No, EV range is not fine



I’d like to start by stating that I’m an EV fanatic, and have been ever since I read What it’s like to own a Tesla Model S by The Oatmeal. I’m not sure when that happened, but at least 6 or 7 years ago. I’m also an environmentalist since elementary. Yet, I see the world through facts and numbers. And when I bring those up to refute unjustified feelings, impressions, or suspicions, I’m always called a fossil fuel sellout, a petrolhead, destroyer of worlds, or simply just an inconsiderate asshole, amongst others.

There’s this ongoing trend of articles on EV enthusiast sites about how great EV range already is. How we reached range parity, and that EVs are a proper and full replacement to the internal combustion engine. How further improvements to range are completely unnecessary and uncalled for. Then you get a good dose of Copium with various narratives thrown around. The latest one is from CleanTechnica, titled Going To The Gas Station Must Really Suck. This one pulls the “home charging is so superior” card. But there’s an endless amount of such articles and posts, it’s pointless to try and list them all.

I get it. EVs need to be promoted. We need people to believe in the tech and give it a chance. But if you mislead people, they’ll only regret their choice and will hate EVs even more. And convincing an already disappointed customer is orders of magnitude harder. So why are EV fans trying so hard to alienate all these people? We really need to dismantle the issue, because to me it seems it’s just not something that’s being talked about enough. At all.

Range Anxiety

So what’s the fuss about to begin with? It’s rather obvious an EV can handle city travel. Even a PHEV with 40 km range can do that. The city is the easiest to conquer, and it was done the moment EVs were made. It’s pointless to even bring it up. The tech to do city travel has existed since the 1800s. No, I’m not kidding.

So the issue is obviously the motorway. This is problematic for at least 2 reasons:

  • distances are much higher
  • speeds are much higher

For this reason, travel becomes a whole lot different, because you need to refill your vehicle during the trip, not between trips. And when that happens, a a bunch of aspects become way more critical, namely:

  • refilling time
  • amount of refilling stations
  • refilling frequency, a.k.a. range obtained per refill

And guess what: EVs suck at all three. But just how much do they suck?

Refilling Time

This one is the simplest. Pretty much all current ultra-fast chargers charge from 20% to 80% somewhere around 30 minutes. Compared to gasoline, that’s pretty bad, because gas takes maybe a minute or two to pump into your tank, the rest is just overhead, i.e. stopping, paying, and speeding up again. So even if we say a generous 10 minutes with a cigarette and a restroom break, that’s still at least 3 times worse.

Refilling Stations

I already cover this in my EMPI updates, but long story short, as for ultra-fast charging stations (the only ones we may consider even remotely comparable to petrol stations) , we have around 100 times less than gas stations. Gee, we’re getting into some worrisome territory now, huh? But just wait until we get to…


Oh boy, this is a juicy one. To sum things up, driving cycles suck ass, but that’s another article for another day. In any case, the Tesla Model 3 LR, which is quite high up there on the list of EVs with the most range, still only has 626 km with the Aero wheel caps, according to the WLTP cycle.

But wait, why only 626, that sounds pretty darn neat, ain’t it? Well, yeah, it sounds great. But the WLTP cycle has pretty much nothing to do with reality, or at least with the motorway part of it. You know, the part where it matters the most? There’s a youtuber called Bjørn Nyland who single-handedly left all these idiotic, useless “driving cycles” in the dust that the automotive industry managed to come up with in the past 20 years. He compiled this incredible sheet with a shitton of real world driving tests, often under various conditions. Now this is something we can work with.

Just do the fucking math!

So according to Bjørn’s sheet, a 2021 Model 3 LR, driving alone, in 25 °C, dry weather, i.e. the most ideal conditions possible for EV travel, can pull 422 km at the speed of 120 km/h. Wow, one third of our promised range – gone. And this is only 120 km/h, while the majority of European countries have a limit of 130 km/h or higher. In Poland it’s 140 km/h, and Germany has parts with no limits. Yes, you read that right.

Unfortunately, 130 km/h range tests are very hard to come by, the closest one I could find is a Model 3 Performance test from 2019. These numbers are pretty awful, so I’ll be generous and settle with a 200 Wh/km consumption for 130 km/h. The 2021 Model 3 LR appears to have a usable battery of around 76 kWh, which leads us to a full motorway range of 380 km.

But didn’t you forget something? Do you drive your car from 100% to 0%? Of course you don’t. You’ll stop at 20%, because what if the charging station is full, or out of order, or whatever? So you’ve just thrown another 20% of your precious range out the window. We’re down to 304 km.

But to quote Billy Mays, wait, there’s more! Because you don’t do ultra-fast charging to 100%, either! Why?

  1. Because that kills your battery. Unless it’s LFP, but those have shorter range due to lower energy densities, so even if you charge to 100%, it’s worse for motorway travel.
  2. Because the last 20% of charging is much, much slower, and when you’re on a several hundred km road trip, you don’t have time for that. Neither does the next person waiting for you in line. And that’s the lovely hypocrisy of EV makers: they advertise 100% of their range combined with their 10% to 80% charging times.

Oops, suddenly 40% of your range is gone for motorway travel, where it matters the most. We’re down to 228 km. That’s a pretty big far cry from the 626 km we started with, huh? And to be honest, according to Bjørn’s real world tests, even charging to 80% isn’t optimal, and you should probably be charging to 70% or even 60%.

So now we know that in the best scenario possible, we can travel 228 km at motorway speeds. That’s 36% of the original 626 km we got promised. Since our speed is 130 km/h, i.e. the European legal limit for the most part, that’s 1.75 hours, which is 105 minutes. The Model 3 LR charges from 20% to 80% in 31 minutes, and that’s only on the fastest chargers out there, so again, I’m being generous.

So for every 105 minutes of driving you’ll have to stop for 31 minutes. In other words, you’ll spend 23%, or almost 1/4th of your time charging. And that’s when you’re driving alone, in perfect weather, in one of the highest range cars, using the fastest chargers, and I’m even assuming these ultra-fast chargers are always in the right spot, right when you’re hitting the 20% mark, and there’s never a queue, and the charger can charge at full speed (it’s not always the case, because who knows why). Gee, that’s a heck of a lot “ifs”, don’t you think? If the weather gets colder, your range decreases, and charging times go up. Then there’s the rain, the heat (AC!), the wind, the weight of your passengers, and oh did I mention towing? Queues at the station? Should I go on?

EV range sucks. Period.

Stop making excuses

So when you point out all these tangible, hard facts, as a last resort, you’ll be shrugged off anyways. Why? Because you need to take breaks anyway! Have a coffee every 100 minutes. For 30 minutes. Or maybe the idea is to drink so many coffees that you develop a bad case of diarrhea and need a restroom break at every stop anyway? I really don’t know.

My other favorite excuse is, “My EV covers 99% of my driving”. Yeah, good for you. It’s great that you can afford a 2nd car just for that one trip in the year. Most of us can’t, or don’t want to. Rentals are also obscenely expensive in most parts of the World, North America being one of the few exceptions. Telling us to earn more money so that we can afford a 2nd, gas-powered car for that one darned trip won’t help EV adoption, believe me. I need my car 100% of the time, even for that one trip home during the holidays. Ironically, these are the same people who laugh at the concept of PHEVs – you know, the thing that solves this very problem. PHEVs are compliance cars and the root of all evil, yada yada yada.

Remember that article about home charging I mentioned in the beginning? That’s also a recurring theme. Yeah, EV range is lower, but, but, home charging. Now, please, explain to me, how on Earth does home charging, that takes several hours, help me, stuck on a highway, in the middle of an 800 km trip? I really don’t get it. How’s that even relevant? Yes, the ability to refill my car in my home is extremely convenient – that is assuming I own a house in the suburbs with an actual garage, which, again, does not apply to most city dwellers anyway. The point is, literally no one has ever refuted that home charging is awesome. But it is utterly irrelevant in terms of range. Range is only an issue if you wanna go to great distances – far, far away from your home, and time is of the essence. No one cares or worries about city driving. It’s not an issue. Let it go.

There’s also this argument that we should slow the fuck down. I’m sorry to break it to you, but no, we’re not going to drive slower, we’re not gonna change our driving habits just because some EV fanatics told us on the internet. Europeans drive fast, we like it that way, and it will stay that way. Get over it.

But the award of most idiotic excuse probably goes to the one where they say “just go by plane”. Because burning Kerosene is oh so much greener. And spending extra hours to get to the airport, check in, take off, then check out, wait for your luggage, and get to your destination is super convenient and flexible. Or something.

Stop pulling an Apple. Stop telling us we’re holding it wrong. It won’t help EV adoption. In fact, it’ll only achieve the exact opposite. It annoys and alienates potential future EV owners. Stop pushing the 9 millionth article about how awesome EV range is. It’s not, and you’re either in denial or don’t understand the needs of drivers, because you climbed too high up in your ivory tower.

The solution

The next steps are completely obvious. First, we need higher range. It’s being mocked constantly by EV lunatics, like “yeah right, you need 1000 km cars, but then you’ll want 1500 km cars”. But that’s wrong. No one needs 1000 km cars. Apparently ICE cars reached range equilibrium at around 460 miles, which equals to 740 km. The trick is that these cars can actually travel that far, in real life, and not just in some nonsensical synthetic benchmarks. That 626 km range the Model 3 promises would be fine. If it was actually true. But it’s not. We’re lucky if we can squeeze out maybe 1/3rd of that number on the motorway. It’s an inflated lie. It’s pretty much Wi-Fi speeds all over. Has anyone ever seen Wi-FI that can actually pull 24.4 Gigabits per second? Really? Yeah, me neither. I’ll have another article about driving cycles soon, but until then, let’s just say we need better range.

The other one is, of course, charging time. And I can’t stress enough the difference between charging speed and charging time. Charging speeds are increasing constantly, but so does battery capacity. Unfortunately, that means we’re still stuck with this awful 30 minute 20-80 charging. Yeah, sometimes it’s 10-80, but that won’t change things drastically. We need to get this down to maybe 10 minutes, and we’ll see much fewer naysayers, queues will become much, much less of an issue, we’ll have much less downtime at the stations, the list goes on.

Bottom line: get motorway range up to 500 km. Get charging time down to 10 minutes.

Until then, stop saying EV range is fine. It’s not.