Nearly a third of the gasoline consumed annually in the US is burned by a relatively small percentage of drivers. Analysts call this top 10% of consumers gasoline “superusers” and, ironically, they may be the key to accelerating EV adoption and achieving current climate goals.
The data — first brought to our attention by Green Car Reports — comes from a study presented by electrification advocacy group Coltura modeled partially on the findings of the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). According to Coltura, 48% of the billions of gallons of gasoline consumed in the US by light duty vehicles is burned by just 20% of drivers. The top 10% of drivers, so-called superusers, account for a disproportionately large 32% of the fuel used — more gas than the bottom 60% of drivers combined.
The average superuser consumes more than 1,000 gallons of gasoline per year, Coltura’s report continues. They’re more likely to own a pickup truck or an SUV, usually live in rural areas and tend to drive three times more than the average driver. The study also claims that superusers have a lower average income than your typical EV driver and spend around 8% of that income on gasoline — proportionally twice that of the average US driver.
Rather than pointing fingers and assigning blame, Coltura’s report presents a possible solution: Targeting these superusers for EV adoption could have a large impact on fossil fuel emissions and the meeting of climate goals. Each superuser that makes the switch to electric makes a significant drop in the US’ annual gasoline consumption, and encouraging that adoption starts with developing vehicles that appeal to them, such as affordable electric SUVs and pickups. The upcoming launches of theand , for example, .
The double-whammy of their rural location and high annual mileage poses a particular problem for superuser EV adoption that will have to be addressed with increased and more widespread development of charging infrastructure throughout the rural midwest and southeastern US, where these drivers tend to dwell.
Coltura thinks aiming EV incentives at lower-income superusers, rather than higher-income early adopters, will help accelerate adoption. Incentivizing the biggest burners to burn less gasoline also gives more bang-for-the-buck, costing the government around 40% less per gallon of gasoline saved versus giving those incentives to drivers who are already on the low end of the consumption scale.
“The current flat EV incentives are being used primarily by higher-income drivers who tend not to use much gasoline,” says Janelle London, co-executive director at Coltura and co-author of the report. “Many lower-income gasoline superusers spend upwards of 20% of their household income on gasoline. It’s more equitable as well as more efficient to give these drivers the biggest incentives to switch to EVs.”
You can get a look at the full report on Coltura’s site for the data, figures and citations used to draw its conclusions and to back up its findings. It’s a surprisingly brisk read and worth a look.