• Feb 18, 2011
Nissan Leaf battery pack – Click above for high-res image gallery

When the discussion centers on electric vehicles (EVs), concerns over operating range always seems to surface. Case in point: a recent study conducted by a panel at Indiana University claims that the technology behind battery-powered vehicles isn't ready for prime time. The study argues that costs, along with limited range, will hinder adoption of pure EVs.

The panel urges that advancements in battery technology is necessary, stating that lithium-ion chemistry, the current power source of choice for battery-powered autos, "may never have adequate energy density to independently power a household's primary multi-purpose vehicle." This statement seems to indicate that a breakthrough battery, possibly of the lithium-air or solid-state variety, will have to reach the mass-production level before EVs can offer sufficient range to replace one's primary vehicle. One tiny detail the study's sobering statement overlooks? The fact that operating range, at least for the vast majority of current EV drivers, is a non-issue.



Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 AOL

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]


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  • 44 Comments
      • 20 Hours Ago
      Gas cars have a limited range too. You can only go so far on a tank of fuel. The advantage of gas cars have over electrics is rapid refueling. But they are working on that aspect. If you want to go farther you put in a bigger fuel tank. The same holds true for electrics, you put in a bigger battery.

      People are not used to thinking about a 100 mile EV range correctly. You get home, you plug in your car, eat dinner and go to bed. In the morning you get up, unplug the car and leave the garage with a full tank of "fuel" or a fresh 100 miles. Gas cars don't self fill at night. Since you don't want to visit the gas station every day you want 300 miles or more range.

      For getting around town you don't even need 100 miles. If your planning to visit grandma's house 325 miles away at Thanksgiving, go rent a Prius for the weekend.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Hi VR,
        My kids school is about 10 miles each way, so that's 40 miles a day. A kid forgets lunch or something every 1 or 2 weeks, to there's another 20 miles that day. My wife also has errands to do sometimes 15~20 miles away, so double that for a round-trip. The pediatrician's office is 25 miles one-way, and the endocrinologist is 40 miles one-way. See what I mean? So what is my range need? More than 100 miles, and definitely more than ~75 in winter (that's my best guess for a 100 mile good-weather range)

        Charging infrastructure might start to catch up in 5 or 10 years, but until then I'm going to need to wait until I have a 200 mile advertised range to buy into EV's. I really don't have a problem with that, but some people do have a problem with my unwillingness to pay extra for a car that is less capable and will leave my family stranded every now and then. That's really the crux of the issue: is it ok to be left stranded once in a while? How often is ok? Once a week? Month? Year? For me & my family that answer is never. My current cars never leave me stranded (ok – really they do about once a decade because we drive older cars).

        I think a key variable in understanding the acceptance of EV's is people's willingness to be left stranded while charging. If they make a mistake in their purchase they will hate the ownership experience so we need to be careful not to encourage their purchase by people that may get stuck regretting it. Sure lots of people could do fine with a Leaf-caliber vehicle, but not everybody. Why do the biggest fans of green transport not see the reality of this significant slice of the population?

        You say you don't ever drive more than 100 miles on a single normal weekday – but how often is a not-normal weekday? And what do you do then? Our not-normal weekdays happen anywhere from twice a week to twice a month, and without a 200-mile range (meaning ~150 in winter), we can't partake of EV's. I don't have a problem with that, I can wait, I'm a patient man. I just wish Randy and worldcitizen and other like-minded EV fans would have the wit to open their eyes wide enough to see the reality of some other people. They damage the cause they are trying to advance with their unwillingness or inability to see past their own situation, and that's a shame.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        worldcitizenUSA,

        You don't even drive cars. Why are you bothering with EVs then?
        • 20 Hours Ago
        @miles. Where are you getting this fear of cold weather from?

        http://green.autoblog.com/2011/02/14/happy-valentines-tesla-lover-says-it-with-roadster/

        http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/02/nj-ev-owner-with-50-000-miles-logged-dispels-myth-of-cold-weathe/

        Those are just a few from memory in the past few weeks. I'm sure there are more that kill the irrational fear of operating EVs in cold weather
        • 20 Hours Ago
        @Miles: I don't see where you state what your mileage requirements are. But as a parent with kids, and a school which is on the other side of my metro area and in activities like soccer and band and skating, I can say that I don't ever drive more than 100 miles in a single normal weekday. Never. Our entire metro area of ~30 cities with total 3 million people - is 40 miles across.

        Lets consider more "real world" range of 60 miles with the heater or AC on at highway speeds (even though almost all of my driving is urban and not at highway speeds). I still have never driven 60 miles in a normal weekday. At most I might hit 40, but my regular mileage is 20 to 30.

        Most weekend days I will drive less than 10 miles - most everything I do is within a mile or two of my house.

        The Volt batteries have active temperature management, but even on the Leaf with passive temp management, the insulation and thermal density of the batteries is supposed to keep them in normal operating ranges for as much as three days in cold weather. You state 20degrees, so lets just say down to zero - I bet your 8 to 10 hour work day won't even cool the batteries to the point you would see a hit in range.

        70% of Americans don't drive more than 40 miles a day. 90% of Americans don't drive more than 100 miles a day. More than 60% of American housholds are multi-car households.

        How many of those 30% that drive more than 40 miles a day are in the multi-car households? I don't know for sure but I bet almost all of them, and I would bet that almost all of them don't go more than 40 miles a day in ALL their vehicles.

        There are 115 million households in the USA. 60% have more than one car, so that is 69 million households with more than one car. If we take 90% of them who do not drive more than 100 miles a day that is 62 million households that could use a 100 mile range electric car - probably more considering those that DO drive more than 100 miles a day probably don't do it with both vehicles.

        If we take the remaining 40% of households who have one car or less, and very conservatively assume that 5% of those could possibly have an electric car for their sole vehicle, that is another 2.3 million households.

        So realistically we have 64.3 million households who could easily with no lifestyle changes utilize a 100 mile electric vehicle. The EV makers have been designing vehicles to handle extreme cold, but lets say that 10% of the households just couldn't handle the extreme cold in their EV (most could just use their internal combustion vehicles on the worst cold days, or stay home) that is still 58 million households who have no reason a 100 mile EV would not work for them.

        So there we go, based on my "back of the napkin" calculations 58 million households could RIGHT NOW use a 100 mile EV without changing a single aspect of their lifestyle.

        My personal belief is that number is conservative, I personally think probably 75 million households could use a 100 mile EV with no problems and no changes in lifestyle. You change lifestyle just a bit and it probably goes up to 80 million.

        And that isn't even considering that people could charge vehicles while at work or at the movies or whatever - adding more range - as more charging stations get built (and I am not even talking about type 3 fast charging, just type 2 or regular 110v plugs).

        The *real* problem is not range.

        The *real* problem is charging infrastructure for the Americans who live in apartments, or don't have off-street dedicated parking. That is a bigger problem than mileage. Many suburban apartments offer carports or dedicated spots which could have chargers put in, but on-street parking gets hard to have a charging solution. Not everyone has a garage, carport, or even a driveway.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Right on all counts, Randy!

        The trolls are out in force today. (ooh, I'm scared because I can't go 90 Bazillion miles if I want to... someday... even though I've never actually wanted to in my life before... Oooh, I'm scared of those electric cars...) These idiots just cause me to shake my head in wonder (how in hell the human race will survive if these are its representatives).

        In the past 15 years I've actually needed to go over 100 miles about 20 times. 8 of those times I took the airport shuttle, flew to my destination and had a stress free blast of a time! That leaves 14 times in 15 years that I would have just rented a car. By the way, during those 15 years I've owned gas cars exclusively and have rented cars 7 or 8 times because I wanted a bigger vehicle to take a long trip in anyway (or wanted to haul something that wouldn't fit in our SUV). So if you subtract the 8 rentals from the 14 that leaves exactly 6. I'd save more than the cost of 6 rentals each and every year I owned a Nissan Leaf.

        These little wussy girls need to pick their panties up, get rid of the gas guzzler, and go buy an electric vehicle.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Oh ferchristsakes Randy & World.

        First of all, if I want more range from my ICE I don't put a bigger gas tank into it, that's just retarded.

        Not everyone has the life you do, I mean if you're kidless and live in the sunny south, then groovy for you. But do you have young kids? I have 3 and one with medical issues. I also must drive the ICE to work all day because it will be a few years before anyone sells an affordable EV that can make my round-trip in the winter.

        I would LOVE an EV for my wife as our second vehicle, but it's absolutely impossible becasue of range. Shall she rent a car once or twice a month? Uh...no. Throw in a few (unplanned) doctors visits a few times a winter, and she'll be stuck.

        I know very few people the current EV's would satisfy, as they have kids and live in a cold climate, and don't work in the same town they live in.

        See, the idea of getting home at the end of the day with a dead car that I can't drive until tomorrow will NEVER fly. I need to take of on some unplanned task at least once a month, usually more often, when the other car is not available. I can't drive to the nearest rental lot 15 miles away in the evening, my EV is dead and the rental place is not open anyway.

        I want EV's to succeed and replace ICE's as the tech develops, but I'm also a realist. Not most, but many people would be screwed with a Leaf as it stands today, even as a second vehicle. Yes, a 200 mile range would surely change that, but it's not available yet (don't tell me about Teslas, I'm talking about a 20~30K small/midsize sedan, not a 2-seater greenboy toy) Renting a vehicle can only be done on a pre-planned basis, and there's no getting around that.

        For most people, they would happily take an EV if it didn't cost more and it didn't leave them stranded once in a while. What's really going to be exciting is when EV's cost less - then we'll see them take off and ICE is doomed. It will happen eventually, but likely a decade ot two.

        Now feel free to move the conversation back to my panties, and thereby validate my hypothesis that you aren't capable of understanding that different people live in different situations and have different needs.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Hi Droldg55,
        It's not irrational fear, thanks, it's just being realistic for my situation. These mini-e drivers have zero credibility for reviews of electric vehicles. You realize they pay $850 a month for those cars, right? Someone with that much into something will consistently fail to see it's shortcomings. I bet 5% is nowhere near the loss in range we would see with a 20 degree Michigan morning with the heat & lights on and a snowy road. Also the car and bettery will be pretty cold after you get out of work unless you can charge at work (rarely an option, I bet) so that will be another range hit. Your Tesla link says nothing about range, did you add it just to show me a pic of an EV in snow?

        Look at your post and see what Ken Barbour says (in the comments on that article): "I had no problem towing a trailer with MINI E #466 through 20 inches of snow last winter."

        See what I mean? This guy (Ken) is not too realistic, right? Look up Cognitive Dissonance. Someone with a big emotional (and financial) investment in something is garenteed not to be a reliable source of information on that topic. This goes for a lot of EV fans as well.

        I'm not trying to diss the idea of EV's replacing ICE's, I'm a big fan of EV's myself and I long for the day I can have them, but the range problem will not go away just by worldcitizen crying about someone's panties in a bunch, or dudes like Randy telling me I'm not thinking correctly. It bugs me to see people not being understanding of other's points of view on this. I'm not being politically correct here, I think these EV fans are damaging their own cause, and pushing people away from adopting a positive attitude towards EV tech. This ultimately damages the chances of the normal (cars as appliances) majority of the car-buying public buying into the EV movement.

        And that's the real problem I'm ranting about. EV fanboys need to take an understanding tone and a more helpful approach to those with range anxiety. Sometimes that range anxiety is well-founded, even if they don't think so. This not thinking right with bunchy panties nonsense is not going to help anyone. If they can't articulate their ideas, then please don't resort to condescending name-calling, as that will work AGAINST their own goals!

        So... I wonder what percentage of range you can expect of an EV at 20 degrees in the snow with the heat and lights on, and no charge at work so there's a cold battery when you start the drive home. The only people that have real-world experience right now if EV fanboys, and that's not a very reliable indicator. I'll be waiting to see what the verdict in in a few years, when the general population can give me some reliable feedback.

        So I ask - Am I being irrational?

        Thanks for listening!

        • 20 Hours Ago
        Oh, and a PS:

        It's only the first models of mass produced electric vehicles that are limited to 100 miles. Nissan has already said that their next version will have a 200 mile range.

        So much for your panties being in a wad there you little chickens! Wait another couple of years and your arguments will sound as fake and hollow to most Americans as they do to me today.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      I think the thing to remember here is that 100 years ago (or whatever) when Gas-powered cars were starting to become big, there were no gas stations every two blocks. Now a days, you can hop in a regular car and drive across the country knowing that if you need fuel (regardless how much you can store in your tank) you can just stop and refuel.

      This sort of thing will happen eventually for electric cars. Yes, for now a "quick charge" means 30 minutes, but it's a problem that is still in its infancy. Who know what kind of progress we'll make over the next 100 years?

      My dad is violently opposed to electric cars because of range anxiety. I asked him how far he travels in a day and he said around 40 miles. I told him that an electric car can easily serve 95% of his driving needs. He said he hadn't thought of that.

      I think the future is going to be electric cars that have the ability to tow a genset (that you rent from U-Haul or wherever) for the times when you need to travel long distances.

      I can imagine a future where I own a family-sized (think small SUV) electric car that can carry my family. It'll run for 100 miles or so on a charge. For family vacations, I'll have a small trailer for our luggage that includes some sort of generator (gas? diesel? fuel cell maybe?) that will boost our range to 500+ miles.

      I, for one, am excited about the future.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        It was interesting to hear the description of your dad being violently opposed. At this stage people still think they're going to have a choice, when in reality only the mega rich will be able to drive whatever they want.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      In the near term, you'll charge your EV at home and at work using an inexpensive Level 2 charger.

      Soon we will have a Level 3 standard (maybe CHAdeMO), and you'll eat a meal while on the road waiting the half-hour it takes for your EV to quick-charge.

      Using range extenders will quickly become less important to EV buyers.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      Well for a single vehicle owner this is true - an EV seriously restricts a single vehicle owner for any extended travel they might want to do, however there is already a solution to this issue that is being produced. The plug-in hybrid comes in, allowing electric driving for most day to day trips (or at least fantastic mileage) with the flexibility of unlimited range for those occasional long trips.

      For those double and triple car families (often the ones with the money to buy an EV at this point anyways) an EV will often fit quite well for the second car and that covers a huge market that the manufacturers aren't close to being able to fill - and as the price of oil continues to increase won't be able to fill to demand for a long time.

      Another blinders on report from the "establishment" missing the forest for the trees. They'll never see the massive change that's coming until its behind them...
      • 20 Hours Ago
      Here's another potential outcome, maybe not for the USA but perhaps elsewhere. 100 mile range cars become so cheap and nice to drive as appliances that most people opt for the as their main cars, car rental or share schemes grow at a massive rate to accommodate longer journeys.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      Think of todays Volt- now imagine a volt with batteries that have 3x the energy density and half the cost per Kw, Batteries that have better durability so you have 12Kw instead of 8 of usable power- Imagine a Volt that uses a purpose made range extender like the Ecomotor OPOC engine instead of an off the self ICE, Imagine a Volt with a smaller more powerful electric motor and better controller- Imagine a Volt that has a battery only range of 60 miles instead of 40, a Volt with 0-60 in 7sec instead of 8.5, a Volt that handles better and has more room.

      a 40 mile all electric range cuts the average drivers use of hydrocarbon fuel by 80%, a 60 mile all electric range would cut the average drivers usage of hydrocarbon fuel by 90%- you build the engine to be able to use biofuels along with fossil fuels and you reduce carbon emissions even more - once cars got to this level it'd be more productive to start working on our homes and power plants as carbon and pollution offenders than to try to ring the last bit of pollution out of our cars.

        • 20 Hours Ago
        Well put. Range extenders are the missing link that will allow more and more EV only motoring. Ideally they will become less complicated than the current Volt (like you suggest) and then eventually just go away.

        Also, as people buy more EREV's and some find that they almost never dip into the range extending mode (because the EV only mode is approaching 80 miles) they may opt to replace that vehicle with an EV only car which would be less expensive.

        EREV's will drive the move from ICE to all electric.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      Hmm, a study from the land of corn dissing BEVs.

      From a study in 2008 by Experian Automotive, 31% of US households own two cars and 35% have three or more. So well over half of the families are potential candidates for BEV.

      Add a little incentive from world oil supply problems leading to one or more of sky-rocketing gas prices, shortages and lines, or out and out government rationing, and the car makers won't even begin to keep up with the mass market demand.

      With stable gas prices and supplies BEVs would probably remain a niche market. But I don't see that happening, and I don't think the car makers do either. They're racing to get cars developed and production capability ramped up before the oil situation starts to really bite us.

      http://www.autospies.com/news/study-finds-americans-own-2-28-vehicles-per-household-26437/
      • 20 Hours Ago
      In the near term, you'll charge your EV at home and at work using an inexpensive Level 2 charger.

      Soon we will have a Level 3 standard (maybe CHAdeMO), and you'll eat a meal while on the road waiting the half-hour it takes for your EV to quick-charge.

      Using range extenders will quickly become less important to EV buyers.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      You don't even need a study. I've been saying this all along and it's obvious to everyone except moonbat EVangelists. It's the range, stupid.

      And it isn't just driving over 300 miles. It's the MANY trips that are a combined 100-140 miles that you end up standing at a charger for 4-8 hours. Who has the time for that?

      Quick charge. That's a misnomer if I ever heard one. Nothing quick about it.

      Look at the real world use. Current Leaf drivers are driving under the speed limit. I mean 10-15 miles under the speed limit just to get to their destination and back. They don't use climate control because they know how much it reduces the miles.

      So after using any climate control and going the actual freeway speed you now have a car that goes maybe 70 miles. Who's going to buy that?

      The EVangelists here state it's no problem but after the geeks and granolas have bought the car, who else is gonna buy it?

      You can buy a comparable gas vehicle for half as much, has 4-6 times the range, and takes 5 minutes to fill up. These EV's are not practical for anything more than a commuter car.

      Your average consumer isn't going to pay $33,000 plus another $2000 for an EVSE for a commuter car with a 70 mile range that takes 8 hours to charge. You can't go more than 40 miles away from home before you have to turn back...unless, there's a charge station.

      Yeah, sure. Mom is going to visit the inlaws 55 miles away for a couple hours, and then head down to some charge station and wait four hours.

      EV's are so impractical but because the EVangelists use emotion (surprise) instead of rational reasoning, they think this car will save the world. So naive, so childish, so gullible.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        "EV's are so impractical but because the EVangelists use emotion (surprise) instead of rational reasoning, they think this car will save the world. So naive, so childish, so gullible."

        LOL - I read your post and thought the same of you.

        I could take the time to argue the many fallacies in the post - but I've got better things to do with my time.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Potpie - So, an EV is not for you. Don't buy one. Your argument is flawed. Just because an EV is not for you, that doesn't mean there is no demand for EVs. There are millions of people who would love to buy an EV, but for the lack of availability or cost - that's the problem.

        If we are talking anecdotally, I for one haven't driven over 100 miles in one day in over 15 years. An EV would be perfect for me.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      vr,miles,pot pie
      you all made good points and very informative too , took me awhile to digest it all .
      Extented power failures didn't come up in below zero temperatures .
      My land line phone won't work when the power goes out because of the electric answering machine takes it out , the cordless phones too, it takes out my internet , I don't have a cell phone . Power was out for 3 days last year . It drops below freezing here . I don't need to work anymore but what if I did , I live by myself , 1 car , 1 bike - ( power failure occured when snow was everywhere )
      What if I had to get to work and the buses are side lined and taxes won't come to get you . You know what I do . I take my gas powered car . I can trust in it . I can't trust an electric car YET .
      I'm moving into a condo in about a year , maybe less . Highly unlikely it will have a charging station for me .
      Battery tech is changing fast .When it matures I'll consider buying one , 2020 + , once there is enough infracture in place and the price comes way down and performance goes way up and range is good for 3 or 4 days I'll buy one .
      • 20 Hours Ago
      Im not interrested to buy then.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Thankfully there are millions of others who are.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Talk to me in 16 months when gas is $5.25, then you'll look a little harder about how much you actually have to drive in one day.
      • 20 Hours Ago
      "... at least for the vast majority of CURRENT EV drivers ..."

      True ... but that's because the only EV drivers right now are early adopters who realize the limitations and have a situation that fits within those limitations.

      For the mass market, that's not necessarily the case.

      I know that for myself, no known EV will fit the bill.
        • 20 Hours Ago
        Thank you.

        The current number of EV drivers is miniscule and in no way represents mass market.

        There is not current EV with the mileage and capacity that I need to do my job. Telsa is a bit too small.

        Battery technology or super cap technology must improve
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