Why EV range is not so critical

Why EV range is not so critical

Look forward to the Tesla S, just got to drive the Leaf for first time. Very impressed and it got me to thinking about the common argument against EVs - "range anxiety". I think the correct answer is using the right tool for the job: The number of vehicles owned by American households has been increasing and is now about 2.5, with 3+ being the largest group. So, for low operating cost and to avoid depreciating the ICE vehicle on short trips, obviously one of these vehicles should be an EV. This should be a "real" car, capable of freeway speeds, but really doesn't need to have much more than a 100 mile range.

Once people understand this strategy I think EVs will take off. The EV doesn't need to be an all purpose car, it just needs to to what it does best at a reasonable price. By extension it doesn't need to go the Volt route either, carrying 2 drivetrains and the cost and weight penalties that go with it.

Larry Chanin | 10. marraskuu 2011

EV range is not critical on a commuter car. However, many folks purchasing luxury sedans do expect to do more than commute and then range is an legitimate issue. The roll out of adequate fast charging infrastructure can, of course, reduce range anxiety.


awolfe63 | 10. marraskuu 2011

Exactly right - for many people. I have a Leaf now (while waiting for my Model S). I drive it to work and when we go places around town. No range anxiety at all. I have another car for when I need to go further.

If I lived in a big-city condo and rented my parking space for $750/mo, I would feel differently. Given that I have a garage and a driveway - I can have an EV for 90% of my needs and an ICE car for the other 10%. When I get the Model S - that will change to 99%/1% and renting an ICE car when I need it may make more sense.

jomo25 | 10. marraskuu 2011

This is why I just bought a Volt. My wife and I drive it as much as possible around town, and so far, I've only used 3.3 gallons of gas for 470 miles. We'll replace our other car - Lexus HS250h with the Model S next year. We'll drive the Tesla as much as possible then, and only drive the Volt when we need to use both cars or we have to go for a long trip where there's no reliable charging stations (we live in AZ).

Mycroft | 10. marraskuu 2011

Many of us, unfortunately have to drive 100+ miles in a day on a regular basis. That's why I'm hot for the Model S. it's the first EV that meets our needs.

EdG | 10. marraskuu 2011

For the next two to five years, I expect to have an ICE car around. In that time, I would use the S for everything it is capable of, and the ICE for backup. In just a few years, I expect the number of charging stations to grow to be commonplace, in which case the argument for going all electric will be much simpler.

Given the number of parking lots, etc., that already have charging stations, I just can't imagine that, for example, diners near interstates will ignore the market when EVs become more commonplace.

discoducky | 10. marraskuu 2011

Or just use when you need it.

Brian H | 10. marraskuu 2011

I kind of wonder what S owners will do if, in 3-5 yrs, a dramatic improvement occurs in battery tech, slashing costs and multiplying range. I assume most would trade in their existing batteries and go for maximum affordable range. That means, of course, that TM would have to have properly fitted packs with the new tech.

Could happen!

Volker.Berlin | 11. marraskuu 2011

I will take Elon by his word. He said the Model S is designed "to be the only car you ever need." A bold statement for sure (and not the only one of this kind by Elon Musk) but I'm ambitious to prove it right. Given that I did not own a car for more than 10 years now (living in Berlin, using bike, public transportation, rental cars) I think it could work for me. And yes, I will be an atypical EV user, my Model S will only in rare cases be used for commuting and will primarily be used for trips. I think that's where a huge sedan like this will shine.

Robert.Boston | 11. marraskuu 2011

Back to the main thread: I agree that the main problem is that people don't think hard about their actual driving patterns. I have a short daily commute, but I drive roundtrip from Boston to Maine weekly during the summer and frequently for weekends in spring and fall; 170 miles each way. So, that defines the shortest acceptable range in my vehicle (as my wife drives up at different times, both cars need this range).

Given the easy options of renting cars for longer trips, a purely rational person would probably not worry about over-buying range in the EV for the occasional long trip. But who said that people think about cars rationally?

antoine.toma | 11. marraskuu 2011

I own a standard Ferrari 458 for circuit outings and an ordinary car to drive in town that I would like to replace with a Tesla S. The idea of an electrical car for a town seems to be nice except that it is always for the same town! You can't escape more than a 1OO miles from home, and even you organise a trip to eventually find a plug in a car park or a petrol station, wait 3 or 4 hours to restart, lost on a motorway or in an underground car park, would be of another age!

I live in Toulouse in France but since I am a Corsican (Corsica is 300 miles away and I go often there), I would fancy to drive a Tesla in Corsica (the Ferrari wouldn't be safe and would even be too powerful for the tiny roads). So how would I do ? Carry the Tesla on a trailer truck or carry a generator on a trailer attached to the Tesla to recharge the batteries without stopping (if possible)?!! The idea of the Volt (or Opel Ampera in Europe) would the best if the car was lighter and smaller. Commuters drive often alone so you don't need a large 4 seater. A 2+2 coupé would be enough (size of the new Ford Ka for instance).

A Tesla 2+2 version with a small generator would indoubtedly boost the sales, even if "on petrol" the speed would fall at 100 miles/hour (which is well above the speed limit).

All the best.
A. Toma

Volker.Berlin | 11. marraskuu 2011

Antoine, the idea of extending range with a combustion engine (inside the trunk or on a trailer) has been discussed at length in this forum. Here is just one thread that may be worth reading:

If Corsica is really "just" 300 miles, you may be able to make the entire trip on one charge. At least that's what "300 mile battery" means, but of course, I go over 90 km/h for long stretches, or if your trip includes lots of mountains, you may be missing your target by just a few miles. But if anywhere on your route, preferable next to a comfy restaurant, there is a high speed charger, then you won't have to wait 3 or 4 hours. It's not like you are going to run the 300 mile battery all the way down to empty, and then have to wait until it is completely recharged. 20 to 30 minutes of high speed charging will give you an additional 100-150 miles. That should be plenty.

Of course, realistically, you may not have a high speed charger on your route any time soon... It's probably worth to have a look, though:

Chaiyawut Keereeto | 11. marraskuu 2011

@Volker.Berlin With Model S as a platform, you can have higher density battery for longer range without limitation, as long as it's compatible with Model S.

And if you know about automotive enough, you would see that EV is totally different from ICE for both drivetrain, transmission and even the way its response to driving. There are plenty of room to improve EVs in the future.

That's why we love Tesla, right?

brianman | 11. marraskuu 2011

"I would fancy to drive a Tesla in Corsica (the Ferrari wouldn't be safe and would even be too powerful for the tiny roads)."

Can you elaborate on the part in parenthesis? What does too powerful for tiny roads mean?

jackhub | 11. marraskuu 2011

I agree that the Models S is not for everyone. I looked at my travel over the past 5 years. I made 71 trips that were over 200 miles round trip. 69 of them I flew. I don't want to limmit my purchase by 2 trips in 5 years. Other people will have other needs of course.

During my analysis, I also flipped the anxiety issue. I can't tell you the number of times I have started for an appointment and 'discovered' that I needed gasoline- and I really didn't have time to stop and get it! Nor can I tell you the total time I have driven around with that little red light staring back at me while I wondered if I would make it. the Model S eliminates both of those issues. When I go to bed, I plug in my cellphone (which also serves as my alarm clock), and now I will also plug in my car, starting with a 'full tank' every morning.

Mycroft | 11. marraskuu 2011

Yep, I'm gonna LOVE that full tank every morning. No more having to decide which day I'm going to go to the gas station.

jackhub | 11. marraskuu 2011

One other observation here. It seems to me that the swap-out battery pack is ideally designed in anticipation of improving technology. Combine that with Tesla's committment to recycling the batteries and Elon's zeal suggests to me that an upgrade/trade-in battery pack is in our future.

Chaiyawut Keereeto | 11. marraskuu 2011

@jackhub Completely agree.

stephen.kamichik | 11. marraskuu 2011

Here in Montreal the gas companies like to play games with us. Once a week the price of gas increases $0.10 or more per litre (often when the price of oil goes down). We the consumers are always trying to guess when the price drops slightly (just before the next inexplicable increase). I look forward to starting with fully charged batteries every morning. I also look forward to giving the oil companies the "one-finger salute".

petero | 11. marraskuu 2011

evpro. No argument with your tool premise. What are your range expectations/needs?

In general, ‘we ‘place higher expectations on luxury cars than economy cars. My friend, Mycroft, has helped me better understand the real world mileage of batteries. Originally, I felt the 160 mile battery was more than fine. The reality is the 160 becomes 130 when charged to the recommended 80%, and if you drive the freeways at 75 mph the 130 drops further to about 104 mile range.

The 160/130/104 mile range battery will still fulfill 60% of my driving needs ( 50 miles there-50 miles back). I am opting for the 230-185-150 range battery. I anticipate a degradation in battery performance in five years+. Yes, I will also have an ICE SUV for extended trips, going up to the snow, loading up with junk, towing, or when I feel wasteful.

brianman | 11. marraskuu 2011

"When I go to bed, I plug in my cellphone (which also serves as my alarm clock), and now I will also plug in my car, starting with a 'full tank' every morning."

Or just leave your phone plugged into your car... :P

Ramon123 | 13. marraskuu 2011

Right now EVs (because of battery costs) are only truly competitive at the upper price ranges of the Tesla Model S , where the battery costs can compete with very high dollar ICE drivetrains from MB and BMW. While some families may find benefits of a 100 mile EV (usually less) as a second car or commuter car, these are awfully pricey commuter vehicles. Not really worth it, no matter what your goals.
Wait for cheaper batteries - they are not far away and I'm not about to buy a 100 mile vehicle that will be almost completely obsolete in five years, which is the point at which I believe cheaper and much better batteries will arrive. I see no point in throwing my money away - a million or so EVs on the road will accomplish virtually nothing - you won't even be able to measure the reduction in gas usage in this country (less than 1/2 of one percent, at most).

Larry Chanin | 13. marraskuu 2011


Different strokes for different folks. I say the sooner the we start the transition to electric vehicles the better. I have no problem with the first phase of that transition being paved by folks who are financially comfortable and who don't need to wait for cheaper batteries.

I also believe that the roll-out of charging infrastructure will be much faster than many think, especially when those million or so EVs take to the roads. With charging infrastructure in place even the folks with more modest means won't have to wait for cheaper batteries.


Mycroft | 13. marraskuu 2011

Larry is spot-on. If the rich guys and the celebrities hadn't bought the 5-lb bricks that were passed off as cell phones in the 80's, we wouldn't have the cheap, powerful phones that we're using today.

Tesla's whole strategy is to sell to well-to-do early adopters first to subsidize the technological innovations and the economies of scale necessary to bring EVs to the masses.

Check out Elon's "secret" plan for world domination. :)

Volker.Berlin | 18. marraskuu 2011

"After Almost 11,000 Miles, Jay Leno Closes In on a Year Without Refueling His Chevy Volt"

I wonder why that guy settled for a hybrid, but then again, the Model S is not yet available... ;-)

Mycroft | 18. marraskuu 2011

Plus it was free (to him).

VPLACE | 21. marraskuu 2011

Good stuff...EV vs ICE:
I have installed 32 Solar Panels on my roof in May 2011.
I have enough excess Solar Production to cover all current elect consumption + recharging my reserved (494) Sig in 7/21/2012? (Candy Apple Red).

Interesting: Cost comparison of my 2003 Lincoln Navigator SUV, which is a gas hog, and has high mainenance costs.

Over a 15 year period the cost of the Sig (including finace costs), will be $11k less than the cost of the Navigator!
(I considered everything that I could think of!)

I love going Greem!!

Mycroft | 21. marraskuu 2011

You can't have included the warranty extensions or the required annual maintenance for the S since we don't know those options/pricing yet.

The advantage the Navigator has over the S is that it is solidly understood technology that can be maintained by pretty much any auto shop around. The Model S, on the other hand, will require the specific expertise of Tesla mechanics for the foreseeable future on all but the brake and tire maintenance.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a fatal handicap, but we need to enter this transaction with our eyes open. I plan on keeping the warranty extended as long as possible and I'll have Tesla mechanics perform the annual maintenance, just as they do for the Roadsters.

olanmills | 28. marraskuu 2011

evpro, your point is well made, but I disagree. I think EV range is critical for adoption/marketability, and I think your original post actually illustrates why.

For many people, in order to make best use of the an EV, they have to have a "strategy", just as you described. People have to think about it.

The advantage of ICE (and basically the whole infrastructure and car-ecosystem) is that it's very convenient. You don't have to think about it at all. You just get in your car and go and go and go. If you're low on gas, you just stop for two minutes and get some more.

I agree with what you're saying; for 90% of people, 90% of the time, even a Leaf (if it really can get ~100 miles) would be just fine. But still, you have to plan for that other 10%. Yes it's totally manageable, but it's still asking drivers to take mental leap that they don't have to do today.

Even with a 300 mile range, you still have to plan to be able to stop for a significant period of time and charge.

I'm excited to get a Model S, but an electric car still is not a simple sell to everyone, not yet anyways.

Robert.Boston | 28. marraskuu 2011

Gads! Asking people to think or plan! What is the world coming to?!?!?

olanmills | 28. marraskuu 2011

I'm just telling you how it is. You go out there and tell everyone that every single car is now available in either an ICE or EV (current technology) version for the same price and a lot of people are still going to choose ICE today.

Brian H | 30. marraskuu 2011

Freedom from planning is worth paying 10X more per mile for "fuel"? I dung thang sew.

Timo | 30. marraskuu 2011

I think I can agree with olanmills for this. If EV doesn't have big enough range that you can do relatively long trips without planning your route before it is not worth buying. It is no longer freedom of movement, you could as well go and get a bus/train/whatever to your destination. For pure city car that you don't even plan to use anywhere else range is not critical, but otherwise it is.

Even after you have fast charger network in place you need a EV with range of about 300 miles because stopping to make recharging every hour or two of driving would drive you nuts. You need to have freedom for at least four hours of driving without thinking about recharging. 4h * 60 mph = 240 miles = 300 miles with 60 mile margin.

Robert.Boston | 30. marraskuu 2011

300 miles, we can do that. There're a lot of press reports that set the bar at 500 miles--often (worse) coupled with a "and fully recharge in 10 minutes."

I haven't seen anything to convince me that the "500 mile barrier" is something that actually matters to more than a small minority of drivers. Have I missed something? Or is this all fear-mongering because there is a perception that people are unwilling to do with anything less than they have today, that EVs have to be better in absolutely every dimension -- even if the previous mark was not particularly important to consumers?

Timo | 30. marraskuu 2011

Without charging network that 500 miles would be minimum for long trips (250x2 mile round trip, if there is no charger at your destination, or it is a slow one and you need to leave at the same day). With it I would probably stop for lunch even with that range, so why not have a bit less and charge while eating?

500 miles + 10 minute recharge would be required if you are planning to drive ~1000 miles straight without planned long stop somewhere. For 60mph average speed that would be 16+ hour drive. I can do 8 hour straight if I have to, but 16? That's ridiculous requirement. That's more of a case of "have to" than "want to" if you are required to drive 16 hours.

gjunky | 30. marraskuu 2011

I like everyone's points here but who drives 60mph? Really?

In Arizona, the speed limit on the freeways outside of the cities is 75Mph. The reason for this of course is that there is a LARGE amount of open space between them. Even with that speed limit, most people will drive at least 80mph. You can easily drive for two hours at that speed and not reach any other city (some very small ones maybe).

This would of course make it near impossible to drive long distances unless you have the 300 mile battery and that is a $20K option that you will most likely only use a couple times a year.

With the 160 mile battery, I would have to charge at least three times to drive to the coast. Assuming the best case scenario of having level 3 fast chargers in the right places and them not being in use, this would mean at least 1.5 hours of charge time (again, best possible scenario with the car being fully charged from the start and pretty much be totally empty at the end). Total distance is roughly 380 miles. That would mean I would drive for just over an hour each time at 75mph and then have to charge for at least 30 minutes. Four drive segments and three charging stops.
(no way to drive anywhere near 160 miles at that speed)

Before you suggest to get the 300 mile battery, remember the additional $20k. You could buy a small ICE car for this or of course rent one.

Now, if Tesla would rent a 300 mile pack, this trip could be done with one charge in the middle (each way) and one at the destination. This would be worth it for the price of a car rental.

Mycroft | 30. marraskuu 2011

"Before you suggest to get the 300 mile battery, remember the additional $20k. You could buy a small ICE car for this or of course rent one."

If you have to make frequent trips of this nature, then the 160 mile Model S is not the car for you.

If you make infrequent trips of this nature, then my recommendation would be to swap cars with a friend who has an ICE. I'm sure they'd love to borrow your EV for the weekend or whatever. If you have not friends with an ICE vehicle, then yes, you might want to rent a car for those infrequent trips.

olanmills | 30. marraskuu 2011

I just had a conversation about this today and he brought up another good point. There are plenty of people out there who wouldn't buy an EV simply because it doesn't make those nice, big, powerful ICE noises.

All I was really trying to say before is that the mere fact that EV's are different from what people are used to is a barrier, and it's not one that will be overcome for everyone overnight.

BruceR | 30. marraskuu 2011

EV range is not critcal because you adapt very quickly to what your vehicle is capable of. This is just as true with your ICE as with an EV. For those who have had an EV for any period of time you go through phases. First few weeks you are checking gauges and thinking of how far you can go and when you can recharge, After that you understand your limits and don't pay any great attention to it anymore. Just becomes second nature - do you spend any great anount of time worrying about fueling your ICE? No, you learn to plan you trips and your fueling stops. Becomes second nature. EVs are not ready to completely replace ICEs, but they can be a great vehicle with absolutely zero "range anxiety".....

Volker.Berlin | 01. joulukuu 2011

All I was really trying to say before is that the mere fact that EV's are different from what people are used to is a barrier, and it's not one that will be overcome for everyone overnight. (olanmills)

I completely agree. Regarding those nice, big, powerful ICE noises, I've heard that comment as well and I have to admit that I once thought I might miss something, too. Having test-driven the Roadster, I have to say that I did miss absolutely nothing. In the opposite: I'm totally spoiled and since then have been constantly annoyed by the impertinent street noise. Similarly, I have never heard that comment from anybody who has actually had the chance to drive the Roadster for any length of time. I'll continue evangelizing as soon as I have my Model S available to take people for a ride!

Timo | 01. joulukuu 2011

Remember that this is not only US forum, people have different preferences in different cultures. In here single car (or no car at all) for any city dweller is common because space is very restricted, so that one car has to do everything you need it to do. This means that you either have EV that does everything or get a city car, and rent a ICE for any long trips. That's just annoying as h*ll, so I would rather buy and ICEV than BEV that does not meet my every need.

My impression is that this is very common situation in Europe, so even that distances here are smaller and you could expect that EV:s have huge market potential, the limited range makes this not true. Not until you have that recharging network in place. Also the extra taxes we pay makes extra cost of the EV look like a bad deal even that gas here costs a lot more than it does in US (I don't think people do actually calculate TCO, if they would there would be a lot more Model S reservations in Europe).

JohanH | 01. joulukuu 2011

@Timo: In Norway it's a bit different. There is a very high specific tax on cars here that makes virtually all cars very expensive, except for EVs - they are currently not only excluded from specific "car tax" (the goverment calls it a "one-time fee" but it's a form of tax) but ALSO from VAT! This is to stimulate the use of EVs ofcourse.

Some price examples for comparison (cars that I would consider in some ways "equal" in size and performance to a Model S) for all the readers in US and other European countries:

(Basic prices without extras)

A6 2,8 FSI multitronic: 104.000 USD

BMW 528i Automatic: 120.000 USD

Lexus IS 250 automatic Executive: 105.000 USD

and some "cheaper" cars:

Mazda 5 1.8 liter (115hp) Advance: 50.500 USD

Toyta Avensis 1,8 liter (147hp) Comfort: 51.000 USD

When you see this you can understand that even with the limited range that is discussed in this thread buying av EV is virtually a "no-brainer" in Norway at the moment. I'm currently driving a Mitsubishi iMiev and it's really nice for a small car.

Robert.Boston | 01. joulukuu 2011

Those Norwegian incentives clearly are having a major impact on sales. In the "Where will your Model S reside?" thread, exactly half of the European tally is in Norway (7 of 14).

Timo | 01. joulukuu 2011

@JohanH, you can see that in Model S reservation poll. Norway has more reservations than most other European countries even that population of Norway is quite small. Ratio of population vs Model S reserved is probably higher there than it is in US.

I wish my government would copy your system for BEV:s. With that I would move to bigger apartment away from city center just to get two-car garage, one ICE for long trips and one BEV for short ones.

With removing VAT and other assorted taxes Model S would become no-brainer to me too. Even if I couldn't use it for every trip it would become so much cheaper than ICE car for 75% of the trips that it would be plain stupid not to buy it.

God d*mn stupid taxes...

Brian H | 03. joulukuu 2011

Yeah, the rule is, "Tax more what you want less of. Tax less what you want more of." Pols should have their noses rubbed in that periodically (frequently).

Brian H | 03. joulukuu 2011

Yeah, the rule is, "Tax more what you want less of. Tax less what you want more of." Pols should have their noses rubbed in that periodically (frequently).

Volker.Berlin | 04. joulukuu 2011

There's a reason why the German word for tax is "Steuer". Another meaning of (almost) the same word is "steering" (as in steering wheel, or rudder).

pbrulott | 07. joulukuu 2011


I read an article yesterday on the Nissan Leaf and being a reservation holder of the TMS I read everything talking about EV. They did a trial with 3 trialers: urban driver, suburb and young family.

While all of them loved the car and quietness of the driving, they all experienced the same range issue. And mentioned that would not buy the car.

I am concerned that the advertized range for the TMS of 260\380\480km is not reachable unless you follow a truck going at 70km/h with no accessory on. Any comments? Will it be different for the Model S. I am thinking of the 260km range.

A couple of real life examples from the article:

Max range at start\Distance driven\Final range remaining

1) 151km\82km\13km
2) 129km\52km\36km
3) 93km\17km\67km

Most of those were achieved in near winter conditions (+2 to -2C) so some very moderate heating was on. Some said they drove normally and even, one mentioned he drove on ECO with almost no heat on.

Mycroft | 07. joulukuu 2011

This is something we won't know until owners get actual cars and can report real world experience.

EdG | 07. joulukuu 2011

@pbrulott: I asked a similar question not too long ago. The best answer (when we have no real data to go on, as Mycroft says) I got was that the 300 mile range quoted is for a real mix of conditions, though perhaps not snowy or icy. In optimal conditions, you could actually go much further traveling at 20 MPH for 20 hours.

Timo | 07. joulukuu 2011

@pbrulott, unlike Nissan TM overdeliver its promises. Real life experience with Roadster shows that in range mode advertised range and actual range are very close to each other, and in many cases actual range is bigger than advertised one.

I expect that same applies to Model S.

Of course it greatly depends of how and where you drive. Slower speed gives you greater range, higher smaller range. Hills and bad roads reduce range (ancillary systems like heater, not so much).