Expert Insights

Do Electric Cars Get Driven Less Than Gas Cars?

Laurance Yap
June 28, 2023
A recent study from iSeeCars suggests that, on average, EVs get driven about 30 percent less than gasoline cars. Why is that? Read on to find out.
Cars driving in traffic on highway

Do Electric Cars Get Used Less?

On a cost-per-mile basis, electric cars can cost substantially less than gasoline cars to operate, but a recent study shows that most electric cars are driven much less than the average gasoline car. iSeeCars, a data research company that tracks car deals and trends, analyzed data from over 860,000 vehicles to determine how far EVs were being driven over three years ­– and compared that data to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. On average, an electric car gets driven almost 29 percent less than a gas car annually.

Tesla Model 3 driving in the mountains

What are the Most Driven Electric Cars?

Some electric cars get driven more than others. Tesla vehicles are the most-driven EVs, with the Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y all covering above-average mileage.

  • The Model X, Tesla’s largest vehicle, with three rows of seating, is the most-driven EV in America, averaging 10,378 miles per year; it has an average EPA range estimate of 341 miles
  • The Tesla Model Y averages 10,199 miles per year, and has an average EPA range estimate of 316 miles
  • The Tesla Model 3 averages 9,960 miles a year, and has an average EPA range estimate of 279 miles
  • The Tesla Model S averages 9,340 miles a year, and has an average EPA range estimate of 378 miles

Because Tesla vehicles represent such a huge part of the overall electric car population, every other model logged lower-than-average mileage. The Hyundai Kona Electric, Chevrolet Bolt, Audi E-Tron Sportback, Jaguar i-Pace, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro Electric, and Nissan Leaf, logged between 8,260 and 6,395 miles a year on average. The least-driven electric vehicle is the Porsche Taycan, a powerful, sporty sedan, which averages just 4,846 miles a year – half as much as the similarly-sized Tesla Model S.

car driving on a highway during sunset

How Does Range Affect EV Usage?

Interestingly, iSeeCars saw a correlation between the EPA estimated range and the number of miles driven annually – perhaps reflecting the phenomenon of range anxiety. Indeed, iSeeCars actually tried to quantify how much range anxiety affects the number of average miles driven.

Said iSeeCars’ executive analyst Karl Brauer: “Looking at 3-year-old electric cars, we see EV owners willing to drive an additional 23 miles per year for every additional mile of range their vehicle offers. That means EVs, on average, need an additional 161 miles of range to get them to the 12,578-mile annual driving distance we see from traditional, gasoline-powered vehicles.”

All of which means that in order for Americans to drive the same average annual distance in an EV that they would in a gasoline vehicle, their EV would need a range of about 440 miles. Which, iSeeCars says, is almost the exact average range for three-year-old gasoline vehicles, which have an average EPA rating of 24.7 mpg, and an average fuel tank capacity of 18 gallons.

woman using car navigation

Range Anxiety: Not Relevant in Real World Use

Real-world use suggests that these EV drivers shouldn’t really be feeling range anxiety, particularly if they are able to charge at home. The Department of Transportation’s most recent household travel survey suggests that the average car trip is less than 10 miles, and less than 10 percent of car trips are more than 30 miles, and only 1 percent of car trips are more than 90 miles. Even at double that distance, almost every EV on the market has more than enough range to cover those use cases.

Why the lower mileage then? While operating costs for EVs might be low, it’s safe to say that range anxiety remains a factor in how drivers use their vehicles. As studies have shown, drivers still have concerns about access to public charging. Even when public charging is available, the time it takes to “refuel” an EV is still a lot longer than filling an ICE car with gas.

“Range anxiety is less about being stranded in the middle of nowhere and more about the ‘refueling’ process for electric vehicles,” says Brauer. “In a gasoline car, regardless of how far you’re going, there are always plenty of refueling options and the process takes 5 to 10 minutes. Until EVs can offer that level of convenience at a comparable cost, they will be at a distinct disadvantage in terms of use and market demand.”