Plug-in Hybrid Drivers Use Public Charging More than EV Owners

By · October 22, 2012

Charging port

ECOtality recently published data from its ongoing evaluation of 6,000-plus plug-in vehicle owners. The EV drivers are participants in The EV Project, a multi-year project designed to evaluate charging patterns.

According to ECOtality, the operator of The EV Project, owners of the Chevy Volt try at all costs to avoid using gasoline. In other words, Volt owners charge not only at home, but also at work or at other public charging sites throughout the day.

Drivers of the Nissan LEAF charged at home 89 percent of the time—plugging in 1.1 times a day, whereas the average Volt owner plugs in nearly 1.5 times per day. The data indicates that Volt drivers plug in when away from home 21 percent of the time, as opposed to the LEAF owners away-from-home charging of only 11 percent.

This is partly explained by the fact that the LEAF's battery pack stores enough energy for 80 or more miles of driving. On the other hand, the battery pack on the Chevy Volt provides about 35 to 40 miles of all-electric driving, before a gas engine is engaged to extend driving range by a few hundred miles.

"We never anticipated that a 40-mile-electric-range plug-in hybrid would charge more than a 100-percent electric car," said Colin Read, ECOtality’s vice president for corporate development. "You have that gas engine that you’re paying an extra premium for a reason."

These findings indicate that owners of plug-in hybrids could be more frequent users of public charging than previously expected. Those PHEV drivers are likely to want to top up (in quicker charging events) throughout the day, where as owners of pure EVs are more likely to charge up overnight at home—taking off with plenty of juice to last the entire day. The number of plug-in hybrid sales is expected to be significantly larger—as much as double—the size of the market for pure electric vehicles.


· Spec (not verified) · 3 years ago

Yeah, because they have battery envy. They want to drive electric as much as possible so they are constantly looking for a hit of that sweet juice.

· · 3 years ago

Wow, this story has gotten a lot of mileage. I have seen this study referred to everywhere I turn!

I think the take-away from this is that any L2 supplier will really have to cater to PHEVs, not just BEVs. Not only do PHEVs currently out-sell BEVs, but each of those uses public infrastructure almost twice as often. The trouble is, those providers don't seem to be listening. In Syracuse, public charging is $2.40/hr. This is approaching the equivalent of $10/gallon of gasoline for a Volt or PiP driver. This is unacceptable and can't possibly succeed long-term.

· · 3 years ago

It's only a good thing that people are trying to do most of their driving in electric only mode, would be nice if manufacturers offered their hybrids with different battery options, or offered their pure EVs with possibility of small range extenders (i wouldn't even mind one in my trunk)

· · 3 years ago

@Brian - I don't see what a manufacturer / installer of L2 equipment can do to "cater" to either group. The car is either compatible with the charger or it isn't.

And I mirror Spec's comment. I view that as a good thing since PHEV owners may be more likely to pick up a BEV as their next vehicle now that they are familiar with the concept of plugging in and comfortable with their driving habits and availability of charging points.

· · 3 years ago

I've heard this phenomenon referred to as "gasoline anxiety" elsewhere. Interesting.

Thanks to the local Chevy dealer, who I got to know at our National Plug In Day event last month, I now have the loan of a 2011 Volt for the next few weeks . . . finished in an impressive black color scheme and already christened by me as "The Batmobile."

I suppose I'll want to experience how the car feels transitioning from pure electric to gasoline generation charging the battery while driving and in Mountain Mode (my wife suggesting I don a plaid shirt and ankle laced boots when I do that,) But I'm more than happy to simply use it as I did when I had the loan of a Leaf a couple months back: charging at home at night via 120V, driving purely electrically on short commutes around town (easy to do with my urban situation, even with just under 40 miles of available EV range) and not actively searching out public Level 2 charging.

By the way . . . the car is a joy to drive and has excellent fit and feel. These were also my observations with the Leaf. Also like the Leaf, though, I wish Chevy would give us a real rear window and, thus, not having the driver rely on the fancy rear view camera.

The Batmobile has tall doors with short windows (we called it a chopped top back in the hot rod days) and, even with my 6' 3" frame, I tend to feel like a short kid when I roll the window down and awkwardly raise my elbow to rest on the sill. This wasn't the case with the Leaf. Headroom is also a bit tight for rear passengers and the missing middle seat back there is another small point on contention. Then again, 3 passenger seats is enough for Robin, Alfred the butler and Aunt Harriet.

The one techno gadget I really do like, though, is the fancy dash display showing current flow from either the battery or regeneratively from the wheels. I'd give up the FM radio just to get that thing.

· · 3 years ago

By the way: sad news today. Stan Ovshinsky, inventor of the nickel metal hydride battery that went into GM's EV1, died this past Wednesday at the age of 89 . . .

· · 3 years ago

Hmmm . . . let's try another source that might link . . .

· · 3 years ago

This is good news as far as reducing petroleum consumption. It means plug-in hybrids are doing a better than expected job in that regard.

· · 3 years ago


I was referring not to the technical equipment. Yes, the J1772 standard is used by the Leaf, Volt, PiP, pretty much everyone but Tesla...

I was referring mostly to pricing. A Leaf owner 50 miles from home with 10% charge remaining has no choice but to charge his car, regardless of the price. A Volt owner can simply switch to gas. If the Volt driver has the option to plug in, but it costs the equivalent of $10/gallon, why would he? Answer: unless he's VERY committed to using zero gas, HE WON'T.

· · 3 years ago

@Brian Schwerdt: is it $2.40/hr just for the energy, or is it, say, $.50/hr for the energy (still a bit steep if it's 3.3 kW, cheap if it's 6.6 kW) plus another $1.90/hr for the space? That is, do they charge for other parking too? (I'm guessing the answer to that last question is "no"....)

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 3 years ago

As an owner of both types of vehicles I plug in the Volt more often simply because its a smaller battery and I will run out. Thats really all there is to it.

ON another note, there was a very poorly written article about electric motors that a few of us responded to (I wrote a very very long blog taking each point by point), but I think the writer of the article got embarrassed and took the whole thing down... My very long blog disappeared.

· · 3 years ago

@ Benjamin

That's sad about Ovshinsky he had some regrets about the technology going to GM as they sold it to the oil companies who buried it at the bottom of the Atlantic.

He was a good man.

· · 3 years ago

RIP, Stan Ovshinsky. I hope someone will write and article here on him, Deckard.

· · 3 years ago

As for the Batmobile Volt, I drove it a little more than I thought I would today, ran the battery down to zero (well, whatever the "zero" battery setting is on this car) and transitioned to gasoline just before I got back home tonight. My around town driving got me 49.1 pure electric miles and 1.1 gasoline miles. Not bad. That represents 2 days of greater than average driving for me on a single charge. I'm sure I'll get over 50 electric miles on the next charge, as I now have a better feel on how to drive the car more efficiently. That center dash display with the battery/regen stats is marvelous.

Carrying 3 teenagers with two violins and hard shell cello case is quite doable in the Volt . . . easier than in the Leaf, in fact. We straddled the bulky part of the cello case between the back seats and the long thin part pointing into the cargo area. This was the only way we could close the hatch.

But, if the Volt was a true station wagon hatchback, it would be ideal. We could point the case in the opposite direction, with the bulky end in the cargo area. The rear passengers would almost not even know it was there if we could do it that way. Hmmm . . .

· · 3 years ago

Bingo! Someone read my mind: a Volt station wagon! . . .

· · 3 years ago

@Brian Right, but the price for the use of the charger is not really catering to either side specifically... if they lower the price, for example, that "caters" to both EVs and PHEVs equally.

Not that I disagree with your overall point, of course.

· · 3 years ago

@Chris T.,
The vast majority of these EVSEs are not in paid parking lots. For those that are, it is $2.40/hr above and beyond the fee for parking.

Point taken. It's not so much catering to either party, more focusing on their more likely customers. In my locale's case, that's pretty much pricing, and acknowledging their competition with gasoline prices.

· · 3 years ago

Part of the reason is that often public chargers are ICE-ed or broken. If you were driving a pure EV that would leave you stranded. With a plug in you just shrug your shoulders and continue on gas. When I drove a pure EV I would limit my trips to stay within a radius that would allow me to return home without public charging so there was really no need to ever use a public charging station.

With my plug in I drive all over the state and will top up whenever I am near a public charging station.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.