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L.A. electric car drivers differ from nation, study finds

An analysis of driving data finds that Los Angeles' electric vehicle drivers travel farther and charge more often in public and at off-peak hours.

May 17, 2012|By Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times

The growing number of electric vehicle drivers in Los Angeles are behaving differently from the national norm. Not only are EV drivers in L.A. traveling farther than those in other cities, but they charge their vehicles more often at public locations and are more likely to charge at night to obtain less expensive electricity rates, according to Ecotality in San Francisco.

Ecotality oversees the EV Project, a $230-million deployment of electric-vehicle charging infrastructure funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy to aid the rollout of electric vehicles and conduct research.

About 4,600 of a planned 8,300 residential chargers and 1,600 of a planned 5,000 public chargers have been installed through the EV Project since 2010. To date, more than 26 million of an anticipated 100 million miles of driving data have been analyzed in 18 major cities, including Seattle, Dallas, Nashville and Los Angeles.

L.A. accounts for about 10% of the EV Project's residential participants. As of March 31, 422 Nissan Leaf drivers, including the author of this article, were providing information about their driving habits. The nine Chevrolet Volt owners who signed up for the EV Project in L.A. were not included because Ecotality requires 10 vehicles to aggregate driving data.

Based on L.A. data for the first quarter of 2012, Leaf drivers charge away from home 24% of the time, versus 19% nationally. They travel about 28.1 miles between charges versus 27.4 miles nationally and arrive at home with more depleted charges than EV drivers in other cities.

"That seems to indicate a greater confidence in their cars' range and in finding charging locations away from their homes," said Ecotality spokesman Steve Schey.

L.A. also shows "an influence of time-of-use rates," he said. Participants in the L.A. Department of Water and Power EV program receive a rate discount of 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour if they charge their vehicles on weekends and between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. weekdays.

According to Schey: "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."

Ecotality started collecting data in December 2010, after Chevrolet and Nissan introduced their Volt and Leaf electric vehicles, and will continue to collect data through the end of 2013.

susan.carpenter@latimes.com

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