Electric Car Range
Recharging the Mitsubishi i MiEV
You can't discuss electric cars for very long before the discussion focuses on the electric car range. Wherever you go around the world, it is the number one concern that non-electric vehicle owners have about owning an electric car.
The reality is quite often very different from the perception. Many electric car owners will actually describe the freedom they feel that every time they go out to their cars in the morning. They know they have enough 'fuel' to go wherever they want to without the hassle and cost of visiting the filling station to refuel.
One electric car owner explains it like this: "It takes me nine seconds to charge up my electric car. That's the time it takes to plug it in when I get home. The next time I need to use the car, it is charged up."
How far can an electric car go?
The majority of battery powered cars that are available today have a range of between 40 miles (65km) and 100 miles (160km), which is far more than most people travel on a regular basis:
- According to the UK Department for Transport, that the average car journey is 6½ miles (10½km) with 93% of all journeys being less than 25 miles (40km).
- According to the US Department of Transportation, an average American driver travels 29 miles (46½km) per day by car, with an average single journey of around 12 miles (19km).
- Many people never travel more than 50 miles (80km) from their homes and many more will only travel further than 50 miles a few times each year.
How do I recharge an electric car?
For most electric cars, the 'charging point' required is usually a standard domestic power socket. Many electric car owners have been able to arrange to plug in to charge up their cars when they are at their destination (such as at work), thereby removing any range concerns and enabling them to travel further.
A full charge from a domestic socket typically takes between 5 and 10 hours, depending on both the car and the country (North America has 110v mains supply whereas the rest of the world has a 220v supply which can charge up electric cars faster). Many electric cars can provide an 80% charge in around 2-2½ hours from a domestic socket.
Some cars can also be fast charged using a dedicated charging point. These charging points provide a much higher current in order to charge up batteries faster. A fast charge typically allows your vehicle to be charged to 80%%% of its capacity within 30-45 minutes.
What electric car owners think about range
It is interesting to compare the concerns that non-electric car owners have about range with the perceptions that existing electric car owners have about range:
- Non-electric car owners perceive that range is going to be a constant issue. They believe that they will be restricted because they cannot simply visit a filling station to refuel their cars.
- Electric car owners like the fact that every time they go out to use their car it is fully charged up and ready to go. They have enough fuel to go wherever they need to and they'll never have to visit a filling station ever again.
If you are regularly travelling a longer distance between two points, between home and work for example, having a charging point at your destination may solve the problem. For instance, if you have an electric car with a range of 80 miles (130km), you can double this range if you can charge the car up again at your destination.
Several electric car owners use their cars for lots of short journeys throughout the day. The combined distance travelled during the day can be far greater than the range of the car if the car can be plugged in and recharged whenever it is parked.
What if I need to go further?
Of course, there are always people who have to regularly travel longer distances to different locations in their cars and for these people a better solution may be a hybrid, or a range extended electric car once these become available.
If you only need a long distance car occasionally, once a month or so, there are solutions available to you. Manufacturers and governments are both working hard to provide solutions for people who may need to travel longer distances on an occasional basis:
- Many countries already have a network of charging points in place. Some of these have been provided by government, some have been provided by industry and some have been provided by groups of electric vehicle enthusiasts:
- Many cities already have charging points, either at road sides or in car parks. Some cities, such as London and Paris, have plans to install tens of thousands of additional charging points over the next few years.
- Various companies are building a network of fast charging points that can charge up in around 30-45 minutes.
- Some shopping malls are introducing charging points and priority parking for electric car owners.
- In the UK, there is a network of charging points that has been set up and run by enthusiasts. This has become one of the most comprehensive charging networks anywhere in the world!
- Electric vehicle owners and clubs have worked with local businesses such as bars, restaurants and shopping malls to promote electric car charging points.
- Many electric car owners have also come to an arrangement with their employer to provide them with charging facilities at work.
- A company called Better Place, backed by Renault and Nissan, are building an infrastructure of battery swap-out stations. With this technology, flat batteries from Better Place equipped cars can be swapped out for fully charged batteries in around 3 minutes.
REVA, an electric car manufacturer, has built a charging interface into their vehicle that allows owners to connect to their car via their mobile phone:
- If the car is parked and on charge, the car can notify the owner when it is fully charged and ready to go.
- If the car is running flat, the owner can send a text to the manufacturer who will then check the batteries remotely and unlock a virtual reserve tank to add additional range to the car.
- Some electric car manufacturers now sell their electric cars with a 'city car share' plan. These clubs allow the owner to get access to another car if they need to travel for longer distances and an electric car is not suitable.
- Car Clubs are becoming popular in many cities. These clubs allow you to have access to a vehicle hourly or daily on a 'pay as you use' basis. These clubs are ideal for people who only occasionally need a long distance vehicle and the cars can normally be booked with very little notice.
How realistic are manufacturers claims on range?
As with any other vehicle, economy figures depend on how you drive the vehicle. If you drive everywhere as fast as possible, you will not get the same range as you will if you drive economically.
However, there are other factors that do make a difference to the electric car range. Running heating or air conditioning will make a difference (although some electric cars have a diesel powered heater) but less obviously ambient temperature can also make a difference. Batteries perform better in warm weather than they do in very cold conditions.
Using lights or radio in the car will make very little difference to range. These ancillaries use relatively insignificant amounts of electricity compared to the amount of energy used by the electric motor.
Most manufacturers are wary of claiming unfeasibly long ranges for their cars, as to do so would damage customer confidence in their products but it is also true that to achieve the maximum range, some drivers have to adjust their driving styles and techniques in order to achieve them. These adjustments are not difficult and many people adopt them without even being aware that they have done so.
What range do I need?
As a general guide, you should choose an electric car with a range at least one third more than you believe you will travel between charges. If possible, you should choose an electric car with double the range than you expect to need.
For instance, if you need to travel 25 miles (40km) a day and do not have the facility to recharge during the day, you need to choose a car with a range of at least 38 miles (60km) and preferably 50 miles (80km).
Having this extra range means that you should comfortably be able to travel as far as you need each day, no matter what happens:
- In the winter, the range will decrease by around 20-25%% when the batteries are very cold.
- You are also more likely to require heating, lighting and windscreen wipers on at the same time, all of which have an impact on range.
- The range does decrease when the batteries are old. Ensuring you have more range than you need when you first buy your electric car ensures this does not become an issue.
Return from Electric Car Range to electric car information page.
The 2011 Electric Car Guide
The book is available from Amazon and all main bookshops
For a taster, why not read the first chapter of the book.