LA’s Electric-Car Drivers Go Further, Charge Smarter

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Ecotality Blink Level 2 residential charging station for electric cars

Ecotality Blink Level 2 residential charging station for electric cars

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Los Angeles is well known for being at the forefront of electric car adoption, spurred on in part by large numbers of Hollywood A-list electric car drivers, enthusiastic advocacy groups and chronic air quality. 

But Los Angeles isn’t just the place where you’re more likely to see an electric car. It’s the place where electric cars are driven further and charged smarter. 

That’s according to EV Project (via The LA Times) a $230-million charging infrastructure and research project funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In order to obtain the funding, EV Project -- run by charging infrastructure provider Ecotality -- was required to aggregate data about electric car charging and driving patterns.

To collect that data, EV Project offered free home charging stations to participants in exchange for logging their electric car use. 

2012 Nissan Leaf in the Apple iPhone 4S commercial

2012 Nissan Leaf in the Apple iPhone 4S commercial

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So far, the project has logged more than 26 million miles of electric driving, but has already noticed that Los Angeles residents travel further in their electric cars than any other area in the U.S. 

Using data obtained in the first quarter of 2012 from Nissan Leaf drivers, EV Project reports that Los Angeles residents average 28.1 miles between charges, while elsewhere in the U.S., the normal distance traveled is 27.4 miles. 

While average trip distances are a little higher however, EV Project reports that many of its customers in L.A. arrive home with less remaining charge than their counterparts elsewhere. 

More adventurous than electric car drivers elsewhere, the data reveals that 24 percent of all charging in L.A. takes place away from home, versus the national trend of just 19 percent.

“That seems to indicate a greater confidence in their cars’ range and in finding charging locations away from home,” said EV Project spokesman Steve Schey. 

Sign indicating public electric-vehicle charging station

Sign indicating public electric-vehicle charging station

The data collected by EV Project also suggests that many electric-car drivers in L.A. take advantage of the L.A. Water and Power EV Program’s special time-of-use tariff.

Offering electric-car owners power at 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour during weekend and between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. on weekdays, the special rate incentivizes the charging of electric cars when grid demand is lowest. 

“We see a jump in charging at 8 p.m and additional peaks at 9 p.m., 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and midnight, so people are programming their units to charge during the off-peak time,” explained Schey.

With EV Project due to collect data through until the end of 2013, we’re interested to see how charging and use patterns change over time, specifically in cities where electric cars aren’t as common as they are in L.A.

Do you live in L.A.? Do you feel you drive further than your electric-car owning friends in other areas? 

Let us know in the Comments below. 


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Comments (5)
  1. Where I come from, 8PM is not "off peak." 28.1 versus 27.4 miles, even if not due to random sampling error (which it probably is) has no meaning whatsoever and is a trivial difference. California has more cars than anyplace else, so it's hardly surprising that you see more electrics there. S California, with its moderate temperatures and lack of cold weather, is more suited to electrics than elsewhere - that's exactly why GM and Toyota introduced their EV-1 and Rav4 electrics mostly in S California. Considering the fact that Californians buy probably between 1.5 and 2 million new cars per year, they are not buying electrics in anything other than totally insignificant numbers - less than probably 1/100th of one percent.

  2. @Kent: Californians bought 1.3 million vehicles in 2011:

    1/100th of 1 percent of 1.3 million is 130 cars. Californians bought FAR more than 130 plug-in vehicles during 2011. Do the math.

  3. I have to say the difference in average trip length is barely a blip. And I'm not sure what is meant by "charging smarter". Angelinos may engage in public charging slightly more frequently, but that could simply be due to availability of public charging options. It doesn't seem like either of the EV project's conclusions are supported by the data.

  4. what are they going to do with all those charging stations when electric cars don't need them anymore and turninto the power sourse.

  5. I'm a Los Angeles Volt driver. My commute is 31.6 miles each day and I charge exclusively at home. We have a level 2 time-of-use charger and get the DWP EV rate as well as the TOU rate for charging at off-peak times. We also have a BMW Active-E which shares the same charger, and if it needs a charge, we just move the plug over when the Volt is finished charging. (The Active-E isn't used for everyday commuting, so daily miles are low.) Sharing the charger means before bed we switch the plug but by morning both cars are charged and it's all done off-peak. I think the "smarter" part the article is referring to is charging off-peak and getting the dedicated EV meter instead of just plugging into the household outlet.

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