Monday, August 15, 2016

Why Range Anxiety for Electric Cars Is Overblown

A new study says that today’s electric vehicles can handle almost 90 percent of all car travel in the U.S.

Electric vehicle charging (Photograph Credit: Miles Willis | Getty) Click to Enlarge.
Electric vehicles promise to free us from our dependence on gasoline, but there’s a catch:  most models can’t travel as far as their internal-combustion counterparts without recharging.  As a result, whenever widespread adoption of electrics comes up, the conversation almost always turns to “range anxiety.”

New research suggests the concern is overblown.  By analyzing people’s driving habits across the country, Jessika Trancik at MIT and colleagues found that currently available electric cars could replace 87 percent of the personal vehicles on the road and still get us where we need to go (and back again).  Assuming battery technology improves in line with government estimates, by 2020 up to 98 percent of vehicles could be replaced.

You don’t have to pony up for a Tesla, either.  In their analysis, the team used performance metrics for the Nissan Leaf, which starts around $29,000.  According to the researchers, the Leaf’s range averages 74 miles per charge, which includes a buffer of 10 percent of charge left in the battery, though that depends on things like whether you often drive in heavy traffic and how hard you tend to lean on the accelerator.

The researchers’ model used self-reported data on how Americans travel, taken from the 2009 National Household Travel Survey.  They paired that with GPS data from car trips around the country, as well as fuel economy data, and air temperature readings.  The model assumed that people only recharged their cars overnight.

Read more at Why Range Anxiety for Electric Cars Is Overblown

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