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EVs now beat rail as the largest electricity consumer in the US transport sector

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Light-duty EVs in the US used more electricity than rail systems for the first time in 2023, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA started publishing estimated EV electricity consumption at the national, regional, and state levels in 2018. It derives its EV electricity consumption estimates using a model instead of using its traditional surveys (and notes that models are “subject to model error, which we are trying to understand better.”) It compared the estimates with consumption data from electric utilities that report transportation sector end use, which is almost only municipal and regional rail systems.

The federal agency says that annual electricity consumption by railways has been the largest electricity end-use category in the transportation sector published in its Electric Power Monthly report since 2003. Railway electricity usage has been stable for the last two decades, averaging about 7,000 GWh, and the US has had only limited expansion of municipal railway systems or electrified passenger rail during that period (but that’s going to change; for example, see the “read more” below).

In 2023, US EV sales made up 16% of all light-duty vehicle sales. Estimated annual electricity consumption by EVs grew to 7,596 GWh in 2023, almost five times the consumption in 2018. The shares of electricity consumed by battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were about the same in 2018. The number of BEV model options have recently increased as their prices have declined. In 2023, BEVs accounted for 72% of overall electricity consumption by EVs.

In 2023, the most electricity consumed by EVs in any US region was in the bordering area of the Pacific Census division, which accounted for 40% of the US total. The South Atlantic Census Division came in second for consumption at 15.5% and Middle Atlantic Census Division in third at 8.8%.

California accounts for about 85% of electricity consumption by light-duty EVs in the contiguous part of the Pacific Census Division. California has the highest concentration of EVs of any state, which means EVs consume more electricity there than any other state. In 2023, 33.9% of US EV electricity consumption was in California, followed by Florida at 6.0%.

Read more: The Las Vegas–LA electric high-speed rail line just broke ground


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