The EV Range Anxiety Myth, Dispelled

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Originally published on The Handleman Post.
By Clayton Handleman

Quiet, powerful, convenient and clean, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are going mainstream. Leading the way is the Tesla Model-S which is one of only two cars to receive the highest rating given by Consumer Reports. It also boasts some of the fastest 0-60 mph acceleration numbers available in production autos. The affordable Nissan Leaf leads in popularity with worldwide sales of over 100,000 units. From BMW to Ford, the major auto makers are joining the EV club.  In addition to low emissions, the EV’s growing popularity is undoubtedly due to its convenience. EVs like the Leaf are particularly well suited for commuting. Upon arrival home, the driver simply takes a moment to plug it in and they are assured a ‘full tank’ in the morning.

Image Credit – Tesla Motors – Access this Calculator HERE

With the majority of households owning more than one vehicle, people are recognizing the value of making one of them an EV. The EV is ideally suited for quick trips around town and the economically draining single driver commute. Consider the common suburban family constellation of two working parents and two children.  Often one parent works some distance from the home and the second closer to home or part time. These households often have 2 – 3 cars. One is a smaller commuter and weekend errand vehicle while the other serves as the family taxi and long trip mini-van or SUV. This and similar situations are typical of millions of households.  It is a very fast paced, highly scheduled lifestyle. Anything that reduces surprises and out of the routine events is of high value.

With its low maintenance and ability to ‘refuel’ overnight at home, the EV is an excellent fit for many modern households. No waiting in rush hour gas lines during the Friday commute home, no ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) range anxiety with the fuel light on solid red. The stressful commute spent wondering whether to buy gas only to have to make the left turn through rush hour traffic or hope to make it home and buy it on the weekend. No wasting precious weekend family time making the special trip to the filling station. No fouling up the fine tuned schedule with that oil change every 3 – 4 weeks. The EV eliminates it all. In this and many ownership scenarios the EV is not simply a comparable solution but, rather, a better one.

There is an odd meme making the rounds in which EVs are disparaged because the typical EV has less range than a traditional ICE vehicle. The myth of ‘range anxiety’ is subtly perpetuated in the mainstream media. Typically there is a glowing piece that talks about the EV as if it is a novelty and then frames the report with something about the low range and the ‘anxiety’ it causes. Often they will then point out that for long trips the EV cannot be used since recharging is time consuming and impractical. And generally, either overtly, or covertly through inference, the viewer or reader is steered towards the conclusion that EVs are not quite ready for ANY application. Until they can take those once-a-year long road trips, the meme suggests, EVs are just not yet useful or practical. While this is a valid argument when it comes to replacing the car used for long trips, it is simply irrelevant when it comes to the commute / around town car. It’s kind of like telling a mechanic that their screw driver is worthless because it cannot turn a hex bolt. It’s true if you are trying to turn a hex bolt but if you are trying to turn a screw then the screw driver is the tool of choice and the socket wrench becomes useless.

Given the important environmental role that EVs can play, it is important to re-frame the discussion honestly and acknowledge that for millions of potential customers, EVs are already the best transportation solution. In many situations EVs are more convenient and create less anxiety than ICE vehicles. In other words for two and three car households, EVs are not just the equal but actually the better solution for the commuting / errand car.

autos-by-household-typeEach year there are about 17 million autos and light trucks sold into the US market.  Well over half of these are sold to multi-vehicle households. In a typical two car household one vehicle is used for commuting, around town errands  and the other is used for most of the other tasks including long trips. The typical commute is a well defined distance. As a result it is easy to figure out whether the EV is suitable for the job.

auto-daily-distanceAccording to Consumer Reports, the Nissan Leaf has a range of about 75 miles. In the graph above by Rob van Haaren, it is clear that cars are driven less than 60 miles per day about 80% of the time. The graph provides per car statistics. In 2 and 3 vehicle households the longer trips can easily be accommodated using the ICE vehicle.  By doing so the percentage of ‘close to the margin’ imposed on the EV becomes even lower or can be eliminated all together.

auto-trip-distanceIt is a perverse and suspect notion that EVs are not ready for the mainstream. The flawed reasoning goes something like this; EVs are not a good option for long trips therefore they are not useful at all. Consider that, for over 10 years, the Toyota Camry has been the best selling car in the US.  To hold this crown the Camry has only required about 2.5% market share. According to the strange ‘logic’ of EV detractors, Camry is a failure. Or, stated in a different way: Camry has 2.5% market share therefore 97.5% of purchasers found preferable solutions so Camry cannot be a mainstream vehicle. A product can be mainstream without being the only or even the primary one in its category.  Nobody would deny that Camry’s are mainstream. But they are not the only vehicles sold nor do they constitute a majority of the vehicles sold. They serve a specific market and they serve it well. Similarly EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and Ford Fusion already have a large addressable market today. That addressable market will only expand as battery prices drop, range increases.

As a hint to the near future jump in range of EVs one need look no further than the Tesla Gigafactory. It is designed to produce 50 GWhr of battery packs per year. Tesla claims that will be sufficient for 500,000 vehicles per year. That comes out to 100kwhr of battery per vehicle. The Model S, a large car, gets over 250 mile per charge on their 85kwhr battery.  This suggests that rank and file EVs will be sporting ranges of over 300 miles per charge by 2020. EVs are clearly going mainstream now and their addressable markets are expanding at an astonishing rate. However as the Tesla Supercharger network expands, the Gigafactory and its inevitable competitors come online, and methods for faster charging are perfected, it may well be a mere 5 years before ICE vehicles really are obsolete.

I want to acknowledge Rob van Haaren for his work making data from the Federal Highway Administration‘s National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) accessible to a wider audience. For his report Dr. van Haaren mined NHTS data for information relevant to electric vehicle use and presented much of it in helpful graphical format. Graphics with his name are protected by copyright and used with permission.

This blog has compiled data on BEV and HPEV sales.

This article looks at ways to address barriers to entry for EVs.

Reprinted with permission.

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103 thoughts on “The EV Range Anxiety Myth, Dispelled

  • Selling evs only to multicar households builds a wall shutting off the working class, who have either one car or none. That’s a more important reason for cheering on longer ev range than the iatrogenic “range anxiety.”

    • That’s what the used car market is for. There will be a lot of used Nissan Leaf available which are perfectly suited to shorter 60km commute. Government reduced original price of the car by up to $10K (in CA), so used these cars go well under $15K in three years. With very low running costs, and in-home refuelling, what’s not to like.

      • Used Leafs in the ~$15K (or maybe just $1K or 2K above) already are a reality. Just check out eBay motors or Craigslist in some of the larger metro areas . . . especially cities who were test markets for the Leaf beginning in 2011 and 2012. Quite a few of those cars were on 3 year leases and, yes, here we are in 2015. I’m one of those strange people who actually likes the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and hope to get a used one before the end of the year.

        • Benjamin – Lower than that. 2001 Leafs are 12-14k with about 30k miles. Several sources. Just google Used Nissan Leaf.

          • I’m going to guess “2001 Leaf” is a typo, eveee. 🙂

            For the interest of southern Arizona buyers looking for used
            EVs, I’ve included a couple of relevant links on the Tucson Electric Vehicle Association web site that I’ve authored. Scroll down to the bottom of this page . . .


            As noted there, I’ve set up filters for the Craigslist Tucson
            link to just electric cars (listings for the much larger Phoenix market also make it through) and the eBay Motors for just electrics. Always fun to look through this stuff.

          • 2001 sure is a typo, or a real mistake. I meant 2011 Leaf. I have been eyeing them. Thanks, Benjamin.

    • EVs are not intended to simply make transportation affordable…but to make it clean. Those who cannot afford a gasoline powered car will likely not be able to afford an EV.

    • I don’t know who you are excluding from “working class”… but generally speaking, a multi car family has Multiple cars, because each person goes to work.

      • Good point. Working class includes multiple car families. Also, the percentage with no car is not germane, since an ICE is not used there either. The 33% or so single car families needs more info to get a better picture of the results. Are those single car families because the family has only one worker? Are those single car families because the other member uses public transit, bikes, or walks?
        That frames the issue differently.

  • I agree that ‘range anxiety’ is way overblown, but the argument presented here doesn’t hold water. People’s in-town run-about or second car is their old car or a
    pick-up truck that they use when they need to get a couple of sheets of plywood or bails of hay, but that also doubles as their extra set of wheels. Folks expect to be able to use their more their more expensive, new, ‘good’ car for everything- road trips, commuting, whatever. Electric cars have to compete to be the family’s new go-to car, not their old back-up car because they are expensive and new. The range problem is being taken care of by a combination of the ever-increasing range of EVs, more charging stations, and faster charging, as well as people coming to realize that they don’t really need 400 miles- 200 will do just fine. In the mean time there are plenty of markets for ev’s even with their current limitations: expensive super cars, early adopters, fleet vehicles that get a lot of usage and can take advantage of EV’s lower fuel and maintenance costs, such as buses, taxis, urban delivery vans and trucks, car-sharing cars, etc. The economic family run-about will be the last frontier of EV’s. The industry should be focusing on all other markets first.

    • Don’t agree. My Smart ED is perfect for my commute. If it’s ever in the driveway, it’s the first car taken! Don’t need long range for 90% of trips, when we do, the gas car is available. Multiple car families with one shorter range car that is cheap to run is an ideal situation.

    • ” … their old car or a pick-up truck that they use when they need to get a couple of sheets of plywood or bales of hay…” Touch of gender stereotyping and American frontier mythmaking? Any rocks in the driveway to shift with your 4WD? Most Americans have no conceivable use for hay, and if they ever need plywood, they can get it delivered. The second car is all about kids and shopping.

      • There is a strong case for trucks in the stereotypical sense in many areas of the US. It’s not obvious in urban environments, but when you head out to the midwest which is largely comprised of farms, trucks make much more sense.

        Switching to the urban areas (which are likely where the majority of the population live), the dual car situation likely holds true with an economical commuter and a kid schlepping mini van/SUV.

        We opted to trade in our fun weekend car (convertible BMW) for an EV leaving us with two kid friendly 5 passenger economy cars.

      • No, James, unless if it’s a fairly major construction project and the home owners simply gives the contractor the bill of sale to have the materials drop shipped, most Americans are inclined to hop into the larger of their two common household vehicles (typically a minivan, SUV or pickup) to grab a few bags of potting soil or a couple sheets of plywood for common household projects. It’s cheaper to fetch small quantities of stuff like this yourself on a Saturday morning, get your project completed over the weekend and not wait until Monday morning for the next store delivery.

        When it comes to stuff like plywood (and since when do Americans have “no need” for it?,) I’d rather head over to the store myself and cherry pick the one good sheet out of the middle of the stack. If you simply phone it in, the sheet you’ll get delivered will invariably be the one that’s warped and full of splits and/or knots.

        • Absurd argument, though i did keep my pickup a year too long.

          I’d rather call Morse Lumber and have that sheet of plywood or drywall dropped off. If i was desperate, home depot rents pickups.

          I’m thrilled to be rid of the expense of owning my Cummins ram, that in its final year was driven under 600 miles, half by others borrowing it!

          Now that I have an electric smart, $150 a month on lease, and totally loving it I’m wondering if my TDI sportwagen will suffer similar mothball fate.

    • Completely agree. That is how cars originally got sold in the early 1900s. First the rich for whom cost doesn’t matter, then the equivalent of the tech nerds and hipsters who want to get the latest thing, then the fleets, and business users who can write it off, then the wider market. As the market increases the technology and infrastructure improves, and eventually it all makes sense for the avg. car buyer.

      It wasn’t until 1976 that cars in the US reached their maximum saturation in the US of around 500 cars/1000 people. We could be looking at another 70 years for EVs to completely replace ICEs.

      This article is trying to convince true beleivers of something – I’m not sure what. Look at EV sales as a %-age of all car sales if you want the real story of where we are.

  • We live in a small rural community about 35 fives from any decent shopping. We travel 135 miles for doctor appointments, 900 miles round trip to see children and grandchildren and about 200 miles a week for business. Purchasing a Model S as our “go to vehicle” was the smartest thing we ever did. We actually take off more now that we have an EV than we did before. Range anxiety, even though we live in what I call the vast wasteland of chargers has never have a problem. We have learned to enjoy the travel charging time relaxing, meeting people and exploring around. Life got to be more fun the day the car arrived.No gas, no maintenance and the feeling we are doing the right thing for the environment. We have a 1966 Chevy Carry-all as a second car but it only runs around town. To much fun to drive the EV even to the local grocery store.

    • Yes. a Model S would suit us just fine too. The only problem is that it needs to be about $50,000.00 less to be possible, practicality aside.

      • Wait for a few years and buy used. Model S does not need to get cheaper, it competes with BMW 7 series, not Toyota…
        I bought a Smart ED and couldn’t be happier. Our second car can take us anywhere with 5 passengers, but unfortunately runs on gas. Time (and battery engineers) will solve this “problem”.

        • I live in Canada, I think it will be many years before a reasonably priced Model S is available. Our current low dollar makes one even less attainable.

        • I don’t see this happening anytime soon as they will continue to be the only vehicle with ~300 mile EV range for quite some time. Until the availability of ~300 mile EVs exceeds demand…or even comes close to meeting demand, use Model S (and X) prices will continue to be high. Quite frankly, used model S prices are higher than a new EV as they had the $7.5k – $10k rebates taken off the top and are still selling for a premium.

      • We decided, after we fell in love with the Tesla that we could not afford to not buy one. Quite a change from going to a fifteen year old mini van to a Tesla.

    • Good for you. Our LEAF lease (our second lease, first was a 2011) is up in 2017, hopefully the Tesla Model 3 will be imminent or at least the S85D will come down in price.

      • Glad you like the Leaf. We have a friend who just bought one and he loves going EV. Of course he would like a Tesla but a couple of small children make that hard. We are not wealthy, we just decided we could not afford to not buy one. Good lick in 2017 or before!

        • I like your spirit. There a two reasons that our next EV may be a Tesla even though one can hardly justify it on economic grounds like we can the LEAF. First, some people I’ve talked to say that they will wait until the price comes down (I may be one of them), but then if we don’t support the first generation of these cars, there won’t be a second generation (or perhaps a Model 3). Second, Tesla is doing more than any other brand about setting up a nation-wide infrastructure for charging so one can go coast-to-coast. And I guess third, all we would be doing is spending our dogs inheritance.

  • This article has a VERY FLAWED reasoning, buying a pure EV forces you to have an ICE vehicle to cover all your needed mileage trips. Not all people are married nor live in houses with more than 1 car garage. What EV car should you buy in order to satisfy both your daily commute (60 miles) and weekend long distance drives (>200 Round Trip miles) when you can’t afford a Tesla? There is only one answer: The GM Volt. And it is very flexible. You don’t inconvenience your life by planning around where the charging stations are. Or sorry my friend, I can’t pick you up right now from the airport as I don’t have enough remaining range. Or sorry honey, it’s way out of my range to buy your medication. It gives you the flexibility of various options while you are in the middle of a trip.

    So we went to Yosemite park, and then decide, how about we explore Mono Lakes… then Lake Tahoe along 395? No problem with the Volt, but good luck with the Leaf and the Tesla. No charging stations there. With the Leaf, we won’t make it to Yosemite in one charge.

    • Marion, pure EVs aren’t targeting absolutely everybody. You’re putting too much importance on yourself and people in similar situations in your criticism of the article.

      It very clearly talks about small marketshare. The Camry was the perfect vehicle for only 2.5% of car buyers, yet it’s considered mainstream. Pure EVs can very well suit the needs of 5% of drivers today, and by 2018 Tesla’s Model 3 and expanded network could be workable for 10% of people. They’ll only have to convert a fraction of that to saturate 2020 production capacity: 1.5% of US, 1% of Europe, and 0.3% of Asia.

      • “Pure EVs can very well suit the needs of 5% of drivers today,”

        Sure, and PHEVs should suit the needs of most everyone else, and the consequence would be that demand for gasoline drops precipitously.

        • Exactly. The EV purists make the perfect the enemy of the good. I don’t understand why a car that can allow most drivers to do most of their driving on electric is not embraced by those who want to reduce our oil consumption.

      • Thank you Mint, your comment does a good job of expressing the distinction I was trying to make in the article.

    • PHEVs are definitely better than ICEs but we need to continue to push for ideal state (no gasoline). I agree that in today’s world, your Volt is the best compromise especially given your single car situation…but thankfully, many households are dual car and can take advantage of an EV as the commuter.
      In my household for instance, we have one EV and a Prius…very similar where we take the EV around town (95% of the time) and the Prius for trips into Los Angeles or otherwise outside the EVs range.

      • “we need to continue to push for ideal state (no gasoline)”

        No we don’t. Something like 85% of Volt miles are all electric miles. Reducing the use of gasoline 85% with plug in hybrids would be as close to heaven as we need to be in the next 20 years.

        The manufacturers which have said they will move to plug ins across all models, like BMW, are referring to PHEVs for the most part.

        • PHEVs are half measures – better than nothing, but not as good as BEVs. I would rather have all PHEVs than all gasmobiles, but why settle on a compromise when the real deal (solar powered BEVs) are real and on the verge of wide scale practicality (affordable with 200 mile range)? When 85% of all vehicle miles driven are EV miles, gas prices will be much higher making the EV component (or FCEV if that’s more your speed) that much more preferable. Battery tech is almost there…

          What the manufacturers want is of no concern…they are most concerned with profits, brand image and sales…none of which make an impact on what the planet needs.

          • “When 85% of all vehicle miles driven are EV miles, gas prices will be much higher”

            My economics textbook said that, everything else being equal, prices go down as demand falls.

          • If it was only demand driven, yes. Supply is finite and consumption is not tracking with the inevitable decline. The market will be supply limited before it will be demand limited.

          • I’m hoping EVs will become so popular in the next few years that demand for oil will decline before supply becomes scarce (of course scarcity itself is price dependent). People can “fill up” an electric car for the equivalent of $1 a gallon or less now. If this fact was advertised, along with the tax credit and some state rebates, they should be flying off the car lots.

          • I would love that as well but it doesnt feel that we’re heading in that direction. Price for gas isnt the primary driver…people are used to paying what they’re paying for gas (or more vs current prices).
            Education and range are the big issues. People don’t know why they should want an EV but they know why they don’t want them (range). I firmly believe that a well built and marketed 200mi range EV that’s affordable (~30k in the US) will change the game.

          • “Education and range are the big issues.”

            Education, absolutely. That’s the problem. If range was an issue they would be buying the Volt and other PHEVs now. The Volt is under $30k with existing incentives.

          • I only say range because it’s an issue for pure EVs. I’m holding out on trading in our prius for a second EV until range is up above 150 miles.

          • Maybe next year (?)

            As an aside, people are still buying non-plug in Priuses. That’s surprising.

          • Not really…the specs on the PiP are pretty pathetic. I’m more surprised that people are still buying the Prius over the volt which is truly superir in just about every way. 50 miles all EV range + built in range extender on gas? the PiP only gets something like 11 mile of “EV” range…but can’t go freeway speeds on battery alone…tiny battery…it’s really just a prius with more battery capacity which isn’t that different.
            (I have a regular prius from back before the plug ins were available and can say that a larger battery wouldnt make that much of a difference without a different drive train setup…something the PiP is lacking as well)

          • Exactly right. Leaf owners have LOTS of range anxiety…. Tesla owners have almost none. So then it’s just a matter of cost, and that’s where Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, and anyone else that makes a legit 200+ mile $30K EV will capitalize

          • There is an incredible amount of oil and natural gas. NG vehicles will make it before EV’s do. And of course EV’s are polluting – just not at the tailpipe but at the generation source.

          • The ship has sailed for NG cars. They and the fueling infrastructure to support them weren’t developed fast enough. EVs and plug in hybrids are too far ahead now, and the divide will only increase as new battery technology emerges in a year or so. There’s still great potential for NG in long haul truck fleets if the Congress will incentivize the conversion of existing truck stops to NG.

          • EV’s *can* be polluting. It depends on how you charge them. In my area, charging at night is almost CO2 free, since we have massive hydro, and a growing wind power market.

          • I wish what you were saying was true about fuel costs. Maybe it is in heavily subsidized areas but not here in the midwest where electricity is 12-14 cents/kWh. This makes the equivalent $/gallon cost between $3.67 and $4.67! Electricity would have to be 3 cents/kWh to approach $1/gallon equivalent. The only reason my EV still makes sense is that I get over 100mi/gallon equivalent and maintenance costs are significantly less. I do also occasionally use the free public chargers so that also helps keep fuel costs down.

          • Your calculations are either incorrect, or your EV is extremely inefficient.

            Here’s the calculation for the Nissan Leaf.

            Nissan Leaf: 24kWh * $0.14/kWh (your electricity rate) = $3.36 / 84 miles (EPA estimated range) = $0.04 per mile

            Average car: $2.88 per gallon (gasoline) / 25.4 mpg = $0.1134 per mile

            EV miles per ‘gallon’ = 0.04 / 0.1134 * $2.88 = $1.02

            [At my electricity rate–$.072/kWh–it’s $.53 per ‘gallon’]

            Let’s say you drive 15,000 miles a year.

            15,000 miles/25.4 mpg = 591 gallons of gasoline usage per year in the average car

            591 gallons * $2.88 per gallon = $1702.08 yearly cost of gasoline

            591 electric ‘gallons’ * $1.02 per electric ‘gallon’ = $602.82 yearly cost of electricity

            $1702.08 – $602.82 = $1099.26 annual fuel savings at your electricity rate.

          • “electricity is 12-14 cents/kWh”

            When electricity in Texas was first deregulated years ago, we had rates like that or higher, and they stayed high for a long time. It seemed that deregulation would be a total disaster. Now most people buy their electricity plans through an online marketplace, and people in N. Tx are paying a little over 7-8 cents/kWh (about half of which is for the electricity itself with the remainder going for taxes, transmission and distribution costs). Part of our low rates are undoubtedly due to low natural gas prices and to our strong wind industry.

            Is there a good reason the rates in your state are high, or are the utilities ripping off everyone?

          • I don’t know why it’s so expensive here. Last year I was paying about 6 cents/kWh (generation) and delivery/taxes amounted to another 6 cents/kWh (12 cents/kWh total). That contract expired in May and the best I can find on the “market” is about 8 cents(generation only). Which is what I am being charged from the local electric company at about 14 cents/kWh. It’s been that way for years in Ohio. I’ve played the market game and can usually only find a savings of 1-2 cents/kWh but are usually tied to a scheme that costs an extra 4-6 cents if you don’t cancel at the end of the contract. Even with supposed deregulation the electric rates just keep going up.

          • Have you looked into solar panels?

          • I don’t plan on living here another 20 years to recoup the cost. Also I have many 125’+ tall trees to deal with.

          • You ought to put a pencil to it just for fun. After incentives, payback might be closer 10 years or even less. Of course the trees (and roof angle) are another matter.

          • I did that a while back and I know things have only gotten cheaper since. The big problem is the trees and my roof orientation being all wrong it. I would get 50% or less of the light compared to not having any tree obstructions and a southerly facing roof slope.

      • Kyle – You used the perfect word… PHEVs and hybrids are “compromise” vehicles. You compromise on performance, style, cargo space so you can feel green because for at lease a little while, it’s an EV.

        Some people are OK with a “compromise” vehicle. Not me.

    • It is very easy to charge at RV Parks, Motels, and other car dealerships. We are also on Plugshare which is free charging except maybe to take someone out to dinner.There are no superchargers in my entire state. Going north is out of range to hit a supercharger so we can use another charger. One RV park charged up a $1.00 for 200 miles of charge but most are so interested in the car that it is always free. In 1400 miles of driving we have only paid $15.00 to charge away from home.

      • Correction – 14,000 miles of driving in five months.

    • I count two superchargers along 395 near Yosemite. Seems like it wouldn’t have been a problem with a Tesla at all…

  • “However as the Tesla Supercharger network expands, the Gigafactory and its inevitable competitors come online, and methods for faster charging are perfected, it may well be a mere 5 years before ICE vehicles really are obsolete.”

    20 years is more like it. 5 years from now, more than 90% of the vehicles on the road would still be ICE. Wanna bet?

    • No, but I think a share of your action might be profitable.

    • poison food is a crime, poison drinking water is a crime, poison cats and dogs is a crime, poison air by gas cars nobody says nothing.
      marion stay home and run your gascar in your garage and stay with it. gascars a deadly poison.
      gascars need a revaluation and a ban.
      begin with big city centers.

      only full EV allowed. how come people dont care a poisoned air.
      always thought your smart.

      • She’s being a bit negative, but unfortunately, she’s probably right on this one. Nothing against Marion, I just don’t like the facts. It would be nice if we could be in a position to have mostly EVs by 2020…or even 2030 for that matter.

        It’s going to be very interesting to see how governmental mandates change (hopefully quickly) as the impacts of human-caused climate change heat up (literally).

      • Why are cigarettes still on the market? They should have been banned 50 years ago. The government doesn’t act for the good of the public. It acts for large commercial interests.

    • “5 years from now, more than 90% of the vehicles on the road would still be ICE.”

      True because people keep their cars a long time, but what percentage of new car sales will be plug ins, either EVs or plug in hybrids?

    • Seeing the recent closures of some local gas stations, I think 20 years might be too long. Without the foot traffic, the urban gas station will continue to dwindle, decreasing competition and convenience, and increasing gas prices, which would accelerate the transition. Without a nearby gas station, ICE’s lose their primary advantage of “fast refueling”.

      With over 50% of the population living in urban areas, I think we could see more than 10% EV’s on the road in 6 years. Probably a little optimistic, but with enough EV’s on the road, the ICE will be viewed as obsolete by that time.

    • Obsolete means something different here.

      Kinda a stretch of the definition I agree. But I think they mean that ICE won’t be the focus of new car sales in the passenger segments.
      It will still take a generation or so, to replace the entire fleet.

      • Yes, that is a pretty close description of what I meant.

    • No betting on this one. First you have to define obsolete. My definition of obsolete is that EVs will be preferable for all but long trips and usable even for long trips. That is already true of the model S and Tesla intends to increase battery capacity to 100kwhrs so the range will exceed 300 miles for their mass market EV. EVs are nicer ride, better performance bang for the buck and more convenient. Looking at the progress over the last 5 years and the huge increase in resources being poured into the industry and it is clear to me that the EV of 2020 will be a remarkable vehicle.

      That leaves economics. Cost of batteries will drop significantly. The remaining questions are what will happen to the cost of electricity and gasoline and how aggressively will the world choose to penalize climate unfriendly technology?

      In my view 5 years is unlikely but possible. 20 years, yeah, I would bet you on that. I would even bet you on 10 years. I think EVs will have annual sales of at least 25% of the market in 10 years.

  • Interesting article. Thanks. There have been many two-car household stories that I’ve read over the last several years in which one car was EV and the other ICE and I have friends who have this arrangement, which does seem to bear out the central thesis of this article.

    Could EVs make ICE vehicles obsolete in 5 years (by 2020)? The writer is perhaps and optimist. I think a conversion by 2030 is possible though for all vehicles except for perhaps very large mining or other special-purpose industrial vehicles. I don’t see an airplane flying nonstop from NY to Hong Kong as an EV any time soon.

  • The range of EVs really isn’t the issue at all; its just the lack of available stations. If the number of gas stations matched the number and location of EV stations, people would have range anxiety with their ICE cars. An EV with a range of at least 100-150 mi (160-240 km) is perfectly fine. Who can seriously travel any longer than that without going to the bathroom?

    • Not just charging stations but fast charging stations…and cars that can fast charge. Fast charging should be mandatory on all new EVs imho. My EV (2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive) does not have fast charging…

      • Why would manufacturers not provide fast charging capability? It only increases the desirability of the car.

        • Yet another misunderstanding of what their customers want / need?

    • I have a leaf, and with my 60 mile daily commute (work + picking up the kids after school + heater use during the winter), more chargers isn’t the answer I’m looking for. I have a 7.2kw charger at home that gets me through in a pinch, but I’d rather not have to stop to charge during the day. More range preferred over chargers!

  • I’m surprised that 9.2% of households don’t own a car…and that 1.8% own 5 or more.

    • The 9.2% who don’t are probably inner city dwellers, served well by public transportation and the like. The 1.8% with 5 or more cars? Who’s to say that 3 or 4 of those 5 are simply perched on cinder blocks, “decorating” the yard, but with titles that get renewed annually?

  • My Leaf regularly travels further than its maximum range in one day. How? Charging at home between trips: Round trip to kid’s school. Charge at home. Round trip to work. Charge at home. Round trip to 1st kid’s activity. Charge at home. Round trip to 2nd kid’s activity. Charge at home. Round trip anywhere for mom and dad’s sanity. Charge at home. That was one day – charging 5 times – at home – no public chargers – way over the maximum range.

    (I understand not everyone is like me – just sharing my experience relative to maximum range)

  • We don’t need to convince consumers that short range electric vehicles are all they need. We need to convince the makers of short range electric vehicles to offer larger battery pack options and let consumers choose what they’re willing to pay for.

    Most Model S owners chose to pay an extra $10k to upgrade from a 208 mile range to 265. If Nissan offer a 36 kWh option priced $8k over it 24 kWh base model, say 135 mile range versus 80, I bet the majority of Leaf buyers would take up this option. An extra 12 kWh for $8k should be quite profitable for Nissan. Of course, Nissan won’t know this until they give consumers the option.

  • Actually, I owned a Nissan Leaf, and I was debilitated by range anxiety. I could leave my house with a full charge, and worry about how I was going to get back if: the wind was against me, it was winter which effects the available range, I had one too many hills to climb, or I was carrying too much stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I think EVs are where the future is headed, and the Teslas look amazing, but I’m here to tell you “range anxiety” is mother*cking real.

    • I agree. The tipping point to not having range anxiety is having enough range so that in any given day, regardless of conditions (temp, hills, load, etc), you still have plenty of juice when you get home. I think 250 miles is the magic number. Tesla owners definitely do not have the anxiety issues that Leaf owners have. I can’t imagine having to worry about wind speed or running the heater, etc.

  • Electric motors were ALWAYS better than internal combustion engines.

    ICE cars won’t even be around by 2030.

    Elon did it, the business model is better, the numbers locked in, the future set.

    • Do you mean MFRS won’t be selling them or there won’t be any on the roads?

      • ICE cars will be analogous to computer hard drives…
        There’s still lots of hard drives out there, and in big commercial applications like datacenters, hard drives will continue to make sense, but for consumer devices, the transition is clear… solid-state drives (SSDs) have won

  • “Having two drivetrains significantly increases the mechanical complexity and cost…”

    “Tesla Model S is…”

    You see the contradiction, right?

    • No… Not at all. Model S is a full-size premium luxury sedan, Volt is not. If you’re gonna make it about purchase price, you need to compare apples to apples. Model S is price competitive to other sedans in its’ class, like Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, etc. (and in fact, Model S outsells most other models in its class in US).

      My point was that the complexity of dual drivetrains incurs lots of cost, yet each drivetrain is compromised in terms of performance, in order to accommodate the other drivetrain. So you have the expense of two drivetrains without a cumulative performance benefit of two drivetrains.

      So if you cost-compare Volt to other cars in its class with single drivetrains (EV only or ICE only), Volt is significantly more expensive.
      In-Class Comparison:
      2015 Volt (Hybrid): $46,000 MSRP
      2015 Leaf (EV): $34,000 MSRP
      2015 Focus (ICE): $30,000 MSRP

      • Valid points. I just thought it was interesting that you listed cost as one of the reasons you dismissed the Volt and then proceeded to buy a Model S.

        Also, I feel the need to defend the Volt as it is affordable for a much larger portion of the population that the Model S. It allows most people to do most of their driving on electric, yet I see a lot of people dismiss it because of its lack of “purity”. Strangely enough, many of those same people will recommend keeping around a gasmobile for when you need to drive farther than the EV that they recommend would allow.

      • When the 3 comes out, Volt is all but dead. Is a short lived transition car. Hybrids have a life, even plug ins, but plug ins make no sense when EVs get to around 200 miles at 30k$. Thats too soon for PHEVs to make a mark. And yes, they are the worst of all worlds. All the downsides of an ICE and EV combined in one. More expensive than an EV or a hybrid. Honestly, I see no reason to buy a PHEV compared to a hybrid. 10k$ more for what?

  • FIRST all who changes the oil every three to four weeks? Second of all it is a myth that range anxiety is a myth. You can say range anxiety isn’t real all day long but that doesn’t change reality. True, people who knowingly purchase a leaf or i3 as a second short distance commuter car may not have range anxiety, but most people need a car to be capable of meeting their needs 100% of the time. So quit whistling past the graveyard and Instead encourage manufacturers to address the cold hard reality of range anxiety. Remember the first step in overcoming a problem is to acknowledge its existence

  • Consider the working family that drives less than 70 mile a day and is suffering budget problems paying for gas. A used Leaf for $14k could be an excellent purchase. While we don’t yet have lower priced long distance EVs there are a number of people who could do quite well with a used lower range EV.

    The average driver has a <40 mile per day routine. Using a simple 120 VAC outlet the Leaf can charge at a five miles per hour rate. For someone who spends at least 10 hours at home at night that's a 50 mile charge up.

    If one needs to charge faster then installing a 240 VAC outlet costs roughly $250 when done by an electrician. That's a month or two of "gas savings".

    And if you drain your Tesla every day then you can install a rapid charger. Not cheap, but if you're driving a couple hundred miles every day then it will pay for itself quickly.

    We don't yet know what battery life will be. In general it's looking like batteries are holding up much better than expected. And do remember, by the time EVs are eight years old the price of batteries should be considerably less. Eight years is only the warranty period. Gasmobiles often come with only 3 year, 36,000 mile warranties but we anticipate 100,000 miles of mostly trouble free driving.

    Apartments and workplaces are starting to install charge outlets. Some building departments are starting to require either some outlets or at least conduit run for future outlets. Places to charge will increase with time. Remember, this first modern generation of EVs is not yet five years old.

    • The batteries are grossly polluting.

      • Let’s see the data to support your claim.

        We wouldn’t want people to think you posting FUD, would we….

  • We’re still in EV pre-school, not even yet in kindergarten. Give the industry a little time get out of its training pants before you expect grown up performance. EVs aren’t yet affordable for most of the people who rent apartments. We’ll solve the ‘where to charge’ problem as time goes along.

    There’s a forum on the Tesla site where owners discuss their range changes per mile. What I’ve seen in my informal reading is that most people are finding ranges to hold – wait – I think I did save a graph.

    Found it. Bottom of page.

    Reports out of China for the BYD e6 EVs that have been put into taxi service are that those batteries are holding up very well. Many of the cars are constantly rapidly recharged during driver meal breaks. They stay in service 24 hours per day.

    Rotterdam reports over 4,000 cycles in their BYD tests. At 190 miles per cycle that’s a 760,000 mile battery.

  • You make an important point. There were two primary points of the article. The first is that for a substantial number of households EVs have plenty of range to serve as the second car. The second is that while cost and usage patterns do not suggest that the time has come for all cars to be EVs there is plenty of addressable market for EVs to reach sufficient scale to be considered mainstream. And as volume rises, the costs (especially for batteries) will drop substantially thus putting EVs in reach of those who were cut out due to economics earlier. This post offers some perspective on the cost declines in response to volume:

    Elon Musk has been pretty clear that his strategy is to leverage early
    adopters to give him the foundation on which to build more affordable
    EVs. Commencement of construction of the Gigafactory is pretty strong evidence that he is serious about his road map.

    • Let’s try it a different way. Perhaps there are even more households for an EV as the primary car.

      I’d bet most households have their longest commute within the range of a Nissan Leaf. Max 30 miles each way.

      An ICEV, something like a six year old Camry with 50k to 80k miles should be reliable enough for the infrequent long trips most people make. Drive the ICEV on the short commute, save max fuel costs by driving the long one with the EV.

      With a bit of looking one could likely find a very usable 2nd car for under $10k and a three year ‘off the lease’ Leaf for $12k.

      Put away the fuel savings and replace the ICEV with a T3/Bolt coming off lease in about five years.

      Variations on that sort of alternative thinking should open up EVs to a lot more households.

      • That’s a great point. There are probably many single car households that will be very happy with an EV. Even a relatively small percentage of single car households would be sufficient to support the scale needed to drive costs down the learning curve making EVs affordable for an ever growing portion of the population. Throw in the multi-car households and it is pretty much a no-brainer. That is probably why the Gigafactory is now on an accelerated schedule with expectations that production will start next year rather than 2017.

  • The problem here is that a sizable percentage of people drive just far enough, just often enough to make EVs a hassle. For example, I drive a little over 100 miles three days a week, with no real opportunity to recharge until I get home at night. So if Toyota’s RAV4 EV had provided a 200 mile range instead of 100, I’d have bought one last year. With their roughly 100-mile maximum range, it was way too close to my typical commute for me to ever be able to trust it to get me home, even with a brand new battery, before the capacity starts to taper off with age. (And my driveway makes switching cars highly impractical—I’ve tried it. So if I can’t do everything with one car, I can’t realistically buy that car.)

    IMO, every EV company should offer two options: the 100-mile battery and the 250-mile (or more) battery. Charge accordingly. See how many people buy each one. I think the car companies will be shocked at how many people spend the extra money for the extra range, just for peace of mind. For sure, it would make the difference between me owning one and just shouting futilely at the car companies, “Take my money!”

    • We’re likely short years from the basic EV having a 200 mile range. It’s just a matter of batteries dropping a bit more.

      A good, solid 200 miles and rapid chargers will make EVs work for just about anyone.

      • Yeah, I’ve seen reports of Chevy doing a vehicle with 200-mile range. That’s the starting point of being usable. It would still be a little dicey for me at times, but not often enough to prevent it from being my main car. With that said, 250 miles would really be the sweet spot, particularly when you factor in declining battery capacity over time. 🙂

        • I see 200 solid miles as the threshold of usability for almost all drivers. Even those times when you need 250 you’d need to stop only a few minutes at a fast charger. The Tesla SuperCharger will pack in 170 miles in 30 minutes, so 50 miles in less than 10 minutes.

          That said, I don’t expect EVs to get to 200 miles and stop. Battery capacity should keep improving, making longer range available for the same price. I can see EVs reaching a point at which there could be multiple range versions available. A 200 mile range “Camry” and a 400 mile range version.

  • Thanks very much for the reply. I really appreciate it. You get the “A” in the class.

    You are correct. I’m not calculating $/gallon equivalent.

    Except perhaps for a few physicists, I don’t think consumers care about how much energy a gallon of gas contains in kWhs. What they care about, I think, is how much they have to pay for the electricity to travel the same distance in an EV as they travel in their ICE car on a gallon of gas. I think these numbers reflect that.

    Using your costs:

    Your EV: 19.2 kWh * $0.14/kWh (your electricity rate) = $2.69 / 73.7 miles (how far you drove) = $0.03649 per mile

    Your ICE car: $3.038 per gallon gas (your average cost) / 31 mpg = $0.098 per mile

    “Electric gallon” cost= 0.03649 / 0.098 * $3.038 = $1.13

    15,000 miles/31 mpg = 483.87 gallons of gasoline usage per year in your ICE car

    483.87 gallons * $3.038 per gallon = $1470 yearly cost of gasoline

    483.87 “electric gallons” * $1.13 per “electric gallon” = $546.77 yearly cost of electricity for you

    $1470 – $546.77 = $923.23 annual fuel savings.

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