In the RAC's data, which was derived from the mileages taken at MoT (meaning the sample was at least three years old), the average Tesla was shown to have travelled 12,459 miles per year. Owners of the Model S typically covered 12,392 miles per year, and owners of the Model X go even further at 13,836 miles.
These figures are significantly higher than the averages for petrol cars, at just 7490 miles per year, and the average for EVs which was found to be 9435 miles per year. It even trumps the fleet average across the entire sample of over half-a-million MoT records, which stands at 10,377 miles. Only diesel-powered cars go further in their first three years of ownership, but only just, covering 12,496 miles which is a paltry 37 more than Tesla's two top models.
Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Tens of millions of people still drive petrol and diesel-powered cars, but this data suggests that owners of electric cars have found them to be a practical proposition, running up the sort of big annual mileages that many of us need to do, challenging preconceptions about their range and the ease of re-charging.”
When you look at other EVs against the backdrop of sky-high-mileage Teslas, the figures suggest a mixed story, but one that still puts EVs firmly in the 'everyday driver' category. Only one other EV gets particularly close, and that's the very small sample of Hyundai IONIQ Electrics, eight of which averaged 12,125 miles per year. Of the more numerous EVs, the Nissan LEAF was found to average 8241 miles per year, whilst the Kia Soul Electric sits below this at 6825 miles, and the Renault ZOE lower still at 5736 miles per year.
This got us wondering; what is it about Teslas – or the people who drive them – that means they travel far further than other EVs?
It's the most obvious aspect to cover off first, and the one that most people will point towards when you ask the question. Both the Model S and the Model X, in all their guises, have very healthy real-world range. Even back in 2017 the bottom-of-the range 60kWh car could do well over 200 miles on a charge, whilst the cars further up the range were capable of a more-than-comfortable 300 miles before you'd need to think about pulling over for some juice.
Looking at this through the old lens of petrol vs. diesel, and you'll know that for years the company car market was dominated by the latter because its greater efficiency afforded it much longer range. So it stands to reason with EVs that if the car has the ability to travel further – like Teslas do – then people will be more inclined to drive more miles in them.
This is a particularly interesting aspect of the way in which people are learning to maximise the viability of EVs for day-to-day use. Audi recently stated that overall battery capacity (and therefore range) is too simplistic a statistic to judge a car on when it comes to making long journeys. Suitability for driving longer distances, it said, depended far more on the speed at which it's possible to charge.
And it delved further into the art of charging than that, looking at the overall charging 'curve' that its cars were capable of achieving. This is essentially the amount of the charge cycle that the car can accept its maximum rated input, which in the case of the Audi is 150kW. Its batteries are capable of holding that threshold input for a significant period of the charge cycle (somewhere between 5 per cent and 70 per cent state of charge) meaning the overall time is brought down.
Tesla cars also have very good charging cycle characteristics, typically charging close to their threshold power until around 80 per cent charge – the point at which most people will unhook and continue their journey. But where both the Tesla Model S and Model X have the advantage over pretty much all of their rivals is in not only the capability to accept up to 200kW, but also the availability of that on major routes around the country.
Thanks to the Telsa Supercharger network, it's possible to get around the UK – and Europe – with the support of ultra-fast, convenient charging at that fabled 200kW mark. Whilst new EVs hitting the market are now accepting 150kW plus, the infrastructure to deliver that has spent the last few years catching up whereas Tesla got going far earlier. In fact, just under 2000 locations in the UK now have rapid chargers, but these are typically rated at around 50kW, and only a handful of 150kW chargers, run by companies like BP Chargemaster, Shell and IONITY, are already up and running across the UK.
Don't despair though; 2020 is already seeing a rapid climb in the number of ultra-rapid (c. 150kW+) chargers going online, and this is only going to keep increasing.
It's hard to convey this aspect of why we think Teslas are particularly well used without sounding crass, so first let's start with a caveat...
EV owner behaviour is developing almost as quickly as the cars themselves, but every day more and more people become first-generation EV owners and to be blunt, they're probably going to spend a while getting used to the whole thing. Given that the RAC's data is based on cars that will be three or more years old, a large proportion of the people driving more common (and therefore lower cost) EVs will be first-timers and in our experience, people will naturally cut their mileage or run an internal combustion car alongside an EV for the long-range duties.
Where we think Tesla drivers differ is in the way they view and embrace EV technology. Many want to be on the front of the EV wave and see Tesla as the best way to do that so they will be the quickest and most flexible in modifying their behaviour to make the most of their cars. This extends to using them for every journey, rather than potentially having an ICE car as a backup. And in the same vein, Tesla has a very active and vocal 'scene' associated with it (aka the Teslarati), and the notion of having an ICE car alongside is almost seen as a form of sacrilege...
Food for future thought
Our reasoning behind this pertains to precisely the trifecta above; for the most part, EV ranges are increasing. Charging times are falling and the availability of fast chargers is growing very rapidly. Finally, owners may be on their second or third EV and will have worked out their own personal habits, giving them the knowledge to use their cars more with no fear of inconvenience.
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