Science Says Your EV Range Anxiety Is Nonsense

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

If you have the money and want an electric vehicle with the longest possible range, the Lucid Air is the way to go. Pick the right version, and it comes with an EPA-estimated range of 520 miles. Take the right route, and that’s enough to drive from Atlanta, Georgia to Richmond Virginia without stopping. No sane person drives more than eight hours without even pulling off to use the bathroom, but technically, you could do it. For most people, though, that kind of range is total overkill. Heck, even 300 miles of range is more than a lot of people are ever going to need.

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ArsTechnica reports that a recently released study from the University of Deleware studied people’s driving habits over the course of a year in the Atlanta area and then created a model to see which EVs would meet those drivers’ needs.

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They found that out of the 333 drivers in the study, many didn’t need a long-range EV at all. In fact, almost 38 percent of drivers would have been able to make 100 percent of their trips throughout the year with a small, lower-range EV such as the Nissan Leaf.

That’s with no charging other than at home, too. Stopping to charge just a few times would have allowed even more drivers to get away with owning a sub-150-mile EV. Long road trips are still going to be inconvenient in a Nissan Leaf, but in that situation, it reportedly makes more sense to just rent a car for the trip instead of paying extra for a bigger battery.

“It’s cheaper to rent a car for two days (per year) than to spend 10 grand on a much bigger battery,” Willett Kempton, a University of Delaware professor, told ArsTechnica.

When asked for a comment on the paper, Stephanie Searle of the International Council on Clean Transportation, told ArsTechnica it made some great points:

A lot of the news lately has been around EV range getting longer and longer, but the fact is, if a lower-range car will do, it’s going to be better for the customer’s wallet and for the environment. Lower range means smaller batteries, and that reduces the upstream environmental impact from mining and battery production. Smaller batteries also means more efficient EVs that cause lower (greenhouse gas) emissions from electricity production.

Ultimately, the real problem isn’t an EV’s range. It’s the fact that there still aren’t enough chargers. If we actually had a reliable charging network, more people would be able to live comfortably with more affordable EVs even if they don’t have the option to charge at home. Thankfully, that’s starting to change even if that change is coming slowly. Even Tesla has started opening up its charging network to non-Tesla owners, which should help make longer trips easier for EV owners. And in a few years, things could be completely different for apartment-dwellers who just want a basic EV to get them around.

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