Range: When Will we Have Enough?

Electric vehicles are travelling further on a single charge than ever, yet range anxiety is still an industry hot topic. Recently, I spoke with my friend, he was seriously considering buying an EV but was held back by, you guessed it, range. He makes a 400-mile trip from Madrid to the south coast of Spain a few times per year.

No current EV could make this trip on a single charge. But it got me thinking, could an internal combustion engined (ICE) vehicle make it on a single tank? The answer: some would, but plenty wouldn’t.

Average Range

Just as ICE vehicles vary in shape, size, and performance, so does their range. The average range of an ICE car, however, is around 300-400 miles. But a Deloitte poll found that 37% of Americans said an EV would need a 400-mile range for them to consider it. 

My argument: the problem isn’t the range, it’s what you’ll do when your EV runs out of juice. Where will you go to recharge it and, when you find somewhere, how long will it take? These things don’t present problems for ICE drivers.

What if charging stations were as readily available as gas stations, and recharging took as long as filling up at the pumps. Would a 200-300 mile range be enough then?

The Problem

Take my friend’s 400-mile trip, for example, it currently takes him around six hours in his ICE car. If he were to complete it in the EV industry’s current ‘it’ car, a Chevrolet Bolt, it’d take about 13 hours. 

Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt would need to stop and get around another 170-miles worth of juice. Its charge rate from a 240-volt charging unit is 25 miles of range per hour, meaning this would take 7 hours. A DC fast charging station would take care of this much more quickly, but there are none on his route.

This is the perfect example of where a lack of infrastructure and excessive charge times meet. A trip like this isn’t the general norm, but there are people who make similar ones on a semi-regular basis. And these are the people who complain about ‘range’, but is range really the problem?

For some people, it’s a lack of infrastructure and lengthy charge times that make EVs an unviable option.

If you need to exceed your gas car’s range, there’s no issue – the infrastructure is there and filling up takes five minutes. So, maybe automakers should be focusing more on infrastructure and charge times, and less on the range. Or should they just aim for an absurdly high range and forget about the rest, let us know what you think.

By Robert Bacon
Updated: July 9, 2017