A common question often asked in the EV world is how much range do I need? When purchasing an EV, this may be one of the foremost concerns for people who don't want to worry about running out of battery while on the road. While there is no direct way to answer this because everyone’s individual needs may vary, let’s talk a little more to see what some averages would be for a typical EV owner.
Already having been driving combustion engines for 100+ years, people have a certain mindset about filling up for gas. Think of it as a bias. Not technically bad, but it’s the habit that we’ve had and until recently there didn’t seem to be any need to change it. With that said, it’s safe to say there are probably too many gas stations in most areas. Gas stations are notoriously known for not actually making money on their Gasoline, or Diesel, but rather the food and drink, and car + detailing services. This may be why in the US they are so prolific and you can find them without driving more than a kilometer or two in most places. With EV’s starting to take hold across the world, we have a chance to redefine our relationship with charging or re-fueling. Batteries are some of the most expensive components of an electric vehicle, not to mention they are very heavy. This means there is a tradeoff for having more potential range because it will cost more money, take a longer time to charge, and be a heavier vehicle. In a gas powered vehicle as you continue to drive you are actually making the vehicle lighter because of the gas that’s being burned in the process. However, with an EV this is not the case. An average EV battery weighs around 454 Kilograms (1*)! With recent companies like Ford, GM and Rivian making Electric trucks which are likely heavier than normal cars and will require a bigger battery, you can guess that the batteries will be even heavier. In addition, while you are driving and depleting your EV battery, the weight doesn’t get lighter as a gas powered vehicle would.
Ideally people should seek out the range that best fits their needs. Having an 800 kilometer range for someone who works near their home and rarely travels more than 20 Km roundtrip, may not be necessary and one would be wasting money buying a range that far. The same concept goes with electronics. Yes we all would love to have a laptop battery that could hold a charge all day long and even multiple days. However, would you be willing to add an extra kilogram or two and a few cm’s of thickness to your machine? To some, the cost may outweigh the benefit.
Your city’s design:
This title is self-explanatory, if you live in an urban densely populated environment where most of your needs are not far away, the range you need will be less than if you are in a rural farming community. To piggyback on this idea, it does matter if you have home charging or have to charge outside. Those who have the home charging option have it the easiest because they can charge every time they come home, which is likely every night. If you live in an apartment community or rent a condo, etc., then you’ll need to find a reliable place to charge and therefore you’ll likely not want to do that everyday. You would also want to find fast charging stations because if you were charging level 2 away from your home, that wouldn’t make much sense considering you’d need to wait overnight for the charge to finish.
The first step to take here is to assess your normal driving needs. Go to google maps or any related mapping program online and start checking routes you normally drive and see what the distances are. Getting familiar with the available public level 2 and DC fast chargers would also be advisable (2*). Once you get a rough estimate an average day’s trip, add a 10% buffer for just in case situations and then compare multiple days Km totals to the battery capacity to see how often you’ll need to charge. If you find out that you’re taking 100 Km trips at least once a week then you may start to look into some of the longer range EV’s out there. If you realize they are all short distance trips then you can look at smaller options. Again smaller range usually equals less money. If money isn’t an issue, then being human you probably will choose a car with higher range or greater performance, because why not? But if you don’t have unlimited funds and are trying to find the most efficient EV for you, then it makes sense to weigh the pros and cons. Charging once every 1-4 days seems like a fair value if you have a home charger. If you’re charging publicly we would say every 3-5 days seems like a reasonable amount. This is purely opinion so take it as that.
I think it’s important to point out that range anxiety is exactly what it sounds like. How many of us get anxiety when the low gas light turns on? Even knowing there are gas stations right around the corner some people naturally still get anxious. Instead of focusing on the emotional side of range anxiety, it seems more beneficial to estimate your daily and weekly trips and figure out what’s reasonable. Weigh the pros and cons of distance vs. price and you’ll probably realize you don’t need as much range as you thought. We spend a great amount of time optimizing our lives, so why not optimize our EV needs?
The last thing to note here is that it has been recommended that you charge your battery to roughly 80% instead of the full 100% by some people. You also should not let your battery fall too low, ideally staying above 20% if you can help it. This is to maximize your battery life in the long run. Many EV’s will already have a function that’s built into their Battery Management System (BMS).
With the current range leader Lucid Motors coming in with a whopping 520 EPA rated range, this may be towards the higher end of future battery capacities. As DC fast chargers become more plentiful across the US and Europe, there just may not be a reason to have so many batteries packed into an EV. Ease your anxiety and find what range fits your lifestyle. Results may vary.