Some electric car manufacturers seem to blithely ignore long battery range. That’s a mistake. Electric car newbies take note.
[Updated with comments from Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson.]
A friend said to me recently that he was planning to buy a 2019 Audi e-tron at a “steep discount” when the last of the 2019 inventory* is being pushed off the lot. That e-tron, with 204 miles of EPA-rated range, would be his first EV.
“It’ll be fine for me. I don’t need really long range,” he said.
I told him he would regret it. The problem is, car buyers new to EVs (and there are tens of millions in the U.S.) don’t understand EVs.
Three words that matter most: range, range, range
An EV with an EPA estimated range of around 200 miles is in most cases not going to get 200 miles. Often not even close.
Instead, you’ll get anywhere between 75 miles and 150 miles, depending on how cold it is, what kind of topography you encounter during your drive, whether your AC is on, and whether you faithfully charged your car the night before — or any number of variables** that affect battery range. (My EV is rarely fully charged and often only 50-60 percent charged).
It’s that moment of truth that brings it home. That “oh, s***” flash point when you realize you don’t have enough battery to get where you need to be in a hurry. And you’re 15 miles away from the nearest charging station and that “fast charge” takes 45 minutes.
Tesla knows this and you should pay attention
Tesla is constantly striving to boost the range of its cars and come up with better battery technology (and faster charging speeds).
Its cheapest version of the Model Y, for example, is offered only as a long-range config — 316 miles. That’s a calculated decision by Tesla. Anything less, is so 2017.
“I think the new normal for Range is going to be just in U.S. EPA terms approximately 300 miles. So, I think people will really come to expect that as some number close to 300 miles as normal.”
—Elon Musk, Tesla’s July 22 second quarter 2020 earnings conference call
Musk, of course, is right. Any automaker in their right mind shouldn’t be selling a new EV by the fall of 2021 with anything less than 300 miles of range or, at the very least, a model that offers that kind of range as an option.
Otherwise, you’ll have first-time buyers ruing the day they bought an EV, trading in the car a year later, and writing off electrics forever.
Startup EV manufacturer Lucid gets it too.
“Range and efficiency are widely recognized as the most relevant proof points by which EV technical prowess is measured,” Lucid Motors CEO and CTO, Peter Rawlinson, said in a statement sent to me in email.
“For the owner of the Lucid Air, having over 500 miles on a single charge means a genuine sense of ‘range confidence’ – something all EV owners should have,” Rawlinson said.
*My friend theorizes that Audi will eventually offer hefty discounts on the 2019 e-tron due to relatively lackluster sales in the U.S. and excess inventory.
**Some readers have pointed out the opposite: that, for example, in city driving you may get better range than the EPA estimate.
I’ve been driving/have owned EVs since 2013. I currently drive a 2018 Chevy Bolt. Before that I drove a Chevy Spark EV and Chevy Volt.
Comments or suggestions can be sent to me via a direct twitter message at twitter.com/mbrookec or firstname.lastname@example.org