How Much Range Is Enough?

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Photo: Audi

Justified or not, range anxiety is real, and it factors into how people who don’t own electric vehicles perceive them. But the only way the public is ever going to overcome that fear is by owning electric cars. It’s quite the Catch-22.

Eventually, though, a new car buyer won’t have much of a choice but to go electric. And when EVs become more common on our roads than they are today, charging infrastructure proliferates and people’s range anxiety has been largely quelled, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann believes the average range will stabilize or diminish, rather than grow. As Duesmann told Roadshow:

“Putting huge batteries for thousands of kilometers, I’m not sure that this is a trend that will go on. ... Later on they will go down because charging infrastructure is denser and also the experience of customers.” Audi owners, Duesmann says, will need a little time to adjust to the new EV paradigm. “Today you go to the gas station and get your fuel and its very natural how you get your energy for driving. With electric cars it’s not that natural, you have to adjust your behavior a bit. But once you’re used to that I think battery sizes will go down again, because they make the cars unnecessarily heavy and unnecessarily expensive. And unnecessarily big, too.”

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To float some figures for cars on the short end of the range spectrum today, the Mini Cooper SE will go for about 110 miles on a charge, while the Honda E is estimated to have a range of about 125 miles (the more ambitious European WLTP cycle pegs that at 137 miles, but we’re being realistic here). That’s at least a third of what the longest-range EVs on the market now can deliver, like the latest Tesla Model S.

Perhaps 110 to 125 miles might be a bit scant for your only vehicle, but I’m wondering if there’s a sweet spot between 150 and 200 miles that is agreeable for most people — or at least will be once we’re more comfortable with charging up on the regular. And while I do think we ought to be a bit more pragmatic as drivers about how much range we really, truly need on a daily basis, I’m also sympathetic to the reality that nobody wants to be left in the lurch on the occasional road trip.

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What do you think? How much range would you be comfortable for a vehicle that you’d lean on to do it all? Not how much range would be nice to have, mind you, but rather the smallest amount you think you could live with while putting that dreaded anxiety to rest.