What is the True Range of an Electric Car? The Mini E Experience Leaves Many Questions

· · 3 years ago

One of the biggest barriers to consumers becoming comfortable with the idea of buying EVs in droves is the general notion that they have a somewhat limited range. Even though the vast majority of Americans don't drive more than 40 miles in a day, and we could easily replace one of the two or three cars we have in our garages with a plug-in vehicle and never know the difference, there's still that time-honored American Boy Scout mentality that we should always be prepared for the worst case scenario... I mean, what if the survival of humanity depended on you being able to drive more than 100 miles on a moment's notice and you didn't have time to switch cars?

So you can see why being able to squeeze the most range as possible out of the coming first wave of modern electric cars — and them not underperforming compared to manufacturer claims — is going to be very important to their long term success.

All along Nissan has said that the LEAF will have a range of 100 miles with its 24 kilowatt hour battery pack. Yet those estimates are based on an EPA driving cycle that doesn't truly reflect the real-world. Based on the same EPA standards, the Mini E was supposed to get 156 miles of range with its 35 kilowatt hour battery pack. Over the last year and a half, none of the 300 or so Mini E lease customers in the U.S. have achieved much more than 100-110 miles on a charge — roughly 33% less than what the EPA test suggested.

Does this mean that the LEAF will actually have a range of 65-70 miles? Perhaps, but as recently as last week's LEAF battery plant groundbreaking in Tennessee, Mark Perry, Nissan's Director for Product Planning in North America, was vigorously touting the LEAF's 100 mile range even though it is based on the EPA test. According to Perry, LEAF owners will see some variance in their range depending on such things as driving style and how much hot or cold air conditioning they are using, but they will still get "around 100 miles."

This may be a question that we just can't answer until people have a chance to drive the LEAF over an extended period of time. One thing's for sure though, if one of these first crop of plug-in vehicle manufacturers doesn't deliver on a major promise such as range, the entire lot of them could be harmed.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Comments

· · 3 years ago

The EPA test needs revising, but even then, all PH/EV manufacturers need to learn to under-promise and over-deliver on both range and charging time. No gas car gets the mileage stated on the Monroni sticker either, but the public is far less aware- and more forgiving- about it than in an EV, which comes with range anxiety out of the gate. It only takes a few days for consumers to get over it, but if backlash over unmet range promises keeps them from trying an EV in the first place, range anxiety becomes permanent and it won't matter how good the EV is otherwise.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

Wow! Chelsea Sexton is here! Thank you for your work in advancing the cause of electrical vehicles!

· · 3 years ago

As I mentioned elsewhere if you assume between 3 and 4 miles per kWhr, the 24 kWhr battery pack (how many kWhr usable) should bring you between 60 and 96 miles on a charge. I have driven at better than 4 miles per kWhr in a Tesla Roadster but that's driving about 55 to 60 mph.
In order to avoid being disappointed, I'd recommend that people only assume they'll get 60 miles on a charge and that they shouldn't buy the Leaf if they need more than 40 miles between charges on a daily basis. Power commuters (like me) with commutes over 30 miles each way will need to have charging facilities at work.
Hopefully, we can revise these estimates once Leafs start really being delivered to real drivers.

· · 3 years ago

Excellent points Chelsea, and thanks for commenting. Something I've been worried about for a while is that most of the manufacturers of the next wave of EVs don't fully grasp how much they are depending on each other to make their individual products a success. If one of them has a public relations disaster, they will all be the worse off for it... and if it's bad enough, the market might not recover enough for EVs to saturate it as fast as they really should.

On another point, I think even the EPA would admit that its current test is flawed and that they need to come up with something better to provide real world estimates of EV range.

· · 3 years ago

Thank you ex-EV1 for the info (again) but I see a disconnect with all these numbers and the general public.
What is a kWhr? I know what it stands for, but what does it mean as far as capacity?
We are so used MPG because we all know what a gallon is and how big our gas tanks are. But now the new thing comes and its not in gallons or any other common unit of measure any more.

Right now people interested in EVs don't really care about the MPG equivalent, just the range. As more choices become available, efficiency will become important again and so there must be a simple MP(x) number put in place for the common man.

We have a basic understanding of AAA, AA, C, and D size batteries. We don't know how much charge they hold or how many watt hours they have, but basically bigger batteries in bigger things is the formula.
Maybe start there? The lithium batteries come in cells. I understand "cell" better than "kilowatt hour".
Having a 40 cell battery is almost as understandable as having a 20 gallon tank.
How about MPC?

· · 3 years ago

Agree completely, Nick about how one effort affects the others- the technology will be held responsible for early examples of it, including production cars, conversions, NEVs, etc. We got off really lucky that the converted Prius fire that happened a couple years ago a) didn't spread, and b) the media kept perspective about it instead of decrying all PHEV technology because one small firm didn't implement it well. These are the sorts of things that make me worry for this upcoming generation, because I'm not yet confident that the industry either understands the market nor completely grasps the stakes and what will really affect success this time around.

Mr. Fusion- yup. kWh is a useful metric for parsing the reality of a press release by the geeks and it has its place- but it isn't right for the new consumer conversation. I agree with MPC- though because many potential EV buyers are comparing to gas cars, I'd also like to see a metric that applies to both. As artificial as MPG is when it comes to electric cars, it does help consumers see how very different EVs are when that number has 3 digits in it, not 2. It's even murkier when you get into PHEVs like the upcoming Prius, and EREVs like the Volt. But regardless of the metric, we need to aim at a more "real world" test for all cars, and plug-in automakers need to adopt a practice of lowballing in the range department, so the average consumers can achieve that number without having to hypermile to do it. It's true that public education about driving habits is useful in the grand scheme, and efficiency is good- but it's utterly unfair to lease/sell someone a fun new electric car/bike, then tell them they must drive like grandma to even remotely get the promised range numbers. The numbers might technically be correct, but it's marketing suicide.

· · 3 years ago

We struggled with this exact question when creating the listings on PluginCars.com. For a long time, I thought cost-per-mile or CO2-per-mile was the way to go. In the end, we just settled on range. But now I'm thinking that it's critical for the EPA or some other agency to develop a well-conceived MPGe or miles per gallon equivalent number. It would be far from perfect, but the U.S. public understands MPG, so it might have to suffice.

At the same time, I believe it's going to take multiple metrics, and tons of public education, for any of it to have meaning. This is the right discussion to be having right now.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

Brad:

EPA official listings include the 2008 Tesla Roadster at 244 mpge and 2009 Zero S at 455 mpge. That "future" thing? Yeah, that already happened. Now it's time to go mainstream.

· · 3 years ago

Let's not get too wrapped around the axle about this kWhr thing. I understand that even today, we use Horsepower to describe an engine's power output but there are going to be a few new things that we'll have to get used to with EVs. A kWhr is sort of like a gallon of gas. Once we get used to thinking about it and how it relates to our life, we'll want to tie a lot of things to it.
A kWhr is the standard unit of electricity that one buys from the electric company and most solar panel loggers log KWhrs. It isn't too difficult to get used to, any more than gallons of gasoline is. All of these will become more apparent as people actually start living with EVs again. In the mean time, we will face the same problems the early car manufacturers did at getting people away from their horsecarts or converting to dial telephones and zipcodes.
With EVs, there are a few metrics that will be important to the driver and, yet again, a few others that will be important to the ecology-minded.
For the driver, one wants to know:
- miles per charge
As Chelsea discusses, this is a flexible number depending on a lot of real-world conditions: Vehicle efficiency (miles/kWhr), Battery Size, Battery Lifetime (driving less miles per charge can improve battery life), Battery Management System (battery pack cooling, charge and discharge control electronics), Temperature, driving style (mostly stop/go and speed), AC or heater usage, etc. As I mentioned, I generally get about 3.3 kWhr/mile with our Tesla Roadster, driving about 90% at the high end of freeway speeds (can't put in writing :-) in mountainous terrain with little A/C or heater use and often with the top down, and very little stop-and-go driving.
- $/mile
While meaningful to the driver, this is actually very tough to track since the price of electricity varies between about 5 cents/kWhr to over 35 cents/kWhr depending on region, energy source (coal => cheap, renewables => expensive), consumption (tiered rates), and sometimes, time of day, and how much the utility hates you (Most California Utilities punish EV drivers by offering, and sometimes forcing them to take, lousy rates, hence motivating solar installations.
- miles/kWhr
This is fairly comparable to mpg that we are all used to. From this value, one can easily figure out:
= the true range per charge (miles/kWhr X kWhr in battery = miles/charge).
= the cost per mile (miles/kWhr X $/kWhr = $/mile)
= the time it will take to charge your car (miles/kWhr X chargerkW = miles of range per hour charging) for example the Nissan Leaf's 3.3 kW charger can charge up about 10 mile of range for every hour charging.
= the size of solar array that one will need to support an electric vehicle (miles per day / miles/kWhr = kWhr needed per day, something a solar installer can estimate for your solar installation depending on your roof location, shape, and direction).
- miles/kg/Co2 is meaningful for figuring out ecological impact to the planet but won't help you to know whether an EV is going to work in your life. I, personally take the approach that an EV is much better (CO2, oil spills, particulates, war, . . .) for the planet than gasoline, therefore, the key issue is whether I can substitute and EV for my ICE vehicle (cost, range, charging locations, long trips, carrying capacity, etc). kWhrs/mile are the key to many of these things.

· · 3 years ago

I do agree that the greatest specification for electric cars right now is the driving range. To get 65-70 miles instead of 100 miles will be a fantastic disappointment! In reality you are not going to drive until the betteary is depleted so you will drive only 50 miles range instead of 85 miles - it is even more disappointing. It is just not comparable to ICE disappointment of getting 30 MPG instead of 33 MPG. Driving range is everything for electric cars. In our days EPA reports a realist MPG for ICE cars so they have to do the same for electric cars. If range is different depending on the highway or city driving then two numbers should be reported just as they do for ICE cars.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

Your last paragraph was noteworthy.
In the fuel crisis of 1973, I remember how diesels were expected to provide a rational alternative to gas-guzzlers, but would allow us to continue to enjoy large luxury cars. After much fanfare, General Motors, in one of their consistent efforts to fall flat on their faces in the midst of advertised expectations, gave us the lemony V-8 diesels that proceeded to turn off an entire generation to diesel vehicles. Let's hope that mistake is not repeated here by false advertising and unrealistic expectations.

· · 3 years ago

Anonymous,
Reality check for Tesla Roadster: Locking cruise control at 65 mph and driving nearly entirely on freeway, I've driven 200 miles a couple of times, with the car on 'fumes' when I got to the charging site (reduced power, zero estimated range left). Those 244 miles on a charge with the 55 kWhr battery require that you achieve 4.6 mi/kWhr, probably a 50 mph or less drive - ie hypermiling.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

I agree w/ ex-EV1 driver, miles/kWhr makes sense to me, it's similar to MPG: the number of miles you can travel on a unit of energy.
Or the other way, kWhr/100km, which is similar to l/100km used in anywhere else out of the USA and the UK.
kWhr is not so strange, your electricity is charged by kWhr, I suppose.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

Yes the claims for miles per KWH (kilowatt-hour) usually run about 5. The Volt folks have claimed that the Volt uses 8 to 8.5 KWH before the charge sustaining generator kicks in. And they claim the Volt's all electric range (AER) is up to 40 miles. Any time a claim is preceded by "up to" you can expect to actually get less.

Based on fleet testing, using heavier lead acid batteries, EV's get around 3 miles per KWH. Lighter more aerodynamic vehicles will get more, the question is how much more. We are used to seeing a reduction in mileage when we go fast because of drag. EV's suffer from the same physics, so these high mileage claims (5 miles per KWH) are usually based on going slow with no AC and windows rolled up. Not a real world number. My guess is between 3.2 and 4.6 miles per KWH for the Leaf and the Volt, but we cannot know for sure until the OEM allow a few days of independent driving evaluation. Since that has not happened the question we must ask ourselves is "what are they afraid of?"

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

then tell them they must drive like grandma to even remotely get the promised range numbers. The numbers might technically be correct, but it's marketing suicide.
if the max range is 100 miles then advertise it as 50 miles then the consumer will feel safe and also stress the batteries less.
nothing worse for EVs for some one to take their EV to max range every day and find the battery lasts a year

· · 3 years ago

just joined the anon post is mine above

· · 3 years ago

people buy their power from the power company in units ( they dont understand kilowatts or kwh just hat they get a bill for so many units be it 20 cents or 50 cents
so miles per unit would be the sensible way to relate the cost of an EV
every one knows the cost of a tank of gas and only have to work out the units to fill the battery to relate the cost of driving X miles

· · 3 years ago

My diesel tank is supposed to give me more than 1000 km range but I get rarely 800 km out of it. Sounds familiar? Of course the range is a lot longer than the EV-range but the discrepancy in fueled cars is accepted as no issue.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

Of course many will get less than the advertised 100 mile Leaf range, but some will get more. I regularly get 55+ mpg in my Prius and by the current test that should be 46. It's really an estimite for comparison purposes more than anything. Nissan is actually discouraging people with near 100 mi round trip commutes with their reservation survey. My experience with EVs and PHEV conversions says that the 24kwhr pack in the Leaf should reliably deliver something close to 100 miles if the weather is reasonably mild, in winter maybe 70. If you look at the Volt's 8kwhr usable their 40 miles looks too optomistic, but with range extender it's less of a problem.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

Hi, have you ever checked out http://li-ionmotors.com/ ?
They've been doing this for some time now, have a plant in North Carolina, one of the few remaining contestants in the X-Prize event and just signed a licensing agreement with Canada.. I don't know but its worth a look...

· · 3 years ago

Talking range is kind of silly no? I mean if I stand on the gas petal none-stop I am going to get a great deal less miles per tank of gas. Why would anyone think it is not the same with the battery of an EV?

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

EV Electricity cost per mile is much less than fuel cost of gas/diesel autos. And the gap is going to increase in future as the price of petroleum products no doubt will increase more rapidly than the price of electricity.

But then electricity is only a (small) part of the "fuel cost" of EVs. They do have a battery pack that needs replacement every X miles - say:

100K miles at 20K $ = 20 cents a mile!

I assume depreciation will be more like the one of laptops and other electronic consumer products than like "normal" autos due to probable future technical development more like the one of these products than that of "normal cars". Selling a 2 yr old outdated EC would be like selling a 2 yr old laptop or TV-set - lack of buyers forcing you to keep the one you bought the entire lifespan of the thing or just to trash it.

.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

RE """My diesel tank is supposed to give me more than 1000 km range but I get rarely 800 km out of it. Sounds familiar? Of course the range is a lot longer than the EV-range but the discrepancy in fueled cars is accepted as no issue"""

No issue because you're always on the safe side of reaching the next filling station/your destination. With EV's you're always in danger of not reaching your destination. Driving an EV is much like driving with bald tires that might explode any moment.

· Anonymous · 3 years ago

In CA, EV electricity cost per mile can easily be greater than that of an equivalent gasoline car. It's not just the incremental kWh you need to charge the car, it's the utility-mandated shift to a time-of-use rate which severely penalizes your ordinary residential use pattern for air conditioning, laundry, etc. This increases your E-bill significantly even neglecting the energy used in charging the car.

· JJ (not verified) · 3 years ago

Why don't they have a built in solar panel on the roof and hood
to trickle charge the car when you spend the afternoon at the mall
or at your friends place.
I know this won't give you a full charge, but it would help get a few extra miles for your return trip.

· · 3 years ago

JJ: Even if the entire roof was a highly efficient solar panel, it wouldn't generate enough electricity to move an EV more than a mile or so. Plus that would be if the car was parked in a completely shade free location and there were very little clouds in the sky.

This would be the case in very little circumstances and the cost of the solar array just wouldn't be offset by the energy captured.

· · 3 years ago

Now that this old thread has been revived - I'd say there really isn't one true range.

We need the following ranges listed for an EV.

- EPA city/hwy ratings (no 30% fudge factor)
- Cold Winter Range, 20 Deg, with heater on, Hwy driving @ 65 mph
- Cold Winter Range, 20 Deg, with heater on, Urban driving @ 40 mph
- Hot Summer Range, 110 Deg, with AC on, Hwy driving @ 65 mph
- Hot Summer Range, 110 Deg, with AC on, Urban driving @ 40 mph

· · 3 years ago

I'll add the following to EVNow's list:
- Highway driving at 75 mph w/ no A/C or heat
- Highway driving at 75 mph w A/C
- Highway driving at 75 mph w/ heat

· · 3 years ago

There's probably more than a dozen useful range calculations we could mandate by varying the vehicle speed and by including a range of temperatures and accessories used. We can even take it further and add if the driver is alone or if they have 3 adult passengers since the 500 lbs of "cargo" will certainly have an effect.

I wonder if we're over complicating it though. "How" you drive the cars will determine the range as much as your average speed will. I've done many, many tests with my car trying to manipulate the range both ways and it's easy to do so. I can easily enhance or reduce my range by as much as 20% by simply using the regenerative braking as much as possible and altering how aggressive my acceleration from every standstill is, all while driving the same speed as when I'm just driving normally.

What I'm getting at is even if the EPA were to include a wide range of driving range figures, it might give me an idea of how far the car will go, but ultimately that is determined by "how" I drive, not only how fast and in what temperature.

Give me the normal city/highway without the 30% factor, and then the same in 100 degree weather with the a/c on and also in 20 degree weather with the heat on. It would also be nice if the manufacturers published a more comprehensive list of range in all kinds of temperatures and speeds. You know they have all this information long before the cars are in the showroom.

· · 3 years ago

@EVNow and ex-EV1 driver, Your suggested mileage figures got me to wondering how such things would be measured. It seems impractical to measure performance at a given temperature on a track; could it be done using equations and the Cd? A static test in a wind tunnel?

I wonder how mileage measurements are made now for conventional cars? I presume that there is some sort of correction for standard temperature and pressure.

· · 3 years ago

Its impossible to find a set of conditions that meet all needs, however, there are a few extremes that I believe need measure. These would generally be:
1) ideal conditions
2) hard-driving conditions
3) 'normal' conditions.
From these, one can usually guess how well you're doing.

I must confess that I actually have run out of charge once and had to be towed. I had definitely pushed my luck and was too aggressive that day.
I have a 1000 ft climb up the side of a mountain to my house and the problem was that the car couldn't climb that last 1/2 mile.
It also wasn't that I couldn't find a place to charge. There are thousands of outlets around. Its just that at 2:00 am, the cops on duty decided I was 'stealing electricity' from the 120v outlets that are next to essentially every parking place downtown (to power the Christmas tree decorations). They didn't feel they could just allow me to put a lot of quarters into the parking meters so I was stuck with either waiting until Monday when I could get someone to approve my charging or else tow the car home to charge it.
This problem can be solved with the stroke of a pen or only a small handful of level 2 chargers around.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 1 year ago

Interesting reading this a year after most of the original posts. My 2012 Volt, in hy/city driving gets me anywhere from 40 to 43 miles per charge (which according to the sales brochure is 12.9 kwh). If I take a longer trip someplace, I only need to fill the gas tank whenever it runs dry (I know, prior anonymous poster...its not a "true" ev, but an extended range ev, which is why I bought it...so I wouldn't have the need to find an outlet someplace to plug 'er in).
That mileage not work for your situation, but suits me to a T.
Yes, if I leadfoot it like my traded-in Corvette, it drops to maybe 35-38 miles per charge, but I am slowly getting over that :) and find its not so bad after all.
Oh yeah, I would expect technology to improve as it has in everything else in modern life, so expect the ranges will improve greatly if we all don't stop believing.

· Jon (not verified) · 1 year ago

I have a Leaf. I get about 40 miles a day on a full charge. That is in Rush Hour traffic with the heat/climate control going in and out as the windows fog up. I'm not happy.

· · 1 year ago

I have some good experience now on Leaf range in colder weather. Last 2 months I got on full charge 100 km real range and at 80% charge 80 km range. Weather usually at ca -5C, car stays in nonheated carage, which has ca +5C. City driving 80%, the rest at ca 90 km/h. Cabin temperature at 16,5 C. The car is 2012 with cold weather package. Driving 90 km/h at +10C I managed to get 130 km from full charge, really eco style, thats the max you get with this speed. Respective data for Mitubishi i :the same cold weather driving you get 60 km range from 100% charge and 50 km from 80% charge. These all are real figures over some period and very reliable.

· · 1 year ago

In winter, our Renault Kangoo ZE which is being announced having a range of 170 kilometers (110 miles), will only do about 85 kilometers with no airco on... It is parked outside and preheated from the power supply in the morning. In summer I once managed to achieve 141 kilometers by driving very defensive and not faster than 70 km/hr. On the moment, however, it is already 4 weeks at the repair shop due to a problem with brake assistance during cold times, and Renault is not able to deliver the needed spare parts... O yeah, and they could provide us with a replacement car for only just 3 days...

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