As we continue looking at the changing mobility landscape, you can read our previous installments about wireless charging here and here we decided to peer into the future of long range EVs.
How much range do we truly need?
Quite a lot has been made of EV driving ranges, specifically how much range is actually needed in a vehicle. When Tesla first launched the Roadster back in 2008 it had a range of roughly 250 miles ushering in an era of long-range EVs. Since then the rest of the auto industry is slowly trying to catch up but the big question is how much range do we truly need?
The Longer The Range The Bigger The Battery
The trick with achieving longer ranges is keeping the weight of the car to a minimum. It's why Tesla went with an all aluminum body. Unfortunately, the great majority of the car's weight comes from one place, the battery.
Traveling 1,000 miles on a single charge is going to require one big battery and the larger the battery the great the weight. EV batteries start running up against the law of diminishing returns right around 300 miles of range, meaning it just doesn't make much sense to add a bigger, more expensive battery after that point. However, new technologies have emerged that could add density to the battery without adding much weight.
Its not difficult to see that battery technology has gotten much better. Although, many of those improvements have gone into making products cost less in order to make them affordable to the masses. The big play for automotive companies isn't who can get to 1,000-miles of range but who can make an EV for less than $30,000. The best way to do that is using technological breakthroughs to lower costs rather than extend the range.
That doesn't mean 1,000 miles of range isn't coming, it just means it probably won't come to everyday consumers. Trucking companies could make great use of long range battery technology. Allowing trucks to travel great distances on a single charge could be quite valuable. Couple that with autonomous driving and operational costs drop dramatically, meaning lower prices for everyone at the store.
Daily Driving Needs
The other elephant in the room is most people only drive around 40 miles in a day, rendering even today's longer range EVs a bit of an overkill. Over 90% EV drivers have a Level 2 charger at home and never use a public charging network. The simple fact is most drivers will never need a public charging network as long as they have a charger at home.
Most drivers will never need a public charging network
For the occasions where long distance driving is needed the best model is Tesla's Supercharger and destination charging network. While rapid charging does come with its fair share of downsides and complexities it's a fundamentally sound and proven concept.
Forcing out longer ranges doesn't change the fact that for the life of the vehicle most drivers will only need to drive over 300 miles on a handful of occasions. And in those occasions, a high-speed charging network already exists.
While long range EVs are certainly attractive to long-haul shipping companies (hence why Tesla is toying with the idea of producing a semi-truck) It doesn't make much sense for you and me. Simply put we just don't drive all that much to make it worthwhile.