Preface: Recharging determines the need for range with EVs.
Can you park at home near a mains power point? Answers to questions like this have a huge impact on required range for an EV.
Most EV reviews focus on rapid charging, which consumers in practice rarely use. When a person who has experienced internal combustion car their whole life sees or reads a review, they have context and can identify when what a review does maybe useful when testing, but does not reflect normal usage. With EV reviews, only people who have lived with EVs for years have the equivalent perspective, which means reviews can also the scene for misunderstanding range. This can happen even with reviews dedicated to testing range.
How and when you will recharge when not on a road trip, is far more critical than range to ownership experience that when on a road trip, yet reviews are typically far more representative of road trips.
Even official range figures can be misleading, as these you would expect to reflect what happens or a road trip, yet, they do not.
So be prepared to consider information on range to take some time to make sense.
Plus, it is useful to understand recharging, prior to this topic of range. Understanding how charging is so different helps understand things like why range needed when at home, is different from range needed on road trips.
Background: Range, Unknowns, Anxieties and Realities.
Recharging Is NOT Refuelling.
There is a full separate page on how refuelling an internal combustion is more like battery swapping than recharging, and another that includes conveying just how different recharging is from the experience of refuelling internal combustion vehicles.
The difference between refuelling and recharging significantly impacts what range is needed from a vehicle. For most use, it means less range is necessary, but when or road trips, it can mean even more range would be desirable. That means road trips with current EVs require careful management of range, and the rest of the time, most people have more than they need.
EV Batteries Cannot Yet Come Close To The Energy Of A Full Tank.
While battery technology has substantially improved, it is a long way from enabling an EV from having the energy available from a tank of gas (petrol) or diesel fuel.
Did you know the fuel capacity of a Toyota Corolla provides the energy equivalent of a 438 kWh battery?
Or that the full tank of a Mercedes GLS holds the energy equivalent of a 788 kWh battery?
This means, without being more efficient, an EV Corolla with a 60kWh battery would only have 1/7th the range of the current Corolla!
Fortunately, electric drive trains are around 4x more efficient, but 4x would still mean a Toyota Corolla EV would need a battery with over 100 kWh to match the gasoline equivalent, unless even more efficiency gains can be found. Well there is regeneration on braking, also not possible without electric drive, but regeneration brings things closer, but an “Electric Corolla” still need a close to 100kWh battery to have the same highway range as the current Corolla, and such a battery still costs too much, and weighs too much, so most typical EVs today do not have quite the range to match fossil fuelled cars.
But do we need the same range with recharging, as we needed with refuelling? It turns out, mostly no, but on occasions, yes.
Efficiency: Forget Everything You Learnt From Petrol/Gasoline or Diesel Vehicles.
A typical car fuel tank holds between 50 (Toyota Corolla) and 90 litres (Mercedes GLS580 3 row SUV) which is between 13.21 and 23.77 US gallons. A Ford F150 pickup is available with 23 to 36 US gallons, or 90 to 136 litres. The energy density of gasoline is around 8.76 kWh/l so this means the capacity in litres, US gallons and kilowatt hours of tanks are as follows:
- 2021 Toyota Corolla: 50 litres, 13.21 gallons, 438 kWh
- 2021 Mercedes GLS580/ F150 base model: 90 litres, 23.77 US gallons, 788 kWh
- 2021 Ford F150 with long range tank: 136 litres, 36 US gallons, 1,191 kWh
The first ‘highway capable’ modern electric vehicle was the Mitsubishi iMiEV which was available with 10.5 kWh battery or 16 kWh battery. To give some more equivalences highlighting how little early EVs had ‘as tank capacity’:
- 2010 Mitsubishi iMiev 10.5 kWh, equivalent to 1.2 litres or 40 US fluid ounces of gasoline
- 2010 Mitsubishi iMiev 16 kWh, equivalent to 1.8 litres or 61 US fluid ounces of gasoline
- 2012 Nissan Leaf 20 kWh, equivalent to 2.3 litres or 78 US fluid ounces, which is 1/2 gallon of gasoline.
There are two key points here:
- Electric Vehicles are far, far more efficient gasoline vehicles, and they need to be.
- The very first electric vehicles had so little stored energy in the battery it is amazing they could go anywhere.
In practice, gasoline vehicles have a peak efficiency of around 30%, and the real world use struggle to achieve 20% energy efficiency due to all the heat produced, while electric vehicles can be around 80% energy efficient. In practice, a gasoline vehicle will need 4x as much stored energy, so that large stored energy can create a much larger fire, it won’t make the car go much further as you would expect.
Despite the efficiency, EVs started out as vehicles only very restrictive range. The iMiev had an EPA range of 62 miles (99km). No one makes cars with such small batteries any more. Now even the least expensive EVs that sell for around US$5,000 in China can now get at 250km (150 miles), and up to 300 km NEDC range.
Now the current Lucid Air with a 113 kWh battery has a EPA range of 520 miles or 836 km, which is further than not only the Corolla that has 4x the stored energy, but also most other gasoline cars. The Lucid is also a large luxury vehicle, and substantially more expensive than the Corolla. These two cars are so different, in part because EVs and gasoline cars are inherently so different.
The Corolla with an EPA rating of combined 33MPG, can travel 13.21 x 33 = 435 miles or 700 km, which does not match the Lucid Air, or come close the upcoming range champion 1,000 mile range Aptera, but it does exceed the range of standard Tesla Model 3, and even the long range Model 3 which now has a 358 mile range.
The huge difference in efficiency changes the relationships between things, such as how consumption changes with speed. Also, note that the running costs of EVs are lower mostly because of efficiency. Even if a full tank for of 50 litres for a Corolla costs less than the energy equivalent 438 kWh of electricity, that same energy will take you way further in an EV because the efficiency.
While range numbers have kept increasing over the years, the range numbers for EVs still normally don’t match the range of numbers of equivalent gasoline vehicles, yet for the vast majority of trips, EV range in practice provides more convenience than gasoline vehicle range. This page explores how the range pans out in real life, and looks at what is need to match or exceed the range experience of gasoline vehicles.
What Do We Mean By “Range Anxiety”: Uncertainty and Risks.
But in the next paragraph on Wikipedia:
There are two different meanings for anxiety, in my words:
- a) a state of feeling anxious.
- b) a state of being anxious beyond what is warranted.
The difference between these meanings is whether the “turmoil” is proportionate, or an overreaction.
In either case, whether the fear is justified or not, range anxiety is the fear of running out of fuel before reaching a point of recharging/refuelling, and thus being stranded.
In fact, range anxiety is not the unique to electric vehicles, and, as examples, if you have ever travelled a section of highway expecting to refuel only to find no fuel station operating in the town or location where you expected, or found the fuel gauge suddenly lower than expected, you have already experienced range anxiety.
Why Vehicle Specifications Are Not An Expected ‘Real Range’.
What would you expect “range” would mean, but it doesn’t.
If you are like me, you would expect “range” to mean how far I can drive on one full charge down the open road.
I would expect I may need to adjust this range figure for the actual conditions, but that range would be how far a vehicles to has been shown to be able to travel on one charge on some typical “open road”.
This is because when I think of range, I think “how far can I drive on a full charge?”. And I only think about range, when I am considering whether I will have a problem or not in reaching the point where I plan to refuel/recharge.
When I am within a city or town, the range on a full tank is, for me, a complete non-issue. In a town or city I am only every concerned with remaining range, when the “tank” is approaching empty. When I have only a small amount range remaining. This is because almost cities of towns will have refuelling/recharging relatively close by, and thus I did not need to plan refuelling/recharging back when the ‘tank’ was full.
It is when planning a long trip, that range on a full tank matters. It matters when I am driving beyond the town or city, when the distances travelled are typically long, and the distance between towns and refuelling/recharging stops is greater.
I would expect range to tell me what I what to know when range is important to me. However, instead this is not what range specification current are even intended to tell us.
So What Does The Specification Really Mean?
The EPA, WLTP, and NEDC are all test procedures designed, first and foremost, to test efficiency. Each test runs through a variety of conditions and speeds, to emulate the mix or pattern of driving a vehicle would experience over a year. This provides a very useful cost of ownership and efficiency number. The problem is that pattern does not match the trip down the open road. The official range figure is an attempt at a persons average range over an entire year, not the range when range matters, but heavily biased to the range when it does not matter.
I have published a full explanation of the official figures for efficiency and range, and why official range numbers are of very limited use, as well as links to sites where you can get useful range data, together with the sites I listed in “real world”, comparisons combustion vehicle experiences below.
All this is great for determining efficiency of cars, but of very little use for range. So what do they authorities do? The turn use the efficiency to calculate range, which sounds reasonable, but it turns out, won’t tell you how far until you run out of power in the circumstances that matter.
have their own tways of measuring, bued, but none is trying to answer the question: “In the real world, how far can I go down the highway if I start with a full battery?”, which is what many of us really want answered. The bad news is, EV economy can be at its worst on the highway, and thus highway range will usually be less than the specification. The faster speeds on that highway, the worse the range, and it is on the highway that range is most critical. First, to answer the question of what range is needed for everyday driving, then to answer the harder question, what range will I get on the highway.
Local Trips vs Road Trips: The New Rules Of “Urban” vs Highway Range.
When authorities analyse emissions, efficiency, calculate range, and many other things for motor vehicles, there is usually three efficiency values:
- “highway” range: which relates to fuel economy expected the mix of driving is biased towards being on road trips.
- “urban” range, for the mix of driving expected when on local trips.
- “combined:” fuel economy with the mix of both “highway” and “urban” the authorities feel is typical.
The key point is that unlike ICE vehicles, which give their best range on the highway, battery vehicles give their best range around the city when going slower, as the stopping and starting of the city does not lower range much, due to regenerative braking.
So the combined figure will flatter an EVs highway range, and the faster the highway, the worse the actual range compared to the specification.
Further, most cars have NMC or NCA batteries which are best rarely, if ever, fully charged. Some cars have a “buffer” which means they report “fully charged” when there is perhaps 10% of capacity remaining to avoid these problems, other suggest only using the top 10% of charge when preparing for a road tip.
Generally, when a car brand states “charges from 10% to 80% in 30 minutes” or something like this, you should take it as not just the speed, but the range of charge you should use. Leaving 10% makes sense, and most of use leave around 10% in the fossil fuel tank just to be sure we don’t run out, but while we may usually fill the fossil fuel tank, we should normally not fill the tank when the rating was given this way.
Constantly completely charging to 100% when at home will shorten the life of the battery, and charging to 100% on a road trip may waste time, as charging will often slow dramatically past around 80% or 90% depending on the battery.
There are also LFP batteries (Lithium Iron Phosphate), which can generally charged to 100%, but outside BYD or some other Chinese cars, these are only available in some Teslas as of 2021. Mercedes has stated they will introduce LFP batteries in future, as most likely will other brands, but for now check what range the manufacturer suggests using.
So it takes quite a lot of research to discover the real range of an EV. The databases linked on the topic page do give figures and that are real range, but beware that will be using the full battery, which should be save for the occasions you will need the full battery, depending on battery type.
Reasons For Range Anxiety.
The Range Anxiety We All Know: Gasoline/Petrol and Diesel Vehicles.
If you have ever felt uncertain of reaching a fuel station before running out of fuel, then you have already experienced ‘range anxiety’. Range anxiety existed before EVs. Anxiety occurs due to uncertainty on range. Almost all of us have experienced range anxiety at some stage, but most of us have learnt over time how to judge available range, and to adjust our behaviour so that uncertainty becomes a rare experience.
Range anxiety occurs due to a combination of:
- Expected refuelling point is closed, out of stock, or simply not at expected location.
- Indicated range dropping below expectations.
- Fuel gauge inaccuracies, unreliability or inconsistent readings.
- Lack of planning.
- Haste precludes stopping for fuel.
- Fuel was too expensive and looking for lower prices delaying refuelling.
- Delaying expenditure on more fuel.
Despite almost all cars having fully adequate range, people still run out of fuel.
Nearly a million motorists a year break down after risking near-empty fuel tanks.
Research shows the number running out of petrol or diesel has risen every year since 2011, when the figure was a third lower. Men made up most of the 827,000 who ignored the fuel warning light.
The study by insurer LV= found that one in four drivers think they can cover 40 miles or more in the red zone. But half of cars cannot manage that distance.
Research shows the number running out of petrol or diesel has risen every year since 2011, when the figure was a third lower. Men made up most of the 827,000 who ignored the warning light (file image) +3
Research shows the number running out of petrol or diesel has risen every year since 2011, when the figure was a third lower. Men made up most of the 827,000 who ignored the warning light.
Almost a million motorists admitted that they tend to either ignore the fuel light or don’t notice it is on, says the report.
The LV= report says a ‘significant’ proportion of drivers overestimate how much fuel they have left in the tank.
One in four (24per cent ) believe they can drive for more than 40 miles after the light has illuminated. But the report notes: ‘The truth is if they were driving half of the UK’s most common car models, they would break down.’
The LV= report also notes: ‘With fuel proving an expensive part of the family budget, many drivers are prepared to gamble on passing an expensive garage – particularly on a motorway – in the hope of finding a cheaper fill-up further down the road.’more than 800,000 drivers a year run out of fuel despite the warning light coming on
Statistically, people who own EVs are less likely to
Range Anxiety With EVs.
Anxiety vs Reality: The risk of running out.
Real world data from the AA in Britain as of 2022 is that only 4% of breakdowns of EVs are from running out of charge, with the most common problems being the same as other cars: tyres and 12v batteries.
However, anxiety is not just about reality, and the report revealing shows those surveyed estimated running out of charge to cause 65% of breakdowns, rather than 4%.
“However, there are still concerns about the existing charging infrastructure and single charge range. Likewise, most drivers totally overestimate the percentage of breakdowns due to running out of charge.
“As more charge points, especially rapid chargers, are installed across the country, the number of cars failing to reach one will further reduce, providing more confidence to drivers to help them make the switch.”AA president, Edmund King OBE
So there is reasons why running out of charge should become even less common. So how does that compare to rate of people running out of fuel? I did find one statistic that put the number at 1% and rising. Statistics were difficult to find, with reports that when people run out of fuel, they are often too embarrassed to call for assistance and solve the problem themselves. Possible harder with an EV? At least until more other drivers of EVs have V2L.
So running out of charge is becoming less frequent for EVs as chargers increase, and running out of fuel becoming more common for ICEVs as fuel shortages occur, and stations close as EVs increase.
Plus, with more and more EVs having V2L capability, it is easier for another EV to provide more charge, than to transfer fuel from vehicle to vehicle.
The real stats are neither EVs, not internal combustion engine vehicles run out very often, but people who don’t own an EV fear running out with an EV.
In reality, despite anxieties, EVs lower number of moving parts mean people are statistically more likely to reach their destination in an EV, but many of the same problems such as tyres, can of course go wrong.
Why Range Anxiety is associated with moving to the unknown of EVs.
The are reasons for associating range anxiety with EVs:
- Early EVs had such limited range, that the ability to complete any trip became questionable.
- Drivers have had years to learn how to estimate ICEV range, and EVs present an unknown.
- EV charging stations are still rare, and those who do not own EVs do no realise most EV are almost always charged at home, so there will never be as many charging stations as they expect.
2012 and Earlier: EVs were all about range Anxiety!
Before the Nissan Leaf, EVs had range so limited they were impractical for most uses. Range was so bad that the Leaf was considered a breakthrough, despite still having very poor range. The 2011 Nissan Leaf, despite being awarded 2011 European Car of the Year, the 2011 World Car of the Year, and the 2011–2012 Car of the Year Japan on release, had a range of just 117 km or 73 miles. I have had combustion engine cars with similar range, or even more range, after the fuel warning light comes on!
Most people feel anxiety driving too far in and ICE vehicle with the warning light on.
Even if you can leave home everyday with a full tank, with the range of the 1st Nissan Leaf, you are still likely to fear running out of power before the end of the day. Then, add that while recharging points are still not as common as gas/fuel stations today, consider how rare they were back in 2012. It is not like there was a recharging point every 117 km/ 73 miles.
Tesla revolutionised the experience by launching a premium car. One where the experience justified the expense of a battery you could live with, but even Tesla launched a 40kw/hour version of the model S in their first year, and that would still have given most people range anxiety, even with a full battery, which is why Tesla dropped having cars with such limited range.
2021: EVs Range Experience Surpasses ICE vehicles around town.
Yes, EVs Have Sufficient Range To Deliver An Improved Experience In ‘Urban’ Use.
It is now 2021. The Nissan Leaf+ is now available with 3x the battery capacity of the 2012 model, and the Tesla Model S 2021 lowest spec model, has more than twice the original base model battery capacity. VW and even Hyundai, Kia, and lower cost brands, have EVs with a range of over 250 miles or 400km now.
Is 250 miles/ 400 km range enough? I would argue, given that EV owners who can charge at home can start each day with a full battery, this range can deliver an experience matching, or even exceeding combustion engine cars when in urban use. The question of range that remains, is the use of charging locations on multi-day trips. While car pricing is still not on par with ICE vehicles, and there are still situations, including some road trips, where range does not match ICE vehicles, for most people, on most days, in practice range now results in an experience beyond owning an ICE vehicle.
Already in 2021, the reality is that for local trips, range anxiety should now be lower with an EV than with an ICE (gasoline, petrol or diesel) vehicle. Plus EV range in ‘urban’ cycle is better than the ‘combine cycle’, so an EV with 400 km /250 miles will go further than 400 km /250 miles, which is quite similar to many internal combustion engine cars, and it is not practical to start each day with a full tank with an internal combustion car. Ok, there are some low range choices (typically Japanese) like the Mazda MX-30 recently rated worst EV in the US, but generally, if you can charge at home, then there is now more reason to have range anxiety with an ICE vehicle than with an EV with urban driving.
But Range Anxiety Can Still Be Real On ‘Road Trips’
So if on ‘urban’ cycle, EVs can out perform ICE vehicles, what about road trips?
I recently read where the Lexus EV (there is only one right now, the UX 300e), and it is a low range car, offers loan cars for road trips.
But if you need to travel long distances and don’t want to regularly stop to charge, Lexus Australia offers petrol- or hybrid-powered loan cars for four trips up to eight days in duration over the first three years of ownership, so at least you have that option, too.Lexus UX 300e 2022 review (Oct 2021)
Yes, the Lexus is a not very competitive offering with a below typical range, but not that far below typical.
I covered this in more detail previously but EV range as read from specifications, is longer than what will be achieved on the highway. What you really want to know is how far you can go at highway speed, not the mix of around town and highway mileage the ‘range’ tells you. So a vehicle with a ‘range’ of 400km (250 miles), may give more like 300km (190 miles) when driven entirely on the highway, with with an ICE vehicle, the range is usually at its best in highway driving.
OK, most of use do at most spend no more around two weeks per year on road trips, but on those road trips our car is very important and that is when all the worst aspects of EVs become clear.
Range is less than with ‘urban’ driving, that advantage of starting every day with a full charge matters less, and suddenly we have to deal with the unfamiliar experience of public chargers. This is the ‘range anxiety’ of today. It only takes a short time owning an EV for the anxiety to become ease, depending on the charging networks you can access.
The reliability or unreliability of charging stations can definitely still play a role in anxiety. In some charging networks, it could be possible to arrive at a charging station and find zero working charge points. Better chargers that can detect faults is eliminating the possible problem, but it still can happen in some locations. Software such as Plugshare can show not only where charge points are located, but if they are working or in use much of the time, but this data is not always present, as not all networks provide such data. There have been occasions where it turns out I equivalent data for ICE cars in the past, but it seems not sufficiently often that anyone has made an equivalent app, or at least not one as popular.
Actual ‘highway’/’road trip’ range is still typically lower than gasoline vehicles, while anxiety may be low, convenience in some cases may not match gasoline vehicles.
So ‘what range do we need‘?
Matching ICE Range When On Road Trips. Range Is Still Expensive In 2021.
There are already EVs that match the range of internal combustion engine vehicles, just that they are still currently expensive and very new. But what is expensive and new now, tends to become mainstream later, at least it does if that turns out to be what is wanted.
Lucid Air: EPA rated range of 520 miles or 836 km, range tested at 738 miles (1,188 km), suggesting even more is possible. Although I have driven cars with even more range, I do not think I even race cars I have driven could match the Lucid acceleration figures, of 0-60Mph in 2.5 seconds.
Chinese brands are also in on the ‘long range’ act with the NIO ET7 claiming 620 miles or 1,000 km of NEDC range from the 150 kWh battery, and the GAC Aion claiming 1,008 km from a 133 kWh battery, although the difference between NEDC and EPA ratings means the more efficient Lucid could still be champion for now.
2025 and beyond: Range Always Surpassing Comparable ICE vehicles.
There may still be low price, low range EVs by 2025, but by 2025 for the same or lower price, you should be able to obtain better range from an EV than from a comparable ICE vehicle.
This is just the logical continuation of past trends. The technology to do things with range beyond what is possible with gasoline/ petrol or diesel has already been demonstrated, the remaining ingredient is price.
Here are just 3 vehicles that are all soon to be released, that push the range boundaries, and there should be more by 2025. We could get to the point where some people who drive the average annual distance (13,500 miles or 22,000km), could go an entire year without needing to refuel.
Lightyear One: Range 725km + 38-60km per day. The range is less than the Lucid Air, until you factor in that the Lightyear can add and extra 20,000 km per year (12,000 miles) of range just by being parked outdoors. Given the average driver in the US travels only 10% further, this is already a car that could for some people never need refuelling.
Perhaps the ultimate step in eliminating range anxiety is a car that refuels itself if you wait long enough. Unlike the Lucid, the Lightyear is not a performance beast, concentrating on economy, and being able to travel as far as possible for each kW/hr of energy. Initial Lightyears are scheduled to ship this year.
Aptera Hero: Range >1,000 miles for $44,900. The true range champion, the Altera is available with 250 miles (400km) range for $25,900, 400 miles from $25,900 for $29,800, 600 miles for $34,600, and 1,000 miles (1,600 km) for $44,900, But again the battery range is not the whole story, and the Aptera can add up to 40 miles or 64km per day from solar power, allowing exceeding the average annual mileage from solar energy alone. The Aptera may also ship some units in 2021, but 2022 sounds more realistic. This time, the range is beyond what I have ever experienced, but there is only room for two people and one pet.
Long Range without the price tag: Long range for a reasonable price will not just be the domain of Aptera. Chinese brands with new battery technology will also add more long range vehicles, and there are even suggestions low cost platforms such as the one used by the low priced BYD EA1 could in future deliver versions with 1,000 km range in future.
Range Realities and Optimization Vs Anxieties.
Range Optimisation: Small changes have a huge impact.
A surprising characteristic of ICE vehicles is that they are more efficient when the engine is working harder. Of course the engine working harder requires more fuel, but power output can increase more than consumption increases. This means increasing speed in an ICE car increases fuel consumption by less than would be expected given the increased drag.
This characteristic of increased efficiency when working harder has a good side and a bad side:
- ICE vehicles are less impacted by inefficiencies from wider tyres, driving in the rain, etc., than would be expected, and loss of efficiency in sub optimum conditions in less than would be expected.
- A more powerful motor will use more fuel in the same conditions, as it will be working at a low fraction of its potential in the same conditions.
In contract, if fitted with the same tyres, an EV with a more powerful motor will have very similar consumption of energy to an EV with a less powerful motor. There is little penalty for having a more powerful EV.
However, without the increase in efficiency when working harder, all EVs are far more sensitive to factors that increase consumption. All these factors have a much bigger impact on consumption with an EV:
- increased speed
- less efficient tyres
- drag coefficient
- use of equipment that consumes power such as wipers, lights, heating or cooling
Tyre choice, as discussed in the video in this section, becomes important. Wide, low profile tyres do allow using a softer rubber, but that softer rubber will not last as long, and decrease range. The worst mistake is to move to a wider lower profile tyre with the same rubber, as you lose range and ride comfort, without real gains in handling. Notice how racing cars do not normally choose the lowest profile tyres.
Main tips for maximising range:
- Do not move to wider lower profile tyres, and ideally choose EV or efficient tyres.
- If needing to extend range on a specific occasion:
- a small decrease in speed can have significant impact
- avoid optional unnecessary power drain
- use seat heaters if that allows less use of the car heater
- keep windows closed even if that results in needing aircon
Range Anxiety Depends On Trip Type.
There are many articles on at what point people fill their tank, and in how often people miss their usual fill up point. Generally this data is all about behaviour when based at home re fact, many people miss the point. Dividing people into groups, based on whether people fill the tank, and with statistics from a US survey in 2019:
- Only after the warning light comes on: 32%.
- At 1/4 tank remaining: No Data.
- When the tank is 1/2 full: 50% of those over 55.
The trouble with that survey is that is assumes every one refuels in response to reading the fuel gauge. Most people do, but not everyone does. There are also those who “top up” the tank on a specific day of the week, either due to habit, or because they feel fuel is always less expensive on those days. Of course these patterns are irrelevant when on a “road trip”, just as the typical road trip pattern of planning to refuel at specific towns that are waypoints, is irrelevant in “urban” driving.
‘Urban’ Range Reality vs Anxiety For Around Town, Local Trips.
Despite the above survey, what the fuel gauge indicates may be less important than the range remaining when you decide to refuel. At the extremes, I have owned a diesel 4wd that a long range and the range from when the waring light came on, was greater than the range with half a tank from a sports car I had owned previously.
Generally, in more urban areas, fuel stations are sufficiently common that range must get extremely low before there is insufficient range to reach any fuel station. Yet, surprisingly, data from motoring organisations suggest that the majority cases when people who run out of fuel occur in urban areas. Perhaps this is the result of insufficient anxiety about range?
Certainly, it would be possible for a person to refuel a diesel or gasoline/petrol engine (ICE) vehicle every day, but it would be very inconvenient, as discussed below an ICE car is not something people want to do every day. What we need in terms of range in an urban environment for ICE vehicles, is sufficient range that we can go several days without the inconvenience, and cost of refuelling.
What is not clear, is with modern vehicles, is the fuel tank size chosen to give sufficient range on the highway, or to give enough days between refuels stops when at home?
Road Trip Range Comparison with ICE Vehicles.
In 2021, most EVs do not match the range of ICE vehicles, which means while EVs can be more convenient when used around town on local trips, from a range perspective, they are still compromised on road trips. The compromise may in practice be insignificant, or be more than offset by other qualities of an EV, but the compromise is present in most EVs in 2021.
General Range Comparisons (updated for Jan 2022).
There are cars, such as the Mercedes EQS and the NIO ET7 that deliver range to match or exceed their fossil fuel equivalents, and in the case of the NIO, offer battery swapping to match the refuelling experience. But the only price bracket where such cars can compete is the upper premium segment. EVs are more than cost competitive on performance, but so far not cost competitive on range, so if you would have been willing to pay for a high performance ICE vehicle, then a long range high performance EV may be price competitive. On average, though, the data shows EVs have not caught ICE vehicles on range, despite “The median and maximum values are increasing almost every year (for a particular model year vehicle), with some exceptions for a variety of reasons“.
2021 model year vehicles:
Median: 234 miles (377 km)
Maximum: 405 miles (652 km)
Gasoline vehiclesUS: Median Range Of 2021 Gasoline Vehicles Is 72% Higher Than BEVs (Inside EVs)
Median: 403 miles (648 km)
Maximum: 765 miles (1,231 km)
Strangely, despite the Lucid Air receiving an official EPA range of 520 miles by October 2021, it clear does not feature in the data, or the maximum would be higher.
Sydney To Melbourne Comparison.
I found an article comparing the time to drive an Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Hyundai Tucson from Sydney to Melbourne, a trip of 900kms, and found the Ioniq 5 took 38 minutes longer, in part because of delay at a charging station, but also due to 34 minutes spent recharging. However the approach taken was less scientific than the tests by Bjorn Nyland, but perhaps a little bit closer to reality, as the Tucson driver did takes stops, but stated eh would have felt more comfortable on the journey with slightly more time during stops, and even the Ioniq 5 driver and passenger felt they would have stopped longer but resumed travelling soon after the car was charged as since the car was even though ti would hav been more comfortable to stop longer.
Real EV Data experiences vs the specs.
Bjørn lives in Norway, where electric cars now make up over 90% of new car sales, with projections that non-plug in new vehicle sales could reach less than 1% by April 2022. Still 6/7 car sales in Norway are used cars, and while there a higher percentage of EVs on the roads than in other countries, they ate still less than 15% of total cars on the road.
So Bjørn’s experience in Norway is a glimpse just a little into the future, and Norway is a sparsely populated country, with just 16 people per km2, less than half of the population density of the USA(34) but 5x higher than that of Australia(3) and just lower than New Zealand(18), and with quite long driving distances.
Bjørn takes cars on a 1,000 km challenge, to see how close in time EVs can come to his reference time in which was set in a Kia Ceed plug in hybrid (PHEV).
His trips are on roads with 120km/h speed limit (75mph), obeying the speed limit and with minimal stopping time. Food is eaten while driving or while recharging, so the recommended ‘breaks’ every 2 hours are not taken, giving a worst case comparison. Note that with the only slightly longer journey (1,000 km) in Norway, Bjørn took one extra hour in the Ionic 5. This would likely be due to slightly higher speeds (120km/h vs 110km/h in Australia), and that Bjørn fully recharges the car on arrival, and recharging past 80% in the Ioniq 5 is slow, and only recommended before starting the road trip, not during the trip.
Battery Life: Autobahn tests at 90 km/h (55 mph) and 130 km/h (80 mph).
Alex from the youtube channel “battery life” tests the real range of the vehicles he reviews at both 90 km/h and 130 k/m.
Video playlists are organised by vehicle, so find the vehicle and then look for its tests.
Again, most often with most batteries today, the starting point will often be less than 100% tested and this will vary according to the battery technology of the car.
Insideevs 70 mph USA Range Tests.
The Driver Download: Kia EV6 at 55, 65 and 75 plus 90,105,133 and 120 km/h.
Australian Input To An Answer To “How Much Range”.
In my exploration of the related topic of EV charging, I discovered an account of EV ownership, in one of the most likely, locations, the Australian Northern Territory, where there are only 61 EVs in an area more sparely populated than Alaska, yet the report is from an EV owner who has circumnavigated Australia and travelled 60,000 kms (36,000 miles) so far in his Tesla.
What is not revealed is how many minutes per 1,000 kms of recharging are required. The Tesla in question has a measured range of 465 km, and when using following the Tesla 90% limit, 418.5 km. This fits with my recommendation is to have a vehicle with 400 km (250 miles) in order to tackle road trips.
What Range Do We Need?
First, The Scary News: Range Is Complex and the 80-90% factor.
The Scary News: Ternary Batteries.
(Update 2022, in addition to all BYD cars, some Model 3 Teslas now come with LFP batteries, and all LFP batteries can be charged to 100% without degradation).
While by 2025 this will no longer be true, in 2021 almost all vehicles outside China come equipped with ‘ternary’ batteries that complicate range calculations. The complications are:
- In normal use, when not on a road trip, batteries should only be charged to 80% or 90% of their full capacity.
- Charging the last 10-20% of battery capacity cannot be done quickly, so even when on a road trip, fully charging will be slow, so is best saved for when already on a long stop, or otherwise really necessary to reach the next charge point.
How to tell which cars are affected, and by what percentage?
Rapid charging is often described as X minutes from 10% to 80% and even from 10% to 90%. The upper limit % of this fast charge, is the point at which, when you do not need the full range, you should stop charging. The reason the time to fully charge is not quoted, is that charging past the higher number will happen far slower. It slows to limit damage to the battery from using the capacity above that point. Worry less about the below 10% part, as the consequence of going below 10% other than slower charging are less significant, and most people are not going to drive and drive until there is absolutely zero range left at all anyway. Do you do ensure a fossil fuel car is completely empty before filling?
Some other technology batteries, like LFP, The difference in upper percentage from car to car, is because most cars, even though which slow charging at 80% designate the “100%” at a level level below the full battery capacity, and completely prevent ever using some those last few hidden kWh. A battery with a smaller ‘buffer’ will quote 80%, while a more conservative rated battery may fully fast charge to 90%. The more conservative the rating, the more of that rated as available capacity you can use.
If you constantly fully charge ternary batteries then their storage capacity drops, and the range of the car decreases as a result. So don’t normally charge beyond the recommended 80% or 90 %, or in a few years, you will only have 80% when fully charged. This was particularly a problem with the Nissan leaf, which in early models had so little range there was little option other than fully charging.
The Good News?
Firstly, LFP batteries which do not suffer this problem, are becoming more common. Secondly, with cars with a ternary battery, those videos that show charging to 100% , show a far longer charge time than you will experience if you just stop charging a little sooner.
Local Trips: ‘Urban Cycle Range’.
In normal daily use for ‘local transport’, and EV will generally only require half of the range a gasoline petrol or diesel vehicle. This is because with an EV, it will normally be charged overnight at home, and start each day with a full battery, or almost full battery if chosen to limit charging for improved battery management. As it is not normal to refill an ICE vehicle with fuel before the tank is half empty, half the range with an EV that starts full every morning will match the range of an ICE vehicle.
Using the Toyota Corolla with a 430 mile, 700 range as an example, then an EV should have a range of 220 miles or 350 km.
Based on the assumption that for most people, starting the ‘urban driving’ day with tank of just over half full is fully acceptable when they can fill up that evening, then those of these “most people” who have the ability to charge at home, should A person with an EV and access to home charging will find an EV with a range of over 220 miles or 350km will no only not experience range anxiety with an EV, they will find it more convenient than a car ever was before, that visit to a fuel station approximately once per week becomes a thing of the past.
Range Required: 215 Miles / 350 km or more, but see text above.
Road Trip: Range Requirements On The Highway.
The situation for road trips is not so positive.
While batteries that recharge in as little as 5 minutes are just 1 or 2 years away, infrastructure to deliver those recharge times will take several years more. Recharge times make road trips where the driver will not stop for meals or other breaks, take longer. The goal of ‘background charging’ can only happen if there are stops for a reason other than charging. I started to write about this here, and then realised it is really a recharging topic, so I updated the recharge page.
The EV that is better to live with on most days, can still have disadvantages on a road trip:
- Unless the EV has a high recharge ratio and supporting chargers are available, the trip will take longer than a trips without rest stops would using an ICE vehicle.
- While many countries have national charging networks, there can be ‘charging wastelands’, even within countries such as the USA, and generally, the lower the EV adoption in a given country, the less thorough the charging network. Even in the most remote location there are chargers, just not always fast ones.
- Remember, although this is changing, only Teslas can access Tesla chargers, and in North America, Teslas cannot use other chargers.
The first requirement for a road trip is to verify, that recharge stations as will be required on route are even available which can be done by:.
- Using in car software.
- Google maps or waze web site or software.
- Plugshare web site or or other EV specific web sties and apps.
- online at home before leaving, or on a mobile phone.
While all that is required to charge an EV is mains power socket, even these are not always easy to access, and while just mains level of power alone is fine at home, it would make a road trip really slow. Incredibly slow in the US or other 110v countries.
None of this answers “what range do you need” for road trips. So, assuming there are sufficient recharging stations, to match an ICE vehicle on a road trip:
- A recharge ratio or 16 or higher.
- Sufficient highway range to travel for over three hours at the speed limit, and ideally for over 4 hours where the speed limit is 110 km/h (68 mph) or lower, and perhaps three hours of driving range at 130 km/h or higher.
There is a recommendation that a driver of any vehicle should take a 15 minute break every two hours. In practice, the ‘2 hours’ becomes the target, and it can be that it makes the most appropriate stopping point is beyond the 2 hour limit, just hopefully not too far beyond. The higher the speed the road, the less likely there are quaint nature parks, scenic lookouts, or other better alternatives than stopping at a charging point for the two hour break, but particularly on roads with limit of 100 m/h or less, it is often preferable for at least every second stopping point to be other than a charging station.
While ‘around town’ on local trips, 1/2 the range of ICE vehicle is sufficient to be even more convenient, on road trips, there is no logic to suggest there is any alternative to matching the range of an ICE vehicle, at least until wireless charging while driving is available.
While conditions vary from country to country, infrastructure is built in every country to accommodate the cars that have become popular worldwide, so all road have refuelling infrastructure for existing vehicles, and as pointed out in the t
Again using the Toyota Corolla with a 430 mile, 700 km range as an example, then to be ready trips, ideally an EV would also have a range of 430 miles or 700 km. Unfortunately, that range is not going to happen in low cost vehicles for a few years yet.
Moving from refuel to recharge changes the range needed.
Recharging Is A Less Onerous Experience Than Fossil Fuel Refilling.
Before even discussing range anxiety with EVs, it is worth considering the role the refuelling experience plays the range we need.
Part of the reason our current vehicles need the range we are now expect, is that refuelling with gasoline or diesel, is not something we want to do every day. Most of us do not refuel until the tank is less than half full, and 1/3rd of people wait for the fuel warning light.
In normal day to day living, the range of our vehicle determines how often we have to visit the gas station. Refuelling takes time out of our day. There can be queues and we can do nothing else while we refuel. Fuel is also dangerous, and has fumes that are also dangerous, and this determines the character of the refuelling point, and why we are required to pay attention to what we are doing.
The National Fire Protection Association requires that they’re put up as a precaution. Phones do cause static electricity and just because it hasn’t happened yet, that doesn’t mean it never could. Their rules also state that you’re not allowed to use electronic materials at gas pumps, and cell phones fall into that category. The NFPA advises that you always follow all rules posted at gas stations and consult your phone’s owner manual for information on proper use.Why You Need to Stop Using Your Phone When Pumping Gas
The primary reason you shouldn’t use your phone at the pump (besides the fact that there are signs telling you not to) is that it’s a major distraction.
Now consider electric recharging. The only fixture required is a power point, and the only action plugging in, and even that goes with wireless charging. Recharging can be at the office, at home, or even at the supermarket. Yes, at some commercial charging stations there is also payment, but not at home or the office, and even most commercial stations can be plug and charge. You don’t need to pay attention or watch the recharging, and you won’t get toxic chemicals on your hands or clothes. You not only make a phone call, you can walk away and do anything else. The worst way to recharge an electric vehicle, is to follow the old behaviour, and go to a location specifically to recharge and have nothing else to do while recharging. Recharging EVs can be no more inconvenient then using the right parking space, and is definitely best not done in the old way, by visiting a special location and waiting while recharging takes place.
The Impact On Home Charging For “Urban Use”.
This really impacts needed for those who can charge at home or the office. A change in thinking from “I refuel when the time comes” to “whenever I park here I ‘connect’ the car”. Then, every day their vehicle has the full range, in place of a potentially half empty tank, where the half already consumed has saved the driver the need to refuel during the past few days.
In normal use, a major role of the ‘range’ of a gasoline/petrol or diesel vehicle, is to save needing to have to refuel everyday, and ideally refuel only once a week or less. That aspect of ‘range’ no longer applies to anyone with some form of permanent, or electrified parking space.
The Impact On Road Trips Recharging.
For road trip recharging, unless there is an advance in wireless charging, we do still have to stop at specialist location, but the location need not be as specialist as the level of precautions are less. McDonalds or Starbucks can’t have fuel pumps at parking spaces, but they can have charging stations at their parking spaces. In the dream scenario, you can park in the same, or almost the same, location where the humans would take a break to “recharge’, and eat, drink etc during the break for humans and the car charges during the time the refresh time for humans. In this dream, that admittedly quite short decided stop at the fuel station is eliminated, and the total stop time could even be faster than it would be with a fossil fuel car.
Of course, there is always the nightmare, where the only EV fast charger available is in an industrial estate too far locations where the people would choose to have a break. This scenario does happen, simply because EV charging is new. While the reality is that the relatively low cost of electricity means there is more profit to be made from selling the food and coffees for people than from electricity, because eve charging is new, not everything makes sense. The charging station may choose the low rent , despite that a café should provide the space rent free, as it would bring customers.
If the stops on your road trip are for only for fuel, swap drivers and then consumer any food or drinks purchased when back driving, recharging will likely be slower than with an ICE vehicle for many years to come. However if you do take a break every two hours, you need enough range to travel about two hours, and the higher the speed limit, the more range that will require.
Range specifications are not what you would expect, so find online reports of constant speed range if you can to estimate how far a prospective vehicle can go on the open road.
The range as outlined in 1 below, provides plusses and minuses, but what most people find is an improved overall ownership.
The very broad range recommendations are:
- A range of 400 km (250 miles): For an experience surpassing that of ICE vehicles for “local” trips, and fully capable of road trips, even in locations extreme as the example of the Northern Territory of Australia.
- To match all possible experiences with ICE vehicles under all circumstances: a range of 800 km (500 miles) and battery swapping.
To enable road trips just like those with ICE vehicles, for people who do not take rest breaks, 800 km range would be required. Despite the expense of this “option 2”, the experience for many who do take breaks on road trips may be no better than that with “option 1”.
Note, road trips beyond the range of the vehicle with option 1 will require recharge stops, and recharging will increase the time for the fastest possible travel. How long these recharge stops will take, will depend less on range, and more on maximum recharge speed of the car and charger combination. Beyond around 400 km of range, it is faster changing, not more range, that matters for faster faster travel.
Unlike refuelling, recharging can happen while you have a coffee, or a meal and take a break, and for those who take breaks anyway, the car recharging while you take a break could sometimes even be faster than sequentially refuelling the car, and then you taking a meal or coffee break.
In practice, be prepared at least initially for slightly longer road trips, but being able to save the time it takes to visit gas stations when based at home.
- 2022 June 8: Initial restructure, added range optimisation section on getting the best range.