Electric car range is one of the most important EV considerations. If you are looking at a new EV, or planning a DIY project, range will be of prime importance. For new car buyers, there are 3 main classes of EV these days, the HEV, PHEV and BEV.
If you want range plus some EV in your car consider an HEV or hybrid EV. The HEV will typically travel 2-4 miles on electric power alone, but are great in the city for stopping and starting a lot.
Next on the EV food chain is the PHEV. The plug-in EV has up to 10 times the battery storage of the HEV and you can go from around 10 to 50 miles on battery power alone with a gas engine onboard to recharge the pack while driving or to assist in moving the car down the road. Check our EV Specifications section for distances.
Finally there is the pure battery EV or BEV. Range on these cars varies from 50 up to several hundred with actual range depending on temperature, wind, weight and hills.
Driver Trips - the Facts on Commuting
There is a lot of discussion regarding commute, travel, and trip needs. There seems to be an equal amount of confusion. The facts (chart below) show that most one way trips are actually less than 40 miles! This does not include those long vacation trips across the mountains, which are few and far between in reality.
In the USA for instance, facts show that in the past 10 years, the average one-way commute is actually 12 miles or less. This is an average of hundreds of small and large communities and cities, so your commute may vary considerably. However, the fact is that many, many commutes can be made in currently available electric cars.
Driver Trips - the Facts on Household Trips
The US Federal Highway Administration has studied household travel and found out that over 1/2 of all household drives in the country are from 1 to 10 miles. In terms of total miles driven, it is around 1/3 of total miles drive. Either way, every EV on the market can cover around 1/3 of miles driven in the country.
At the other end of the scale, trips of over 100 miles make up just 15% of total miles driven. People seem to worry a lot about the 15% however. That is why it is called Range "Anxiety."
Anxiety is just that, worry over feelings, not facts.
Driver Trips - the Perception
So if most driver trips could be made in an EV, why are people shy to try? Neglecting price for a moment, it appears that people's perceptions about required range do not exactly match the facts about how far they are actually driving.
The EV charger company Aerovironment looked into driver perceptions of range and found that most drivers were only willing to cover one-half the distance of the range in their vehicles. This matches the conventional car driver practice of never letting the tank drop below 1/2 full. Drivers seem to need to keep a large reserve of range on tap.
In a similar test, Aeroviroment provided a single fast charger well inside the range of the test car. However, most drivers hardly ventured more than 10 miles from the charger, even when provided with a 93 mile range! This must have something more to do with human nature than common sense.
That is why they call it range anxiety. Anxiety is not always reality. Electric car range while limited, may also be affected by perceptions. Check the facts.
AAA to the Rescue
In the USA, the triple A has the first program in North America to rescue stranded EV drivers. Drivers out of range can get a 15 minute boost to sent them on their way. AAA traveling trucks offer Level 2 and 3 charges to stranded motorists in 6 different metro areas: Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Tampa Bay, Florida.
Household Trip Lengths, Courtesy U.S. FHA
Commute Trip Lengths, Courtesy U.S. DOT
Battery EV Ranges
If you want an BEV for practical, long distance, relaxed travel there are few EV options today aside from the Tesla Model S series. Even with a Model S, long distance charge station network is not yet well developed in most places.
However, for local commuting, the situation is reversed. There are plenty of EV options.
Recent analysis by the Idaho National Laboratory shows that Nissan Leaf electric cars were driven on average 30 miles per day. The same work revealed that the Chevy Volt owners have been driving their cars an average 36 miles per day. Chinese drivers in the BMW Mini E lease program drove their cars an average of just 49km/30.5 miles per day in the worlds largest car market.