One in five EV buyers switches back to petrol, study says

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Words: Matthew Hansen
4 May 2021

The talk of the town is how the world plans to assist motorists in transitioning from internal combustion cars to an electric-flavoured mainstream. But, what about those who buy into the world of electric cars only to switch back to petrol?

A fresh study from the US has indicated that up to one in five car owners that buys an electric car goes on to switch back to a traditional ICE vehicle, while four out of every five EV buyers get another EV.

The study was conducted by Scott Hardman and Gil Tal for the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, specifically looking into the ownership satisfaction of EV owners in California between the years of 2012 and 2018.

“On the basis of results from five questionnaire surveys, we find that PEV discontinuance in California occurs at a rate of 20% for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle owners and 18% for battery electric vehicle owners,” said the study.

The research tried to find out why 20 per cent of respondents switched back to ICE, with the results being fairly predictable. Those who had switched back were often unhappy with the charging process due to a lack of convenient infrastructure, and they were often male,

“We show that discontinuance is related to dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging, having other vehicles in the household that are less efficient, not having level 2 (240-volt) charging at home, having fewer household vehicles and not being male,” the study stated.

Speaking to Jalopnik, Hardman added that another correlation in the data were owners who had not forked out for better home charging solutions. Those who instead relied on standard plus and chargers to top up their cars at night reported a less rosy consumer experience.

Findings in PHEV respondents who switched back to ICE were similar. “PHEV discontinuance is also correlated with not being male, not living in a detached house, being dissatisfied with the purchase price of the PHEV but being satisfied with running costs, shorter commute distances and undertaking more long-distance trips,” said the study.

The study confirms what many in the motoring industry already believe; that the rate of improvement in electric car products is not being mirrored by the rate of improvement (or availability) of chargers.

It isn’t just a question of the chargers spotted out and about, either. The study’s findings also cited owners who didn’t live in detached houses as being more likely to swap back to ICE. Charging is often a struggle for those who live in apartments with shared parking lots, some of which don’t include power outlets.


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