Your EV Doesn’t Need a 500 Mile Range

Who the hell drives that far in a day?

This past week, research firm Deloitte dropped a bit of an EV bombshell. It determined that US consumers wanted an electric vehicle with a range of 518 miles. This nugget of information was just part of its 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study, but a quick look at the news cycle and it clearly had the biggest impact. 

“How much driving range would a fully charged all-battery electric vehicle need to have in order for you to consider acquiring one?” That’s the question Deloitte asked 927 of-age drivers in the United States. The 518-mile range result is an answer the company says is based on consumer expectation from a fully-charged EV. 

EV in a parking spot and charging its battery

Electrify America

If you’re an automaker, you might be looking at this and having a bit of a breakdown; batteries are typically the most expensive part of an electric vehicle. The larger the battery, the more it costs, and if the average person wants 518 miles, that’s an expensive piece of transportation. But really, what people think they need and what they actually need, well, those don’t always mesh.

Charge Anxiety

The issue of range anxiety continues to vex those looking to sell EVs. It’s actually charging anxiety that’s the problem. Most modern EVs have topped 200 miles of range, which is more than enough for the average person on a daily basis. Most of us are not driving 200 miles a day; we get up, drive to work, take care of some errands, pick up family or friends, drive them around a bit, and that’s about it.

If, for some reason, you exceed that range, then you have to wait longer to get back on the road. Even with DC fast-charging support up to 350-kW on a vehicle like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, you still have to wait 18 minutes to go from 10 percent to 80 percent charge. That’s super quick, but filling up the tank of a gas car is quicker. And there’s a gas station at nearly every offramp in this country. 

For EVs, you have to find a charge station that’ll spew electricity that quickly. In parts of California and a few other states, that’s not that difficult. In states without large electric vehicle adoption, well, good luck. 

There’s also the charging at home overnight scenario. If you have that option, that’s great. According to automakers, about 80 percent of charging happens at home. I charge our EV at home every night. But when I lived in an apartment, that wouldn’t have been an option. 

So I get the desire for a vehicle that can travel over 500 miles on a single charge. But really, we need to break this rather large number down.

Daily Life

We’d like to imagine that the hours and hours we spend behind the wheel equals hundreds of miles. It doesn’t. That’s traffic, and it’s horrible. But the average person travels about 39 miles per day, according to the Department of Transportation. Obviously, that fluctuates, but even if you double or even triple that number, it’s nowhere near 500 miles. You’re still cool with 200 miles.

Before you send me an angry email about how you drive 400 miles a day for work, first: how do you have time to send anyone emails? Also, you’re an outlier. Your experience is not everyone else’s experience. You should stick with a hybrid with very nice seats. And maybe sign up for a yoga class for your spine.

On the Road Again. Maybe

Then there are road trips. The great American pastime of hopping in a car and driving for days and days isn’t as prevalent as it once was, thanks to cheap airfares. If you’re a fan of driving for hours and hours instead of flying, here’s a fun little piece of math. If you’re traveling at 70 miles per hour, it’ll take over seven hours to travel 500 miles. That’s non-stop, just-going-for-it driving. 

I’ve driven across the country a few times. It’s great fun but hard on the body if you try to do it non-stop. Even when I was 18, driving from California to Pennsylvania without staying in hotels as my dad and I switched driving duties while the other slept, we pulled over every few hours. Not just for gas, but for food and to stretch our bodies. Humans shouldn’t sit in the same position for seven hours straight. 

"Eventually, we’ll likely get a 500-mile range EV that most people can afford. Most people won’t need it."

The range of that 1974 (although it might have been a 1976) Datsun S30 260Z (new) was about 370 miles. This trip took place in the early 90s, and we were traveling at a steady clip, but with wear and tear and loss of efficiency that’s typical for 15-year-old vehicles, let’s be generous and say it got about 340 miles per tank of gas. Not once did we travel nonstop without stopping from a full tank to an empty tank. 

This was before the time of 64-ounce medium sodas and venti lattes. In other words, traveling 500 miles nonstop isn’t really something you should be doing because, at some point, you’re going to have to pee. 

Also, you can just rent a vehicle for road trips if you’re concerned about your EV dying on you. Why add all those miles and fast food stains to your car when you can do it to someone else’s. Even before we got our EV, we would rent a minivan for long trips with the dogs. Minivans might not be cool (Minivans are cool), but they’re great for road trips.

Gas Range

This brings us back to that survey and the perceived need to have a vehicle with 518 miles of range. It’s actually tough to find a gas vehicle with that much range. In fact, let’s look at the best-selling vehicles in the United States and see if they can match the expectations of potential EV buyers. Spoiler alert, they can’t. 

Let’s take the number one selling vehicle in the US, the Ford F-150. The rear-wheel drive XLT model has a 23-gallon tank and a combined EPA 21MPG. According to math, that’s 483 miles. I picked two-wheel over four-wheel drive because they typically have better efficiency numbers. 

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Truck charging at Electrify America’s 200th charging station in California located at Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in Santa Clara.

Electrify America

How about the best-selling SUV, the Toyota Rav4. Again going two-wheel drive. The front-wheel drive XLE trim version has a 14.5-gallon tank and a combined EPA rating of 30 MPG. Checking the math, that’s 435 miles of range. 

The best-selling car is, unsurprisingly, the Toyota Camry. Let’s take the lowest trim level, the LE which has a good-sized 15.8-gallon tank and an EPA-rated combined fuel efficiency of 32MPG. We get 505 miles of range. So close, but sorry, Camry. 

You can point at the vastly different times it takes to refuel a Camry vs. recharging a Tesla or ID.4. That is a completely fair argument. But here’s the life hack. You’re actively participating while you put gas in a car. That’s something you’re doing. Charging an EV? That happens while you’re doing something else. It’s why charging stations are at malls, grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels.

Some Extra Data

One item in the Deloitte survey that hasn't seen much press is the age range of the participants. It breaks down like this:

  • 27-percent were 18-34
  • 31-percent were 35-55
  • 42-percent were 55 and older

According to Statista, Boomers (55 and older) were the least likely to buy an EV. A Fuel Institute study says that the average EV owner is 40-55 years old. That same study points to Hedges & Company's findings that the 24-55 age group is the largest one looking to buy an EV, at 44.8-percent. 

In other words, the largest age group in the Deloitte survey is also the one least likely to buy an EV. I get it. EVs are new and weird, and why would you want something like that when you have a tried and true petroleum-powered system to fall back on?

Our Job

You know, except for the whole climate crisis thing. This is where those that sell and own EVs need to educate our friends and family. Journalists and automakers have been trying for years to explain how EVs work. Of course, automakers have been doing this while bombarding us with ads for gigantic gas-guzzling pickup trucks, but that’s a whole other issue. 

If you have an EV, take suspicious friends for a ride. If you see horrible EV takes on Facebook, in a very nice way, explain why that information is wrong with links to trusted sources. They’re more likely to listen to you instead of me or another automotive journalist beating the drum about the awesomeness of electric vehicles. 

Eventually, we’ll likely get a 500-mile range EV that most people can afford. Most people won’t need it. But when they do buy it and go on that cross-country roadtrip, they’re going to need to stop for a break long before the car does.

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