hop onto the car of whoever is going with you, or borrow/rent whatever is ideal for the purpose, like in this case some large 4x4 (so you can safely and comfortably haul around everyone, skis and what-not, and do away with snow chains requirements). Problem solved, for much cheaper and with less hassle than paying for gas, extra depreciation and maintenance the remaining ~360 days of the year.

@Michael, for that 1h you saved on that one occasion, how much time and money are you spending pumping gas every month?
For some people (not everyone makes hundreds $ per hour), this modest trade-off makes a lot of sense, even more so when combined with non-financial considerations (environmental, geopolitical, ride comfort etc).

@Brian @TheBraveLittleToaster, thumbs up! :)

· · 4 years ago

Just arrived at our Portland, Or. Hotel about 50 minutes ago after 585 miles in our Tesla Model starting from our home in West Sacramento. We stopped at Tesla Superchargers in Corning, Mt. Shasta, Grants Pass, Springfield and Woodburn for usually 30 minutes and a longer breakfast stop in Mt. Shasta. Our Portland hotel has Blink chargers, so the car will have a full 270 mile range when we head out tomorrow to play here in Portland.

We kept our freeway speed right at the legal limit the whole.

And ALL the Tesla Superchargers along I-5 were free!

· · 4 years ago

@Michael - I won't argue that 80 mile BEvs are practical for long trips, although I agree with Brian that a QC turns that 80 mile BEV into a regional car.

In certain cases like the one you cite - tight time constraints, there is a little bit of a trade-off.

But I'm going to guess that a whole lot of people would gladly accept the constraint of a one hour lunch or dinners and charge break if their fuel was clean, domestically sourced, renewable and (at the pump) free (or to be completely fair, at some point in the economic cycle $1 per gallon equiv).

The problem with your example is that it does not address at all these externalities. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels cause premature death and much suffering (athsma, COPD) for tens of thousands of people. (Many studies, but MIT most recently - last week).

So in that hour you save, give some thought to the wars we've fought to source that oil you burned. And the air pollution left behind. And the (im)balance of trade that the imported oil caused.

All engineering solutions have trade-offs.

I recently drove from Seattle to San Diego using the Supercharger network. Although I've made that trip many times, it's never been with as much comfort and convenience.

· · 4 years ago

But here's the sad truth, Christopher, about the Michaels of the world: They simple don't care about the larger social costs of gasoline. It's not on their radar screens. They're either in blissful denial of these issues or, worse, boldly declare there is no problem at all. Either way, they'll go on record that government environmental initiatives and the so-called liberal media that backs them are a personal affront and an intrusion into their way of life. I'm sure when curbside recycling became mandatory where they live, they spent more time writing letters of complaint to mayors and newspaper editors than learning how to sort their trash and place metal soup cans or cardboard scraps into a separate bin.

When it comes to electric cars, it's always about economics and maintaining lifestyle, never about accommodation or being clever enough to learn how to adapt. Never mind that EVs, for now, are more expensive at purchase, yet operate at about a quarter of the cost per mile when compared to a comparably sizes ICE car. If it can't go 80mph for 300 miles with the air conditioner cranked and stereo blasting all it once, it's bad technology that they certainly won't buy into. Worse still, they'll tell you that it shouldn't even be offered on the free market to those who are willing adapt to it for more altruistic reasons, or could even care less about the above arbitrary speed/range/comfort convenience metric, or how quickly the purchase amortizes and doesn't infringe on their stock options.

Sure . . . if you're part of a one car family and have to commute 50 miles each way to work - either over hilly rural terrain or on congested urban freeways - and have no firm guarantee that you can charge there, you probably going to be wise to think twice about buying a Leaf. But if you're like most Americans and 50 miles per day of discretionary driving is a rare exception in you're life, then an EV can be perfectly suited to your needs. And, yes, you can charge at home while you sleep . . . even off the 120V outlet that's already pasted onto the side of your house.

Carefully placed high speed charging infrastructure (QC/DC, Level 3, etc.) does turn that mostly city oriented EV into a qualified regional traveler. How qualified? If "regional" means a 100 mile one way trip a few times per year, then yes. If "regional" means 400 mile of one way driving a couple times a month, it's probably PHEV or hybrid time for now . . . or a Tesla S, if you've got the scratch.

If I'm having to make extended journeys I'll either fly or rent a car, so as to save wear/tear on my own aging ICE vehicle. If we had decent high speed passenger rail transportation in this country (largely opposed, interestingly enough, by many of the same people who are so vehemently anti-EV,) I'd choose that as well.

· · 4 years ago

Very well put. You just are not going to convince some people of the value of an EV. They are NOT for everybody; plenty of families can only afford one car, and they do more driving than others. An ICE or hybrid makes sense to them. But your point is valid, that most of us are very happy with the EV's we drive. And, importantly, we know that EV range will increase over time. It may be a very long time before the "average" EV has an affordable 300 mile range battery. But if that car has a 100 mile battery with QC options, that dramartically changes the equation for most people.

· · 4 years ago

I think some of you are mistaken the fact that we are NOT talking about anything against EVs or plugin car in general. We just don't think "limited range EV" is all that practical even if you have the DC quick chargers espeically if it is NOT free.

Remember NOT all buyers care about what they burn in their car. They will be happy to drive around a PZEV or ULEV car and be happy with that purchase. Those are the people you need to convert. Early adopters and "green" people are already jumping on the bandwagon as soon as they can.

For that group of people, you can't change them, but you need to change the car so that they will adopt it without hesitation. That requires competitive price or ranges that is acceptable. A large Battery EV will do that so will a PHEV if cost is competitive.

@Mr O.

You are the few strong EV advocates out there. But most people aren't willing to pay $5 for 10 mins of charging.... Ask that Steve Marsh guy about it...

Now, let us talk about your example. You are assuming that battery will cost less than half in 10 years. That is ONLY true if we continue the so called 7% price reduction right now. But there is NO guarantee that manufacturing will offer it at the newly reduced price. Also, as the battery degrades, the range of the smaller battery car will shrink as it ages. A 80 miles car will become a 60 miles car in 5 years will NOT be acceptable to many buyers.

Also, if the battery cost is only about 1/3 of my estimate of $10K, then why doesn't Nissan just double the current battery size with that "little" cost or at least offering it and see how many people want it.

In the case of Tesla, we all saw that when choices are given, people are gladly paying for the larger battery option. That is why 40KWh version is NO longer in existance.

Also, larger battery gives out larger peak output, which equals to higher power rating at peak performance and faster DC charging (when charger is NO longer the limiting factor).

Now, back to your question of how many i3 with REx would b sold if CCS is everywhere.

That is a great questions. The REx cost is to the buyer. CCS network cost has to be shouldered by somebody first. Tesla is solving that problem by doing it themselves. Neither Nissan or BMW is doing anything with their respective network like Tesla. In this case, REx cost on a per car basis comparing to the larger CCS network is FAR cheaper. That simply goes back to your battery A vs. battery B discussion.

As far your last points go, well sorry to tell you, but most buyer behave that way. People buy AWD, pickup truck and high performance cars b/c just once in awhile they need it. If NOT, everyone would have bought a Prius like car long time ago.

The fact is that if we want EVs to become mainstream, we have to make them compete in the same space of existing vehicles but with clear advantage. That is why I think the existing solution of "limited range" BEVs aren't going to be the "solution".

· · 4 years ago

@Ben writes:>>>>>>When it comes to electric cars, it's always about economics and maintaining lifestyle, never about accommodation or being clever enough to learn how to adapt.<<<<<<<

I must agree that's true, but I'm probably less critical of that reality. Sure, I understand the perspective of EV enthusiasts who greatly increase their effective range with a bit of "clever" scrounging and "adaptive" social engineering - a convenience store here, a flower shop there, with outlets out back that they've no problem letting the quirky but pleasant EV guy use from time to time. I'm impressed by how such EV adventurers have woven a loose collection of charging opportunities into a serviceable network, and I'm sure it's all great fun and part of the charm of their EV ownership experience. But that sort of thing just doesn't scale, and such schmoozing and begging isn't everyone's cup of tea.

And why would it be? If being an EV owner means having to creatively stitch together a support network to meet your routine transportation needs, or become an amateur logistics coordinator just to plan today's travels, it should be no surprise that's a complete non-starter for the overwhelming majority of people, and I really don't blame them. Honestly, people have lives to deal with, and if EVs are a bigger hassle than the expense of fueling up, why should they bother?

I am a little surprised that Mr. Berman reports without comment that large majorities of respondents complained both that charging isn't always free and that chargers are too crowded. Anyone who's taken Econ 101 will see the contradiction in holding those two opinions simultaneously, though perhaps it should be reassuring that EV owners aren't outliers - they want to have their cake and eat it too, just like everyone else. Chargers can't be free if we want to count them as "infrastructure", because they wouldn't be reliably available. There's simply too much temptation to grab some free power even if you can easily complete today's travels with your current SOC. I'll go further - charging needs to be more expensive than buying gasoline for a PHEV, so that the only PHEVs (e.g., Volts) we see on public chargers will be folks so committed to driving green they'll pay for the privilege. Free chargers may indeed make sense at shopping malls, casinos, cineplexes, etc., since there's an obvious benefit to giving away a service that's inexpensive to provide and "traps" customers at a location that encourages impulse expenditures.

Having said all that, today's "medium range" (or mid-range) EVs do indeed meet the needs of a very high percentage of multi-car households, perhaps the majority, even without reliable public charging infrastructure. You charge at home, overnight, and the 60-80 miles of driving range obtained thereby is more than enough to handle at least one car's duties for the day. I understand that there's a deep appeal to the fantasy of being able to blow off home and office and just drive to the coast, even if you happen to be in Kansas. Any ICEV in good working order is compatible with that fantasy - just cruise down the interstate and hit the next service plaza or town when the needle gets too close to "E", spend a few minutes filling the tank and nuking a burrito, and the adventure continues. But that is fantasy, and just fantasy, for lots of reasons. We need to grow up and be honest about what our cars really do for us. And for the great majority of actual daily itineraries undertaken by personal vehicles in the U.S., a mid-range EV will get the job done, no sweat.

This isn't to say that quick-charging is not relevant - it definitely is, though talk about the inconvenience of cross-country EV travel is putting the focus on the wrong application. It's quite true that driving 800 miles in a mid-range EV, even with an adequate QC network, would be quite tedious (to you folks who consider it a marvelous opportunity to stop and smell the roses, God bless ya, but I'm pretty sure you're the same guys that are opportunity charging behind the 7-Eleven). Honestly, that's what Teslas and SuperChargers are made for, not the CHAdeMO port on your LEAF. That more modest QC is much more important for allowing mid-range BEVs to operate freely in sprawling metroplexes. In such places, no one errand would test a Tesla, and not even most daily routines. But there are a good many folks who could fit a mid-range EV into their lives more easily if only they could manage those hectic Saturdays of shopping and ferrying kids to and from scattered locations. It's not every weekend, but it's often enough that one range-hobbled car in the fleet might be one too many. Add a local QC network that lets Mom stop at a Starbucks to decompress and "recharge" for 20 minutes somewhere in that mad rush, and you've gone from dicey to hassle-free.

In the end, I think BEVs charged at home in the garage could work for a lot more people than are willing acknowledge it. But many of them would be a lot more comfortable making the leap knowing QC was available, no matter how rarely they actually used it, and many more could find a BEV practical that might not be able to consider it without QC.

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