A real-world demonstration of electric vehicle range under actual driving conditions reveals that EPA’s mileage ratings for electric vehicles could be significantly under-estimating the range of some models. That’s the good news, but there’s a small catch. The demonstration basically shows that EV range can easily exceed the EPA mileage rating (again, at least for some models) when a driver obeys traffic regulations and follows common-sense, safe driving practices.
Wait, that’s a catch?
EV Mileage Ratings: What is MPGe?
Before we get into the details of the demonstration, it’s worth noting that EPA has a cool interactive online version of its new mileage rating label. Each part of the label is numbered and linked to at least two more levels of detail.
Since the label compares all fuel types, you’ll see a little item called MPGe and if you’re mystified about what exactly that means, click on item #5 and you’ll get to this helpful explanation:
“Think of this as being similar to MPG, but instead of presenting miles per gallon of the vehicle’s fuel type, it represents the number of miles the vehicle can go using a quantity of fuel with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. This allows a reasonable comparison between vehicles using different fuels.”
Electric Vehicles Put to the Test
The demonstration was undertaken by edmunds.com, where you can get a detailed rundown of the findings. To sum it up, of the nine models tested, four beat the EPA’s MPGe ratings.
As described by Edmunds’ Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds, pretty much any driver could get the same results without resorting to any fancy hypermiling techniques. Aside from obeying the speed limit, the idea is to avoid jackrabbit stops and starts, weaving, and tailgating.
The demonstration consisted of morning rush-hour drive around a 105.5 mile loop in Orange County, California, making as many laps as possible on a single charge. The route, which did not include any freeways, was selected to include numerous controlled intersections as well as hilly terrain.
Electric Vehicles and the Real World
The Edmunds test reveals something about EVs that is true about all vehicles: your mileage will vary depending on your personal driving habits as well as actual driving conditions.
In any case, the study should provide some reassurance to drivers who would use an EV for local shopping and commuting, with the idea of being able to charge up at home if there are no charging stations along the route.
That’s a pretty safe call in California, where home charging stations seem destined to become part of standard home equipment just like a stove and a fridge. Solar powered home charging stations are also in the future.
More Charging Stations for an EV World
For that matter, the whole range anxiety issue is destined for the dustbin of automotive history in pretty short order.
Longer-range batteries are one part of the solution, but the most advanced battery technology won’t be on the market for a while. In the meantime, one solution is already on the roads, and that is the availability of EVs that include a backup gas tank for longer trips, the Chevy Volt being the most well known example.
Another solution already at hand is to install more charging stations, and to that end the Obama Administration has been promoting the establishment of a national EV charging station infrastructure through a public-private partnership called EV Everywhere.
The initiative includes all aspects of EV infrastructure, including both private and publicly accessible charging stations.
The most recent program to roll out of EV Everywhere is the Workplace Charging Challenge, which has recruited some heavy hitters in the private sector including 3M, Chrysler Group, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly and Company, Ford, GE, GM, Google, Nissan, San Diego Gas & Electric, Siemens, Tesla, and Verizon.
These companies are working with trade organizations, government agencies and other stakeholders to demonstrate the benefits of workplace EV charging, with the aim of getting many other companies to follow suit. The goal is a tenfold increase within five years.
Note: Due to a typo, the length of the test loop was originally stated as 10.5 miles. That’s since been corrected to 105.5 miles.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.