We've heard that the next big paradigm shift in electric vehicle acceptance will come with more 150- or 200-mile EVs. But a new study called Optimizing and Diversifying Electric Vehicle Driving Range for US Drivers says that cars that can go that far really won't make sense for anyone to buy until the battery cost can be dropped to $100 per kilowatt hour. Automakers today are incredibly secretive about how much each kWh in a pack costs, but it's safe to say we're nowhere near that goal just yet. Informs says that, until that threshold is reached, "the majority of US consumers for battery electric vehicles (BEV) will be better off choosing an electric vehicle with a range below 100 miles."

Why? Well, the study looked at 36,664 sample drivers and found that it is more important to focus on "deployment of charging infrastructure to improve usability of short-range BEVs" instead of building EVs that have longer ranges. Tell that to General Motors and Tesla. GM execs have talked publicly about a new EV with a 200-mile range and, well, Tesla's cars can already go the distance and we know that a cheaper version with that much range is coming. Still, the study found that cheaper batteries and a more robust charging infrastructure will have the biggest impact on optimizing EV range, not these newfangled EVs.

The study appeared in the journal Transportation Science, published by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). The research was done by Zhenhong Lin, senior R&D staff member at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, TN. Does it ring true with you?
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Electric vehicle consumers are better off with electric range less than 100 miles, says INFORMS Study

CATONSVILLE, MD., August 18, 2014-Until battery cost is cut down to $100 per kilowatt hour, the majority of U.S. consumers for battery electric vehicles (BEV) will be better off by choosing an electric vehicle with a range below 100 miles, according to a new study in the Articles in Advance section of Transportation Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS; http://www.informs.org).

The research suggests reconsideration of the R&D goal that battery electric vehicles should have a driving range similar to that of conventional vehicles. It also implies that the focus of policy and R&D should be on continued reduction of battery costs to make short-range BEVs more price-competitive. The focus should remain on deployment of charging infrastructure to improve usability of short-range BEVs that attract more potential buyers, as well.

The study Optimizing and Diversifying Electric Vehicle Driving Range for U.S. Drivers is by Zhenhong Lin, a senior R&D staff member at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The electric driving range of a BEV is optimized separately for each of the 36,664 sample drivers who represent U.S. new car drivers. It is based on their individual driving pattern and household vehicle flexibility. Key results are the distribution of optimized BEV range among US consumers and the change of such a distribution in response to battery cost reduction and charging infrastructure improvement.

The results of the study explain the dominance in the BEV market of products with an electric range below 100 miles, the author says.

Before the introduction of the Nissan Leaf (certified with a 73 mile electric range) in December 2010, BEV ranges were often assumed to be between 150 and 200 miles. Now, eight out of the ten BEV products on the US market are equipped with an electric range below 100 miles.

The paper extensively discusses the policy and R&D implications of the found distributions of optimal BEV range, providing insights for BEV-related policies and market strategies. The paper also includes sensitivity analysis and quantifies the significance of the optimization approach.

- This press release was written by Sandor Roberts with Barry List and Zhenhong Lin.

About INFORMS

INFORMS is the leading international association for professionals in analytics and operations research (O.R.). INFORMS advances research, and develops and promotes best practices in analytics and O.R. through collaboration, knowledge sharing, and professional development. INFORMS helps business, government, and other organization professionals make better decisions to drive value to their organizations and society. Our certification program (CAP®), highly cited publications, educational meetings and conferences, continuing education, industry and process focused networking communities, competitions, and recognition provide professionals with the knowledge and connections they need to achieve ever greater value for their organizations. Further information about INFORMS can be found online at www.informs.org or @informs.


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  • 100 Comments
      Tony Belding
      • 4 Months Ago
      I live in a small town, and my furthest *regular* destination is a larger city 60 miles away. To make that round trip, plus some capacity to drive around town when I get there, plus accounting for various inefficiencies (running the heater!), plus accounting for the batteries losing some capacity after a few years... To make that trip with comfort would require either a 200 mile range, or else charging in the city before the return trip. (I've heard they have a Tesla Supercharger now, by the way.) I like having leeway. A 100 mile range is something I might be able to adapt to, but I'd prefer something that doesn't require adaptation, and 200 miles is a lot more like it.
      mustang_sallad
      • 4 Months Ago
      If they were simply saying people only need 100 miles for their typical daily driving, I'd be with them, but if they say we need more DC fast chargers, that must mean they're thinking about longer trips too. In that case, I wonder if they've taken into account the fact that it's a pain in the ass to stop every 80 miles for a charge. I've done a drive in a Leaf down a fully populated DCFC corridor, I had all the charging stations I needed, but it was still tedious. Stopping every 200 miles would be way more palatable.
        SublimeKnight
        • 4 Months Ago
        @mustang_sallad
        Bladders and batteries need to live in harmony. In a perfect world, they should both let you drive the same distance without interruption and one should refill as quickly as the other empties.
          SublimeKnight
          • 4 Months Ago
          @SublimeKnight
          A urine flow cell... the holy grail of EV batteries.
          Greg
          • 4 Months Ago
          @SublimeKnight
          So, you are proposing a urine-powered battery?
        Stephen YCheck
        • 4 Months Ago
        @mustang_sallad
        Could not have said it better myself!
        BipDBo
        • 4 Months Ago
        @mustang_sallad
        I see your point. Stopping every 80 miles or so wouldn't be so bad if it were a 3 minute stop, but you need at bare minimum, what, 30 minutes? It seems like getting a rental car for long trips would make more sense.
      Anderlan
      • 4 Months Ago
      Chicken and egg. Supply and demand. If you build it, they will come. If you build a network of DC chargers, they will demand your cars. If you sell 100 mile commuter cars, they will demand a reliable network DC chargers to hop cities. But "they" don't instinctively know both of those things. So, you HAVE to do both at the same time.
      Kelly Erin O'Brien
      • 4 Months Ago
      What people actually need is quite different than what people perceive they need. I'd argue that the issue is less practical and more psychological. As 'Marco Polo' states: 'Rightly or wrongly, the average consumer stubbornly wants to buy a vehicle to suit their lifestyle, not suit their lifestyle to a vehicle.' I agree with that observation.
        Aaron Schwarz
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Kelly Erin O'Brien
        Distorted ideals and expectations, what can you expect from a poorly educated, mostly physically unfit population of people spread out in suburban commuting sprawl, many of who waste more than 1 hours of their day driving so they can access a larger home that was affordable, rather than living in a smaller home closer to where they work : the high cost "sitting in traffic congestion breathing cancer causing smog, wasting time that can not be purchased back" : life is too short : who wants to waste their finite time here on earth camped out in traffic just to have a large home with more rarely used junk and clutter.
        Aaron Schwarz
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Kelly Erin O'Brien
        Distorted ideals and expectations, what can you expect from a poorly educated, mostly physically unfit population of people spread out in suburban commuting sprawl, many of who waste more than 1 hours of their day driving so they can access a larger home that was affordable, rather than living in a smaller home closer to where they work : the high cost "sitting in traffic congestion breathing cancer causing smog, wasting time that can not be purchased back" : life is too short : who wants to waste their finite time here on earth camped out in traffic just to have a large home with more rarely used junk and clutter.
          PeterScott
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Aaron Schwarz
          "'...low sales for small EV's, even with heavy government incentives, proves that the main deterrent to mass adoption is the lack of range." Sorry that doesn't prove anything. The Leaf is outselling the Volt, because of a small change in price. If range were the dominant issue, the Volt should outsell the Leaf, since it doesn't have the range limitation that the Leaf does. The Leaf outselling the Volt is a strong indicator that Price is a much more important factor than range at the low end of the market.
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Aaron Schwarz
          @ Aaron Schwarz Your post is a great example of exactly what I meant ! While you are entitled to your opinion, (and I believe that you are completely sincere in your beliefs), you seem to be wanting others to change their lifestyles to sit your particular moral philosophy. But, in the real world auto-makers must build cars that sell in commercial quantities. I'm a great fan of Carlos Ghosn and other pioneers, but the relatively low sales for small EV's, even with heavy government incentives, proves that the main deterrent to mass adoption is the lack of range.
          PeterScott
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Aaron Schwarz
          "I suppose if you sold EV's for $10.." Troll Harder Marco. I don't have to pretend anything. The evidence is on my side. The Volt is faster, better handling, pure EV when you want it, virtually UNLIMITED RANGE when you need it. It initially outsold the Leaf, but after a small price drop on Leaf to $28K. The Leaf has been outselling the Volt. It is pretty clear that a small price change has trumped the Volts unlimited range...
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Aaron Schwarz
          @ PeterScott, Nope, in fact just the opposite ! If all people wanted was a Leaf, Volt shouldn't sell any vehicles. Distressing as it may be, neither vehicle is setting the world on fire with sales records. I attribute Volt's poor sales more to GM's inept marketing, than anything else. Of course in the end, price is a factor. I suppose if you sold EV's for $10 , sales would increase, but that's nor going to happen ! As it is, sales of small EV's have proved very disappointing. Even in France, the ZOE has proved to be a disappointment. Range is a determining factor. It's no good desperately pretending otherwise. The sales evidence proves otherwise.
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Aaron Schwarz
          @ Aaron Schwarz Your post is a great example of exactly what I meant ! While you are entitled to your opinion, (and I believe that you are completely sincere in your beliefs), you seem to be wanting others to change their lifestyles to sit your particular moral philosophy. But, in the real world auto-makers must build cars that sell in commercial quantities. I'm a great fan of Carlos Ghosn and other pioneers, but the relatively low sales for small EV's, even with heavy government incentives, proves that the main deterrent to mass adoption is the lack of range.
      jeff
      • 4 Months Ago
      I drive far more than most 25-30K miles per year. The 200 (Daily charge) of my Model S works very well for me so I know that it will work form most people. The issue with charging is Apartments and Condos where the owner has no place to park with electricity... This is where fast charging is needed in the city. Other than that, it is best to put them between cities.... I think Tesla is on the right track....
        Greg
        • 4 Months Ago
        @jeff
        It's not hard to adapt apartments & condos to include power outlets next to parking spots. It's currently a gap, but I wouldn't consider it a barrier.
        fairfireman21
        • 4 Months Ago
        @jeff
        Not everyone can afford $70k for a car.
        Ziv
        • 4 Months Ago
        @jeff
        My older condo put in a plug for my Volt and they charge me $20 a month for the privilege of plugging in. I am pretty cool with that. And if my condo can do it, just about any building can do it. Given an existing garage, of course.
      Thomas
      • 4 Months Ago
      For the non-EV drivers, let's do a little explaining about EV range. I have a 2011 Nissan Leaf. Currently when I charge overnight to the recommended 80% charge (this is what Nissan recommends rather than charging to full), My 100 mile "range" is now about 67miles. Not 80 as my battery capacilty has shrunk. To drive the 14.5 miles to work, I use 25- 30 miles of range. Why so much... well, I commute in the early morning hours where lights are required. I live in Houston, where its over 80F in the morning, so my AC is one morning and evening. When I finish my commute at the end of the day - there is not much capacity left after a 30mile round trip. So the reality is that 100miles of range (rated) is really 30-40 miles of real driving range. So, I would welcome a doubled up battery pack - with a 200mile rating - because then I might get something closer to a 100mile actual driving range.
        Marco Polo
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Thomas
        @ Thomas Yours is not an uncommon experience. BEV technology is still far from perfect, and the individual experiences of owners is often very different, depending on circumstance, driving habits, terrains etc. But the biggest single factor is the expectation of the owner. Those owners who made there purchased an EV out of philosophical conviction, tend to be passionate defenders. Others are more critical, and disappointed with everyday performance. This will remain a problem for EV's for some time. The public has become very expectant that ICE technology must match any consumer claims made by the manufacturer. This is only possible because ICE technology is now very mature. 50 years ago , the idea of 'class actions' , because of a 10% difference in an auto-mobile claimed mileage, would have been considered absurd, but consumer expectations are much higher today. EV technology is still very immature, and although the passion of EV enthusiasts is understandable, (even commendable ) it can be counter-productive by over-hyping expectations.
        itsme38269
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Thomas
        For the non-EV drivers, let's do a little explaining about EV range. I have a 2008 Tesla Roadster. Currently, I charge to about 60%, because I never need more than that. When I do, I charge to 100%, because that's what it's there for - it's there for when you need it. When I fill my battery on my 6 year old car, my ~220 mile "rated" range is about ~240 miles, as my battery has barely shrunk in 6 years and I can beat rated range quite easily. To drive the 50 miles to LA, I use 55-60 "ideal" miles of range. Why so much, well, I drive 70-80 at times which reduces my efficiency, and run the air conditioner. I could easily beat the "ideal" miles on the freeway, and have, like when I drove to San Diego and did 80 miles while using less than 80 miles worth of range. So the reality is that 220ish miles of range (rated) is really ~240 miles of real driving range. So, I would welcome a smaller battery pack, because then I might get a lighter car, which is more efficient and more fun to drive, and also tens of thousands of dollars cheaper. Except people who have no idea how much they drive every day, and are terrible drivers who are not capable of math or driving efficiently keep begging for stupidly large battery packs which are necessary for literally nobody.
        itsme38269
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Thomas
        For the non-EV drivers, let's do a little explaining about EV range. I have a 2008 Tesla Roadster. Currently, I charge to about 60%, because I rarely need more than that. When I do, I charge to 100%, because that's what it's there for - it's there for when you need it. When I fill my battery on my 6 year old car, my ~220 mile "rated" range is about ~240 miles, as my battery has barely shrunk in 6 years and I can beat rated range quite easily. To drive the 50 miles to LA, I use 55-60 "ideal" miles of range. Why so much, well, I drive 70-80 at times which reduces my efficiency, and run the air conditioner. I could easily beat the "ideal" miles on the freeway, and have, like when I drove to San Diego and did 80 miles while using less than 80 miles worth of range. So the reality is that 220ish miles of range (rated) is really ~240 miles of real driving range. So, I would welcome a smaller battery pack, because then I might get a lighter car, which is more efficient and more fun to drive, and also tens of thousands of dollars cheaper. Except people who have no idea how much they drive every day, and are terrible drivers who are not capable of math or driving efficiently keep begging for stupidly large battery packs which are necessary for literally nobody.
      danfred311
      • 4 Months Ago
      For typical driving, 160km is plenty. For local driving it's even overkill. But a car has to cover the occasional atypical driving as well and for that 160km is only plenty IFF there is Tesla speed fast charge infrastructure everywhere. A car reasonably has to be able to go 100km one way and 100km back. That's far from an impossible driving scenario and for that you need at the bare minimum CHAdeMO speed recharging in your path, but really, CHAdeMO is not fast enough. At least 100kW. So yes 160km is enough but only if there is plentiful fast charge infrastructure and so far there isn't. It's easy and cheap to make such infrastructure but alas the universal stupidity of man gets in the way.
      • 4 Months Ago
      Completely wrong! The first time I drove my EV a long distance, I relied on Chargepoint telling me about a public charger. When I arrived, it was not available, leaving me to scramble to get home. Whoever wrote this article must never travel in a city, where often parking at popular events is hard to find. Relying on a public charger when traveling a long distance to a popular concert is just a recipe for disaster. Considering just how hard it is to park in cities like San Francisco and Boston, I don't think we'll ever get this kind of access to public chargers.
      • 4 Months Ago
      My Fiat 500e is good for most days, but about once every week or two I find myself wishing it could go a bit further. That's more frequent than the 12-times-per-year car rental perk I get, and frequent enough to make me want a 150-mile EV. It's not quite 100 miles, more like 80-90 with freeway driving added in along with A/C. I only get 100 if I run with no A/C (windows down) exclusively in city driving below 45 mph. If the Tesla Model 3 comes with a 150 mile range, at least, and I can get it for under $50,000 with options, that's probably a sale. Especially if it becomes available in early 2017 when my Fiat lease is up.
        Grendal
        • 4 Months Ago
        No problem for everything you wanted except the time frame. Only a lucky few will get them in 2017, if at all that year. The car will come but expect it to be late.
      Knipfty
      • 4 Months Ago
      The article is spot on. We need more DC fast charging stations. Until there are many more, it will not matter what the range on the BEV is, people will feel they cannot go very far for fear of not being able to get home. The Level 2 charging stations are not the answer. Who the heck wants to sit around for 4 hours to get a full charge. Those work great for over night charging. 200 miles is a nice to have, since 100 miles (what I get right now with my Leaf) get me around town for several days before needing a charge.
      Paul Van Gaans
      • 4 Months Ago
      100 miles of range wasn't enough for us, we ended up traded our LEAF in for a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, so I completely disagree with that statement.
      thecommentator2013
      • 4 Months Ago
      Let me think....I fueled my car on July 1st. First time this year. It's still 3/4 full and I drive wherever I want, mostly, yes, commute and every week a 140mi drive.
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