Range Anxieties vs Realities: What Range Is Ideal?

The lightyear one: One cure for range anxiety.

There are anxieties about the idea that cars will all become electric. In fact sometimes these anxieties even generate hostility!

But yes, motor vehicles will become electric, not because of green movements, or because of government incentives, but because they will be better and cheaper.

Those incentives and the ‘green’ stuff does help get the ball rolling, but EVs will only take over if and when they become cheaper than petrol, gasoline and diesel vehicles, which wil be by 2025 for new cars, and later for used cars.

While, as usual, the early adopters pay a premium, the rest of us should use the time to prepare, because the biggest winners, will be those who are ready so they don’t need to be anxious.

  • Background: Anxieties And Unknowns Vs Realities.
  • Range Anxiety:
    • The Range Anxiety We All Know:
      • Gasoline/Petrol and Diesel Vehicles.
      • The Unknown World Of Ev Range.
    • Range Anxiety With EVs: The Progression.
      • 2012 and before: EVs were all about range Anxiety!
      • 2021: Range is now ‘perfect around town’, but ‘just OK’ on road trips.
      • 2025 and beyond: What range do we need?
  • What Range Do We Need?
    • Local Trips: ‘Urban Cycle Range’.
    • Road Trip Range Requirements.
  • Conclusion: Already With Most EVs, Range Anxiety is Unjustified.

Background: Range, Unknowns, Anxieties and Realities.

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 highling how little early EVs had ‘as tank capactiy’:

  • 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 hWh 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 Is Range Anxiety: Uncertainty and Risks.

Anxiety is the uneasiness resulting from fear of a potentially negative outcome. Range anxiety is anxiety that result from fear of not becoming stranded before being able to refuel or recharge a vehicle. There is uncertainty if a vehicle will be able to reach a functioning point of refuelling/recharging and/or uncertainty about the resulting consequences.

Local Trips vs Road Trips: Why NEDC, WLTP, EPA all rate both separately.

When analysing range and many other things with motor vehicles,

Often, lumping different data together, can make the data useless. The average height of basketball players, and average height of golfers might each be useful data, but the average height of the combined group is usually not very revealing. However, if we know in our heads the relative difference between those heights, than we could work with combined data from different countries.

Putting the data from what happens on local trips together with what happens on road trips, for gasoline cars as a combined figure can be fine, because we have a feel for how the two numbers are related. But with EVs, the rules are not only different, they are almost reversed, which means one number tells you very little, as the rules you have, no longer apply.

There are number of official range ratings such as NDEC, WLTP, EPA and I have a whole page on decoding these numbers. Unfortunately, none of the numbers conveys the entire real story in one number. EPA and other bodies have always specified fuel economy or fuel consumption as two numbers with terms such as

These are the two most common main uses of motor vehicles, and the vehicles behave differently in each case, which is why separate numbers are given. However, most of us can work with a single ‘combined‘ number, because we have a feel for how the number will change with different driving patterns with gasoline/petrol or diesel vehicles. However, the radically different efficiency of EVs means that what we have learnt in the past, may not still apply. For example, EVs most often get a longer range on the ‘urban’ cycle than on their highway cycle, which is the reverse of the normal for gasoline vehicles.

Since what we have learnt in the past may not apply, it is important to think of ‘range’ for ‘urban’/’local trips’ separately from range for ‘highway’/’road trips’. There are reasons the EPA and other authorities calculate separate numbers, and the reasons become even more important with EVs.

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 experienced ‘range anxiety’. Almost all of us have experienced range anxiety at some stage, but most of us have learnt over time how to adjust our behaviour so that it 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.
  • Range dropping below expectations.
  • Fuel gauge inaccuracies, unreliability or inconsistent readings.
  • Lack of planning.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Haste precludes stopping for fuel.
  • Fuel was too expensive and looking for lower prices.
  • Delaying expenditure on more fuel.
  • …others?

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

Range Anxiety Depends On Trip Type.

Range Anxiety For Around Town/Local Trips

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:

  • when the warning light comes on: 32%.
  • at 1/4 remaining: No Data.
  • when the tank is 1/2 full: 50% of those over 55.

What is important is the range remaining when you decide to refuel. At the extremes, I have owned a diesel 4wd that had a similar range from the point the warning light came on, than the range I could get from 1/2 with a sports car I had owned earlier.

With diesel or gasoline/petrol engines, range anxiety occurs because of factors affecting refuelling, than because of the range of the vehicle.

Refuelling: EVs Vs Combustion, A Surprisingly Change.

Before even discussing range anxiety with EVs, it is worth considering the role refuelling 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 less the tank is less than half full.

In normal day to day living, the range of our vehicle determines how often we have to refuel. 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.
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.

Why You Need to Stop Using Your Phone When Pumping Gas

Now consider electric refuelling. All that is required is a power point. Refuelling can be at the office, at home, or even at the supermarket. You don’t need to pay attention, and you won’t toxic chemicals on your hands or clothes. The worst way to refuel an electric vehicle, is to follow the old behaviour, and go to a location specifically to refuel and have nothing else to do while refuelling. Refuelling EVs can be no more inconvenient then using the right parking space, and is definitely best not done in the old way, as a special place just for refuelling.

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 saving you from having to refuel everyday. That aspect of ‘range’ no longer applies to anyone with some form of permanent, or electrified parking space.

Range Anxiety With EVs.

2012 and Earlier: EVs were all about range Anxiety!

Before the Nissan Leaf, EVs had woeful range. 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, or even more, range after the 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, you are still likely to fear running out of power. Then add that while recharging points are still not as common as gas/fuel stations today, they were really rare back in 2012.

Tesla revolutionised the experience by launching a premium car that could justify 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 that would give most people range anxiety even with a full battery.

2021: EVs Range Experience Surpasses ICE vehicles around town, but just ‘mostly OK on road trips’.

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, which I would argue, given that potential to start have a full battery every day, can deliver and experience matching combustion engine cars aside from the question of charging locations on multi-day trips. While 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 the reality in 2021 is that for local trips, range anxiety is now lower with an EV than with an ICE gasoline, petrol or diesel. Advances in software in EVs now mean that ‘range anxiety’ on road trips should also be a thing of the past, as cars will now plan around the route incorporating charging stations, removing all guesswork. However, the reliability or unreliability of charging stations could still play a role in anxiety. In some networks, it could be possible you could arrive at a charging station and find no working charge points. Better chargers that can detect faults is eliminating the possible problem, but it still can happen in some locations.

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. See ‘what range do we need’.

2021 Lucid Air.

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.

What Range Do We Need?

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 the day 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.

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.

Road Trip Range Requirements.

The situation for road trips is not so positive.

Recharge times make road trips where the driver will not stop for meals and breaks otherwise, take longer, as stops are needed for the car to recharge. 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 was better to live with on most days, has disadvantages on a road trip:

  • Unless the EV has a high recharge ratio, the trip will take longer than with 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.
  • 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, normally possible using in car software, and sometimes online at home, that recharge stations as will be required on route are even available. While all that is required to charge an EV is mains power socket, even these are not always easy to access, and while level of power alone is fine at home, it would make a road trip really slow.

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 (68 mph) or lower.

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 popular worldwide.t

Again using the Toyota Corolla with a 430 mile, 700 km range as an example, then for read trips, ideally an EV would also have a range of 430 miles or 700 km..

In 2021, most EVs do not match the range of ICE vehicles, which means while they are better around town on local trips, from a range perspective, they are still compromised on road trips. The compromise may in practice be insignificant, and be more than offset by other qualities of an EV, but the compromise is present in most EVs in 2021.

…still to be continued, on Nev 12 but almost complete now.

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