By | March 28, 2015

Just read a really interesting article about EV driving/battery range over on one of my goto sites Cleantechnica (opens in new tab).
Zach always writes interesting stuff and this one is no exception. It has lots of charts and graphs and makes extremely valid points.
But I think he misses the main reason folks talk about range.

All of the charts and graphs show that the vast majority of folks only need 35-40 miles of range to meet their driving requirements.
The Nissan Leaf, with 85 miles of range is more than enough for vast swaths of the driving population. Even the iMiev with its sub-70 mile range is enough according to the charts.
So whats the problem?

The problem has multiple layers.
When someone looks at an EV they really want to drive it everywhere. After a few months of ownership, the desire to go back to gas is reducing day by day.
Soon, the need to drive by gas will be resented, even avoided if at all possible.
You don’t get range anxiety because you start to avoid making journeys that are outside of your EVs comfortable range, regardless of the need.
For that occasional longer trip or unplanned diversion, especially where it starts to push the abilities of your EV range, you begrudgingly become a gas driver again. Which means you either have to have a second car, have really good friends or get a rental. All of which needs more planning and ultimately driving by gasoline – and admitting that an EV can’t meet your needs.

The reason Elon Musk made his statements about range is because he understands what regular car buyers want from a car, regardless of its motive power.
In Elons’ vision of EV driving, the car does the planning for your trip so you don’t have to. The car has the capacity to make an unplanned diversion or schedule change.
The number of times you are forced to drive under gas power could be reduced to tiny percentages.

In other words – he is aiming to make a Tesla the ONLY car you need, regardless of its motive power.
He is 100% correct.
The average car buyer isn’t deliberately looking to buy a second car. They want their car, without the need to borrow the aforementioned wife/husband/friends/rental gas car to make those longer journeys.
A real world range of 200 or more miles means you can leverage a high speed charging infrastructure, which conveniently only Tesla has had the foresight to build. Their supercharger stations are spaced to meet the range needs of their cars, they are also installed next to food or rest stops so you don’t have to wait around to fill up.

Having a range of greater than 200 miles also rather conveniently means that for the rest of the time that you don’t need the range, your battery doesn’t need to be fully charged which dramatically increases the useful life of the battery.
A win-win situation.

Sadly it is an inconvenient truth and like all truths it is sometimes hard to accept – sub-100 mile EVs can only meet the needs of a smallish portion of the population and even then not all of the time.
It seems this something that many EV advocates find hard to swallow, so they prefer to try to ignore it.  Most car buyers don’t even think about the size of a gas tank or none-stop range.  An EV needs much more thought and planning before purchase.
Happily, there are an ever growing number of us who have figured out that <100 miles is enough for most of our driving. We are also willing to put up with gas powered driving for the times when the current generation of EVs just aren’t good enough.
Each incremental increase in driving range increases the number of folks that will be able to make that leap. As EV drivers now, we know that once you drive electric you will never want to go back to gas.
It looks like the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt and gen 2 Nissan Leaf will both offer more range, it will be interesting to see if their sales rise to match their increased range.