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Why EV range is not so critical

Look forward to the Tesla S, just got to drive the Leaf for first time. Very impressed and it got me to thinking about the common argument against EVs - "range anxiety". I think the correct answer is using the right tool for the job: The number of vehicles owned by American households has been increasing and is now about 2.5, with 3+ being the largest group. So, for low operating cost and to avoid depreciating the ICE vehicle on short trips, obviously one of these vehicles should be an EV. This should be a "real" car, capable of freeway speeds, but really doesn't need to have much more than a 100 mile range.

Once people understand this strategy I think EVs will take off. The EV doesn't need to be an all purpose car, it just needs to to what it does best at a reasonable price. By extension it doesn't need to go the Volt route either, carrying 2 drivetrains and the cost and weight penalties that go with it.

EV range is not critical on a commuter car. However, many folks purchasing luxury sedans do expect to do more than commute and then range is an legitimate issue. The roll out of adequate fast charging infrastructure can, of course, reduce range anxiety.


Exactly right - for many people. I have a Leaf now (while waiting for my Model S). I drive it to work and when we go places around town. No range anxiety at all. I have another car for when I need to go further.

If I lived in a big-city condo and rented my parking space for $750/mo, I would feel differently. Given that I have a garage and a driveway - I can have an EV for 90% of my needs and an ICE car for the other 10%. When I get the Model S - that will change to 99%/1% and renting an ICE car when I need it may make more sense.

This is why I just bought a Volt. My wife and I drive it as much as possible around town, and so far, I've only used 3.3 gallons of gas for 470 miles. We'll replace our other car - Lexus HS250h with the Model S next year. We'll drive the Tesla as much as possible then, and only drive the Volt when we need to use both cars or we have to go for a long trip where there's no reliable charging stations (we live in AZ).

Many of us, unfortunately have to drive 100+ miles in a day on a regular basis. That's why I'm hot for the Model S. it's the first EV that meets our needs.

For the next two to five years, I expect to have an ICE car around. In that time, I would use the S for everything it is capable of, and the ICE for backup. In just a few years, I expect the number of charging stations to grow to be commonplace, in which case the argument for going all electric will be much simpler.

Given the number of parking lots, etc., that already have charging stations, I just can't imagine that, for example, diners near interstates will ignore the market when EVs become more commonplace.

Or just use when you need it.

I kind of wonder what S owners will do if, in 3-5 yrs, a dramatic improvement occurs in battery tech, slashing costs and multiplying range. I assume most would trade in their existing batteries and go for maximum affordable range. That means, of course, that TM would have to have properly fitted packs with the new tech.

Could happen!

I will take Elon by his word. He said the Model S is designed "to be the only car you ever need." A bold statement for sure (and not the only one of this kind by Elon Musk) but I'm ambitious to prove it right. Given that I did not own a car for more than 10 years now (living in Berlin, using bike, public transportation, rental cars) I think it could work for me. And yes, I will be an atypical EV user, my Model S will only in rare cases be used for commuting and will primarily be used for trips. I think that's where a huge sedan like this will shine.

Back to the main thread: I agree that the main problem is that people don't think hard about their actual driving patterns. I have a short daily commute, but I drive roundtrip from Boston to Maine weekly during the summer and frequently for weekends in spring and fall; 170 miles each way. So, that defines the shortest acceptable range in my vehicle (as my wife drives up at different times, both cars need this range).

Given the easy options of renting cars for longer trips, a purely rational person would probably not worry about over-buying range in the EV for the occasional long trip. But who said that people think about cars rationally?

I own a standard Ferrari 458 for circuit outings and an ordinary car to drive in town that I would like to replace with a Tesla S. The idea of an electrical car for a town seems to be nice except that it is always for the same town! You can't escape more than a 1OO miles from home, and even you organise a trip to eventually find a plug in a car park or a petrol station, wait 3 or 4 hours to restart, lost on a motorway or in an underground car park, would be of another age!

I live in Toulouse in France but since I am a Corsican (Corsica is 300 miles away and I go often there), I would fancy to drive a Tesla in Corsica (the Ferrari wouldn't be safe and would even be too powerful for the tiny roads). So how would I do ? Carry the Tesla on a trailer truck or carry a generator on a trailer attached to the Tesla to recharge the batteries without stopping (if possible)?!! The idea of the Volt (or Opel Ampera in Europe) would the best if the car was lighter and smaller. Commuters drive often alone so you don't need a large 4 seater. A 2+2 coupé would be enough (size of the new Ford Ka for instance).

A Tesla 2+2 version with a small generator would indoubtedly boost the sales, even if "on petrol" the speed would fall at 100 miles/hour (which is well above the speed limit).

All the best.
A. Toma

Antoine, the idea of extending range with a combustion engine (inside the trunk or on a trailer) has been discussed at length in this forum. Here is just one thread that may be worth reading:

If Corsica is really "just" 300 miles, you may be able to make the entire trip on one charge. At least that's what "300 mile battery" means, but of course, I go over 90 km/h for long stretches, or if your trip includes lots of mountains, you may be missing your target by just a few miles. But if anywhere on your route, preferable next to a comfy restaurant, there is a high speed charger, then you won't have to wait 3 or 4 hours. It's not like you are going to run the 300 mile battery all the way down to empty, and then have to wait until it is completely recharged. 20 to 30 minutes of high speed charging will give you an additional 100-150 miles. That should be plenty.

Of course, realistically, you may not have a high speed charger on your route any time soon... It's probably worth to have a look, though:

@Volker.Berlin With Model S as a platform, you can have higher density battery for longer range without limitation, as long as it's compatible with Model S.

And if you know about automotive enough, you would see that EV is totally different from ICE for both drivetrain, transmission and even the way its response to driving. There are plenty of room to improve EVs in the future.

That's why we love Tesla, right?

"I would fancy to drive a Tesla in Corsica (the Ferrari wouldn't be safe and would even be too powerful for the tiny roads)."

Can you elaborate on the part in parenthesis? What does too powerful for tiny roads mean?

I agree that the Models S is not for everyone. I looked at my travel over the past 5 years. I made 71 trips that were over 200 miles round trip. 69 of them I flew. I don't want to limmit my purchase by 2 trips in 5 years. Other people will have other needs of course.

During my analysis, I also flipped the anxiety issue. I can't tell you the number of times I have started for an appointment and 'discovered' that I needed gasoline- and I really didn't have time to stop and get it! Nor can I tell you the total time I have driven around with that little red light staring back at me while I wondered if I would make it. the Model S eliminates both of those issues. When I go to bed, I plug in my cellphone (which also serves as my alarm clock), and now I will also plug in my car, starting with a 'full tank' every morning.

Yep, I'm gonna LOVE that full tank every morning. No more having to decide which day I'm going to go to the gas station.

One other observation here. It seems to me that the swap-out battery pack is ideally designed in anticipation of improving technology. Combine that with Tesla's committment to recycling the batteries and Elon's zeal suggests to me that an upgrade/trade-in battery pack is in our future.

@jackhub Completely agree.

Here in Montreal the gas companies like to play games with us. Once a week the price of gas increases $0.10 or more per litre (often when the price of oil goes down). We the consumers are always trying to guess when the price drops slightly (just before the next inexplicable increase). I look forward to starting with fully charged batteries every morning. I also look forward to giving the oil companies the "one-finger salute".

evpro. No argument with your tool premise. What are your range expectations/needs?

In general, ‘we ‘place higher expectations on luxury cars than economy cars. My friend, Mycroft, has helped me better understand the real world mileage of batteries. Originally, I felt the 160 mile battery was more than fine. The reality is the 160 becomes 130 when charged to the recommended 80%, and if you drive the freeways at 75 mph the 130 drops further to about 104 mile range.

The 160/130/104 mile range battery will still fulfill 60% of my driving needs ( 50 miles there-50 miles back). I am opting for the 230-185-150 range battery. I anticipate a degradation in battery performance in five years+. Yes, I will also have an ICE SUV for extended trips, going up to the snow, loading up with junk, towing, or when I feel wasteful.

"When I go to bed, I plug in my cellphone (which also serves as my alarm clock), and now I will also plug in my car, starting with a 'full tank' every morning."

Or just leave your phone plugged into your car... :P

Right now EVs (because of battery costs) are only truly competitive at the upper price ranges of the Tesla Model S , where the battery costs can compete with very high dollar ICE drivetrains from MB and BMW. While some families may find benefits of a 100 mile EV (usually less) as a second car or commuter car, these are awfully pricey commuter vehicles. Not really worth it, no matter what your goals.
Wait for cheaper batteries - they are not far away and I'm not about to buy a 100 mile vehicle that will be almost completely obsolete in five years, which is the point at which I believe cheaper and much better batteries will arrive. I see no point in throwing my money away - a million or so EVs on the road will accomplish virtually nothing - you won't even be able to measure the reduction in gas usage in this country (less than 1/2 of one percent, at most).


Different strokes for different folks. I say the sooner the we start the transition to electric vehicles the better. I have no problem with the first phase of that transition being paved by folks who are financially comfortable and who don't need to wait for cheaper batteries.

I also believe that the roll-out of charging infrastructure will be much faster than many think, especially when those million or so EVs take to the roads. With charging infrastructure in place even the folks with more modest means won't have to wait for cheaper batteries.


Larry is spot-on. If the rich guys and the celebrities hadn't bought the 5-lb bricks that were passed off as cell phones in the 80's, we wouldn't have the cheap, powerful phones that we're using today.

Tesla's whole strategy is to sell to well-to-do early adopters first to subsidize the technological innovations and the economies of scale necessary to bring EVs to the masses.

Check out Elon's "secret" plan for world domination. :)

"After Almost 11,000 Miles, Jay Leno Closes In on a Year Without Refueling His Chevy Volt"

I wonder why that guy settled for a hybrid, but then again, the Model S is not yet available... ;-)

Plus it was free (to him).

Good stuff...EV vs ICE:
I have installed 32 Solar Panels on my roof in May 2011.
I have enough excess Solar Production to cover all current elect consumption + recharging my reserved (494) Sig in 7/21/2012? (Candy Apple Red).

Interesting: Cost comparison of my 2003 Lincoln Navigator SUV, which is a gas hog, and has high mainenance costs.

Over a 15 year period the cost of the Sig (including finace costs), will be $11k less than the cost of the Navigator!
(I considered everything that I could think of!)

I love going Greem!!

You can't have included the warranty extensions or the required annual maintenance for the S since we don't know those options/pricing yet.

The advantage the Navigator has over the S is that it is solidly understood technology that can be maintained by pretty much any auto shop around. The Model S, on the other hand, will require the specific expertise of Tesla mechanics for the foreseeable future on all but the brake and tire maintenance.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a fatal handicap, but we need to enter this transaction with our eyes open. I plan on keeping the warranty extended as long as possible and I'll have Tesla mechanics perform the annual maintenance, just as they do for the Roadsters.

evpro, your point is well made, but I disagree. I think EV range is critical for adoption/marketability, and I think your original post actually illustrates why.

For many people, in order to make best use of the an EV, they have to have a "strategy", just as you described. People have to think about it.

The advantage of ICE (and basically the whole infrastructure and car-ecosystem) is that it's very convenient. You don't have to think about it at all. You just get in your car and go and go and go. If you're low on gas, you just stop for two minutes and get some more.

I agree with what you're saying; for 90% of people, 90% of the time, even a Leaf (if it really can get ~100 miles) would be just fine. But still, you have to plan for that other 10%. Yes it's totally manageable, but it's still asking drivers to take mental leap that they don't have to do today.

Even with a 300 mile range, you still have to plan to be able to stop for a significant period of time and charge.

I'm excited to get a Model S, but an electric car still is not a simple sell to everyone, not yet anyways.

Gads! Asking people to think or plan! What is the world coming to?!?!?

I'm just telling you how it is. You go out there and tell everyone that every single car is now available in either an ICE or EV (current technology) version for the same price and a lot of people are still going to choose ICE today.

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