Ever since the Lucid Air went on sale, the interwebs have been buzzing with speculation about whether Tesla would get into a “range war” with Lucid. The Air has the longest range of any of the production electric cars you can buy today, 520 miles according to the EPA. That’s a whole lot more than the Tesla Model S Long Range, which has an EPA rating of 405 miles.
In a tweet this week, Elon Musk said Tesla is not really interested in getting into a contest with Lucid or anyone else to see who can build electric cars with the longest range.
We could’ve made a 600 mile Model S 12 months ago, but that would’ve made the product worse imo, as 99.9% of time you’d be carrying unneeded battery mass, which makes acceleration, handling & efficiency worse. Even our 400+ mile range car is more than almost anyone will use.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 2, 2022
Consumer Reports senior policy analyst Chris Harto agrees with Musk. He tells Business Insider, “We see 250 to 300 miles as the sweet spot for most consumers, where most consumers are going to be able to do all of their daily driving, weekly driving, using a vehicle with that kind of range.”
In last year’s pot-smoking interview with Joe Rogan, Musk asked why automakers don’t offer supersized gas tanks that offer 2,000 miles of range. “People basically figured out that actually carrying that much fuel around, it’s not worth it. Some of this stuff you can do for bragging rights, but then bragging rights are going to get old fast.”
Charging Speed vs. Range
When fast chargers were few and far between, the range of electric cars was pretty important — and it still is. Realistically, we know that bashing the superslab at 85 mph, towing a camper, driving in freezing temperatures, and climbing mountains all take a toll on range. So it’s not like range isn’t important. It’s just that being able to recharge on trips in a half hour or less instead of an hour or more is a huge paradigm shift. As a practical matter, few of us want to be behind the wheel for 5, 6, or 7 hours straight.
We also — most of us, anyway — are not driving more than a few hundred miles in a typical day and enjoy the luxury of recharging our batteries overnight. The typical EV driver plugs in once or twice a week, so the range metric is a sideshow that has little relevance to everyday driving needs. And when it does matter, fast chargers will soon be able to keep us charged up while we take a restroom break, grab a coffee, and stretch our legs.
Efficiency of Electric Cars
The true measure of an electric car is efficiency, and one measure of efficiency is how much energy is needed to travel one mile at 60 mph. In a recent article, my colleague Johnna Crider told us about a detailed analysis of the Lucid Air Dream and the Tesla Model S Plaid performed by MotorMatchup, which found the power needed to overcome air resistance and rolling resistance — taking into account the curb weight, coefficient of drag, and coefficient of rolling resistance — was 12.295 kW for the Tesla Model S Plaid and 12.46 kW for the Lucid Air Dream.
So, what’s the difference between the two cars? Battery size and price. The Lucid is a very efficient car and kudos to Rawlinson and his team for accomplishing that. But every car is a compendium of compromises. Bigger batteries cost more and have a higher carbon footprint. More weight requires more powerful motors and bigger brakes, along with beefier suspension components and crash protection structures.
Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, was the original champion of efficiency. “To go faster, add lightness,” he said. Elon is right. Massive batteries that require their full capacity less than 1% of the time are costly and wasteful. Peter Rawlinson is also right. A car that can go 520 miles before recharging is inherently appealing to many drivers.
This is why they make Coke and Pepsi, why there is a Burger King across the street from every McDonald’s, and why you can buy both chocolate and vanilla ice cream at your local grocery store. The takeaway is this: Drive an electric car. Be happy!
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