The Role of Mileage
Woodley and Nunes published their findings in the journal Nature, revealing that the emissions produced during the resource-intensive process of manufacturing EV batteries play a crucial role. While EVs are more environmentally friendly during operation, their production has a greater initial impact.
The Magic Mileage Numbers
The researchers discovered that households that replace one internal combustion engine (ICE) car with an EV start to see a reduction in their carbon footprint after driving approximately 28,068 miles. On the other hand, households with two cars experience a decrease in emissions after driving around 68,160 miles when one of the gas-powered cars is replaced with an EV.
This disparity in mileage numbers is due to the fact that households with two cars tend to drive each vehicle less compared to one-car households.
EVs and Affordability
Interestingly, the study also indicates that low- and middle-income buyers are in a better position to benefit from the emissions advantages of EV ownership.
Wealthier households and vehicle replacement
Wealthier households with two cars also tend to replace vehicles more often, according to researchers. These households often sell their vehicle before reaching the emissions threshold that would be reduced if they continued driving their electric vehicle (EV). Interestingly, tax incentives like the federal government’s EV tax rebate can inadvertently encourage this behavior, leading some households to increase their carbon footprint by purchasing new EVs before they’ve driven them enough to offset the emissions produced during manufacturing.
The impact of automakers’ strategies
Automakers tend to cater to wealthier buyers by focusing on building expensive EV models first. They then leverage economies of scale to make it feasible to manufacture more affordable models later on. A prime example is Tesla, who established itself with the high-end Model S before introducing the more affordable Model 3 in subsequent years.
Decreasing prices of EVs
Although the average cost of an EV has declined by almost 20% in the past year, it still remains higher than that of the average gas-powered car. In July, the average EV price was $53,469, while gas-powered cars averaged $48,334 last month. While the $5,000 difference has decreased by more than half compared to a year ago, it continues to play a significant role in influencing car shoppers’ decisions.