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Published on September 16th, 2018 | by Dr. Maximilian Holland

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Tesla Model 3 Standard Range vs. Best of the Rest – Which Affordable EV to Choose?

September 16th, 2018 by  


In the coming months, with some timing and volume variations by region, you will be able to choose from many affordable, generous range, compelling, and all-around-capable EVs that are coming on to the market. Whilst the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range is arguably the most keenly anticipated of the bunch, all of these EVs are great cars, much better than any fossil fuel vehicle (FFV) equivalent. How are they better? EVs are smoother, more powerful, more relaxing, more pleasant, and quieter to drive than FFVs. They are also more mechanically reliable, have much low running costs (anywhere between half and a tenth of the cost to “refill the tank” depending on your region and electricity plan), and have much lower maintenance costs.

EVs are also comparatively future proof, whilst FFVs will increasingly become stranded assets in the not-too-distant future. EVs have no pollution, so are allowed free entry into low- or zero-emission zones, have low or no annual road tax, and often get other perks, like free parking, free recharging, and free use of toll roads. Meanwhile, dirty FFVs are facing increasing bans and restrictions due to causing pollution, damage to human health, and a large number of premature deaths. Let’s say it clearly — the pollution from FFVs, especially in cities, is literally killing people. (The violent conflicts over the oil that fuels FFVs are also killing people).

Meanwhile the new generation of long-range affordable EVs are so attractive and in such high demand relative to all other cars, that used prices currently often exceed new prices. That’s right, as well as having super-low running costs, many of the new generation of EVs have negative depreciation. (More on this in a coming article!) Tell that to anyone who tries to parrot the old myth that EVs are more expensive to own than FFVs. This situation will last for a while, since demand for all of these all-around-capable EVs will outpace supply for a good few years, keeping used prices very high.

New EV Efficiency Data

On the back of some new efficiency and range data released on the Chevy Bolt (Opel Ampera-e) last week, it’s time for an update to compare the affordable EVs coming onto the market and how their relative efficiency, range, and recharging performance stack up. There are plenty of these EVs to choose from, offering several form factors and various trim levels, options, colors, etc. Most of the regular car reviewers focus on the options and trims, but don’t spend enough time on the important technical performance merits of different EVs. Manufactures and dealers are also usually near silent about the technical performance, or at worst give misleading figures, whilst bombarding potential customers with trim and color options. Experienced EV owners know that the technical performance merits are an important foundation for a good ownership experience, and we focus on these qualities here.

The data gurus Bo and Jason over at A Better Route Planner (ABRP) have produced their first round of real-world efficiency, range, and charging performance data from the Chevy Bolt (Opel Ampera-E).

I requested guru Jason (head of data analysis and vehicle modeling) to graph up some efficiency comparisons using their extensive data on Tesla models, which we are going to use as a starting point here. Happily, Jason included a provisional range vs. speed model/projection for the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range, derived from the data they have for the Tesla Model 3 Long Range. For the moment, ABRP are simply scaling their Standard Range model based on the data from the Long Range and existing data about the relative battery sizes. Tesla may tune the motor of the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range to be marginally more efficient than the more expensive sibling, and it should be 80–100 kg lighter also. For now, we simply assume a straight scaling model and allow that the Standard Range’s efficiency may slightly outperform our expectations. Let’s see what this scalar model of the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range looks like, and then we can compare it to some of the other affordable EVs coming onto the market that we already have some data on. The Tesla Model S60 is also included in the efficiency charts, for comparison purposes:

Click to embiggen.

For most daily commutes and local driving in urban or semi-urban areas at moderate speeds, all the new generation of affordable EVs have more than enough range to get the job done day in, day out. In fact, if this is your car’s only duty cycle, you can actually save money by picking up a second-hand older generation EV of more modest range and still get the benefits of relaxed driving (especially in traffic), great responsiveness, great reliability, low maintenance, and very low energy costs.

The currently arriving generation of affordable, generous range EVs are designed to be true all-rounders, competent for any use case, including those occasional longer journeys that many drivers might make a few times per year. If your household only owns one vehicle (as most of the world’s car-owning households do), these new generation EVs are up to the job. It’s precisely on those longer journeys that their generous driving range becomes useful. Since long journeys are usually undertaken at highway speeds, and local driving doesn’t come close to testing their range, comparing their energy and range performance at these higher speeds is the relevant yard stick to see if they have what it takes.

Typical highway speeds vary by region, usually in the range of 110 to 130 km/h (68 to 81 mph). A useful metric to examine, therefore, is an EV’s driving range when cruising at 120 km/h (75 mph). High-speed cruising is about the most demanding test of an EV’s range, due to greatly increased air resistance at high speeds. If 120 km/h (75 mph) is a higher speed than you normally cruise at, you can rest easy, because every EV’s range will be that much better at gentler speeds. A quick look at the above charts shows that you can typically add roughly 10% more range by dropping to 110 km/h (68 mph) or 20% more range by dropping to 100 km/h (62 mph). As an extreme example, Bjørn Nyland has already demonstrated that the Kona EV (a representative member of the new generation of affordable EVs) can be driven 830 km (516 miles) on one charge — if driven at low speeds. But here we examine realistic high speeds that most folks are accustomed to on long journeys.

Combining Range & Recharging Performance

Note that we assume your usable driving range is from 100% down towards empty but, like in any car, not down to completely empty. We use 10% as the point at which you aim to top up. So the below graph represents using 90% of the full range during the initial driving stage. If your journey is more than 180–190 miles (290-306 km) — around 2.5 hours of high-speed driving — then you’ll need a recharge. This is where the fast recharging capability of an EV becomes relevant. Most driving safety advisories recommend resting after 2 hours of driving and taking a 15+ minute break. We model here for 90% of range (typically 2.5 hours of driving) and then a 30 minute rest and charge break. Most EVs need 30+ minutes for a decent recharge, so using 30 minutes as our benchmark sets a level playing field to compare the EVs’ recharging performance. In practice, you can adjust this recharge time higher or lower if it suits your journey pattern, to add more or less range.

For most of the new generation of EVs, we already have robust real-world range and charging data from ABRP, Fastned, Bjørn Nyland, and other expert sources. Where we only have provisional data for a particular EV, this is noted as {Estimated}. Allow +/- 3% errors for these estimates, and we will update future charts with more accurate data as it emerges. Just for comparison, I’ve included a couple of more expensive EVs (Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model 3 Long Range, both greyed out). Including these only goes to make the good value of the affordable models stand out more.

A quick note on charging infrastructure: Whilst the full green area of the columns below represents range added in 30 minutes on optimal chargers, these chargers are not yet widely available. However, Ionity has plans to have very high-power (350 kW) chargers at 400 location across Europe by sometime in 2020, and Electrify America has similar plans for the US. Also, 100+ kW chargers do exist and will grow quickly in numbers from now on. The black arrows on the chart columns represent the minimum range you will regain from 30 minutes on the base 50 kW chargers, which are currently most common. The Teslas are a breed apart when charging, reliably getting up to 120 kW charging speeds on the widespread Supercharger network.

Click to embiggen.

It’s immediately clear that all of these EVs are perfectly capable of making comfortable longer journeys. They’re all good for an initial driving stage (blue column) of 180-190 miles (290–306 km), which is around 2½ hours driving at 75 mph (120 km/h). If your final destination is within this range (or less), you can skip the fast charge and just charge when you park at the end of your journey. If your final destination if fractionally more than the 90% range noted on the chart, you may want to trim your cruising speed to 110 km/h (68 mph) to boost your range by 10% and avoid a fast charge break. You could also push your state of charge down to 5% (rather than the default 10%) if you’re sure there’s a charger waiting for you at your destination (but we don’t advise planning on going lower than this). If you still have a way to go after 180–190 miles (290–306 km) and 2½ hours, most folks will be glad to take a break by this point, if not before. Continuing on from there, the most efficient EVs (the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range and the 2020 model year Nissan Leaf E-Plus) are capable of giving you another ~2 hours of high-speed driving for every 30 minute mid-trip break. That’s a comfortable balance on a long trip.

You will need to find 100 kW (or higher) chargers for the Leaf E-Plus to get the best charging speeds, otherwise your 30 minutes (on basic 50 kW chargers) will be adding just over half the best-case recharged range. We’ve seen evidence that the Leaf will be capable of charging at least 102 kW on suitable equipment, putting it near the territory of Tesla Supercharging speeds. Both the Tesla Model 3 Standard Rang and the Leaf E-Plus can add a lot of range from a 30 minute charge, but until the Leaf’s charging infrastructure builds out to being comparable with the Tesla’s, the latter definitely has the competitive edge. Note that we’ve recently learned that the Leaf E-Plus won’t now appear until well into 2019, so for now I’m branding it a 2020 model year. Disappointing, but there are other good options available sooner!

On optimal chargers, a 30 minute break gives the Hyundai Kona just over an hour and 20 mins more high-speed cruising range, and gives the Kia Niro just under that much. It will be less if you’re limited to only using the more common 50 kW chargers, however. Either way, you may want to trim your speed slightly (10–20%) to get better range between breaks and/or extend those breaks to 40–45 minutes in the Kona and Niro, to regain closer to 2 hours of onward driving. These are both great choices for young families.

Whilst the range of the Bolt’s initial driving stage is on par with its peers, it lags a bit on recharging capability — 45–60 minute breaks are needed to give 2 hours of onward high-speed cruising. The Bolt is marginally better on 100+ kW chargers than on the more common 50 kW type, but not by much. Again, though, you can trim your speed a bit to increase your effective range.

Notice that the Jaguar I-Pace is overall very similar to the Bolt in its trip profile capability, although it’s more than twice the price of most of the EVs here. You will also need to find 100+ kW chargers to access it’s full 85 kW charging capability, much needed for its large battery and modest efficiency. Jaguar is working on a software update to try to tweak efficiency to benefit range, but don’t expect miracles. For leisurely day trips and sightseeing drives with a relaxed lunch in your schedule, the I-Pace offers a great driving experience, but it’s only for well-heeled folks.

Happy Patterns

On a very long drive, people will want to take a slightly longer meal break at some point, likely lasting 45–60 minutes. In general, it’s good to find a pattern of alternating between 30 minute rest breaks and 60 minute meal breaks on super long journeys. That will give you 4½ to 5 hour gaps (covering 250 to 300+ miles) between meals.

In adverse weather conditions, you’ll want to drive more carefully and a bit slower (the run of traffic speed is usually lower anyway in poor conditions) and take more frequent breaks. These adjustments will easily compensate for the reduced range that cold and wet conditions can cause for EVs.

Hardcore road trippers who want to drive at high speeds for 3½ hours straight can do so in the Tesla Model 3 Long Range. This currently costs 40% more money than the Standard Range, because right now you have to also option the premium upgrade package in order to get the Long Range battery. So we’re certainly not including the Long Range in the affordable category. Tesla is keen to boost its margins any way it can for the next couple of quarters, and the company’s vehicles are still much better value than FFV options. In time, the long-range battery will be available as a stand-alone option, at a more affordable 26% price bump over the standard range. Not cheap, but guaranteed to be the popular choice for hardcore road trippers.

Takeaway

With this new generation, affordable EVs are finally coming of age. Whilst the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range (and the Leaf E-Plus when it finally arrives) have the best recharging speeds — and the Tesla easily has the most extensive charging network — the truth is that all of these EVs are highly capable all-around vehicles, each suitable as the only car needed for most drivers and families. It’s the reason why they are in such high demand and their used prices are staying close to (or sometimes increasing over) the purchase price. Check the pricing and availability in your region, as well as incentives, and jump in early to make sure you get hold of one!

I want to thank Bo and Jason over at ABRP for going out of their way to provide me with the solid data here (any mistakes in interpreting the data are my own). The ABRP mission is “to make everyday use of EVs – for all needs of transportation – safe, simple and natural. Simply put, to spread knowledge of the universal usability of EVs to a wider audience.” Their route planning tool is excellent and free to use, and you can jump in to help their mission by passing them your own real-world EV driving data to improve their (already highly accurate) modeling. Check out their blog for details on how to do that.

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About the Author

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking about social and environmental justice, sustainability and the human condition. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona.



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