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Published on August 21st, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

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<100 Miles of Range Better For Electric Car Consumers, Study Finds

August 21st, 2014 by  


One of the biggest challenges the EV revolution faces, in my opinion, is not technical at all. It’s mental readjustment. Sure, gasmobiles have greater range, but that range is practically useless 95% or 99% of the time. The idea that we need that extra range is often illogical.

In the US, the average commute is 25 miles. If you don’t have a way to charge at work, you’d need your car to have 50 miles of range plus a bit more for any extra trips you may take on the way home (and to not end up empty right at the end of your return home). But, for the most part, many of us are not going to drive another 25 miles in a day. Even so, if we add on another 25 miles, that’s still just 75 miles.

I understand that some people make very long drives on a regular basis, but that’s really not the norm. And when we do, it’s easy enough to rent a car or trade with a friend or family member.

Image Credit: Nissan

Image Credit: Nissan

Still, the widely held assumption is that your car needs to have hundreds of miles of range. This is parroted time and time again across the media and almost any time the topic of electric cars comes up outside of a circle of electric car enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, I don’t have data on the following matter, only anecdotes, but I’ve heard on several occasions from Nissan LEAF owners that they planned to charge their cars every night but they ended up charging every other night. In other words, a Nissan LEAF’s 84 miles of range is enough for two days of driving, but even early adopters often don’t realize this.

100 Miles of Range Not Needed

Getting down to the news of the day, a new study from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) finds that until battery costs get down to $100 per kWh, most US consumers would be better off buying an electric car with less than 100 miles of range rather than paying more for more range.


 

While it gets criticized a lot for its lower range, something tells me Nissan had strong, solid reasons for offering an affordable electric car with under 100 miles of range, rather than trying to offer unnecessary range at a higher price.

Regarding the study, the press release notes: “The electric driving range of a BEV is optimized separately for each of the 36,664 sample drivers who represent U.S. new car drivers. It is based on their individual driving pattern and household vehicle flexibility.” More info can be found at the link.

However, Nissan was expecting much greater sales of the LEAF, and had to backpedal on some projections. I think the reason for that was a simple one, and that would be…

People Are Illogical

Back to where I started: the issue is mostly that people think they need much more range than they actually need. An electric car with less than 100 miles of range is adequate for most people, but it’s hard to get used to the idea, and to even realize that simple fact.

As some of our readers have said on multiple occasions, once most electric cars have a range of 100 miles or more, people will probably feel more comfortable with the idea (an extra digit somehow means something mentally).

However, with education, a lot more people could realize that 84 miles of range is plenty. For anyone reading this who’s in the media, it’s important to realize that you don’t just report on the world; you also influence the world. Repeating the range anxiety meme over and over has an effect. Communicating the fact that 84 miles of range is plenty for a huge number of people also has an effect. Go with the latter.

Anyhow, I’m eager to open this topic up to readers. Do you think we can turn the tide and get a lot of people to realize that they don’t need 100+ miles of range? Do you think electric car manufacturers should skip past logic and facts and simply cater to consumer feelings about the need for their cars to have a range of 100 miles or more (or 150/200 miles or more as some people contend)? Do you think Nissan has nailed it and should just keep going with that, helping consumers to understand that they can do what they need and want in a LEAF, and hoping that word of mouth will lead to strong growth? Or do you agree with Tesla’s assumption that electric cars should have 200 miles of range or more?

Electric cars are already cheaper for a lot of people (I’d guess most people), a much nicer drive, much more convenient to own, much better for our health and environment, much better for our energy independence and energy security, and much more fun to drive. Do they really need a range that is unnecessary 95% or 99% of the time?


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



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