Hooniverse Asks: What’s the magic range number for electric vehicles?

I’d like my wife to consider an electric vehicle. Her obvious objections are related to range and charging times. Those are the major hurdles for most anyone considering an EV at this point. Especially since there are great options at most ends of the pricing spectrum. For me personally, I’d be ok with an EV boasting a range over 200 miles of charge. We have another car we can use for longer trips, even if its range is only around 250 on a tank. I can at least fill that one up quickly and keep us moving.

For the average consumer, I think the “magic number” with respect to curbing range anxiety is 300 miles. And the interesting thing is that a 300-mile-range EV could show the owner that in reality they could’ve made do with a bit less. Charging at home, even on a Level 2 charger is more than fine as well. You’ll start to treat charging your car like you do your smartphone. The clear exception being that you can plug in your phone anywhere.

The charging infrastructure is growing at an exponential rate, with many Level 3 chargers at these fresh stations coming online. So charging speed could soon eclipse overall range on the EV shopping priority list. Still, we’re not quite there yet per the average consumer. So I think when the 300-mile-range EV is the norm and not the Tesla exception, more electric-focused dollars will flow towards dealers.

What say you? Is 300 enough or do you want more? Are you good with less?

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22 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What’s the magic range number for electric vehicles?”

  1. neight428 Avatar

    If you have the “other car” option for longer trips, 200 seems entirely adequate, but you have to overcome a bunch of rational, semi-rational, and irrational impressions to get most people to buy in to electric only. When it is economically competitive with an equivalent performing product then we can find out what the magic numbers are. As it is, you have to get your electrons for free and drive a Leaf ~130k miles at $3.50/gallon to make out better than you would on a Sentra. Meanwhile, unleaded regular hasn’t hit that in 5 years where I live and is around$2.30 as I type (200k mile payback).

    Electrics are a premium product for people that see extra value there. Rank and file consumers that will determine what an acceptable range is for a mainstream product aren’t involved in the discussion yet, so it’s more irrational than not at this point.

    1. Wayward David Avatar
      Wayward David

      My Chevy Bolt has an official range of 238 miles, and that has been perfectly adequate for the two years I’ve owned the car, mainly because in L. A.’s temperate climate I usually get between 250-270 miles per charge (to be fair, in January-February it dropped as low as 210). I haven’t done any cross-country trips in it, just a couple runs to San Diego and Las Vegas, both of which went smoothly. But I contend that a once per year cross country trek should be done in a rental car anyway, to save wear and tear on your primary vehicle and get the advantages of a vehicle that excels in that situation (*cough* minivan *cough*).

      Other things to factor into the cost comparison are the much lower maintenance costs for an electric car, and the lower cost to “fill the tank”. I do almost all my charging with the Level 2 charger in my carport at night, only using commercial chargers on the San Diego and Las Vegas runs. I usually plug in when my estimated remaining range drops below 100 miles, and figure it costs me ~$6.00 to charge, as opposed to the price of gas locally which is ~$3.45 per gallon. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/963290f1ddce75135510452ff387b1a065b36f16a1cae8b4b29668e62c9791b5.jpg

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Interesting, why do you charge already when below 100 miles? Do you use superchargers on your longer trips and have you noticed any battery power loss over time yet?

        Our gas price translates to 7.06$/gallon, with a running cost of about 1-1.2 NOK/km with a 30-35-ish US mpg vehicle. Our Leaf has a quarter of that in “fuel” cost (0.24 NOK/km everything included), with still reduced service cost.

      2. Lokki Avatar

        I am not sure that the cost savings on maintenance for electric vehicles are -really- so great in comparison to
        ICE cars. Yes, they’re cheaper, but they are not cost free (blatantly stolen from the linked article):

        1. Tire rotation requirement – it’s extra important on an EV because they have a heavy footing with that big battery and exert a lot of torque on the driven wheels.

        2. Brake fluid replacement – Even though electric cars do most of their everyday stopping via regenerative braking, where the mechanical brakes aren’t used, they all have normal brake discs and pads. Those are pressed together via the same hydraulic fluid found in a conventional car, and that fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it likes to absorb water from the air and will corrode your brake system unless you flush it regularly.

        3. Coolant flush – Battery electric cars have no engine but they still have coolant keep that big battery from doing what it naturally wants to do: catch fire. Coolant system-flush intervals vary widely, from every four years or 50,000 miles for a Tesla Model 3, to every 150,000 miles for a Chevy Bolt.

        4. Brake pads/ rotors – Separate from brake fluid are the brake pads and discs. How often an EV needs them serviced depends on how much you drive, how hard you drive, what regeneration settings you use and the terrain in your area.

        Naturally these are all required for ICE cars as well, but what else will a ‘typical’ modern vehicle require in the course of 100,000 miles? Electrical component failures, air conditioning failures, steering component failures seem no more or less likely for EV’s or ICE and so don’t come into the equation. Most exhaust systems should last 100,000 miles these days, as do most spark plugs.

        The only real maintenance saving I can think of would be oil and filter changes; with many cars going 10,000 – 15,000 miles between changes, that means that this maintenance cost is perhaps $50 per year. Hardly enough to get excited about.

        I have limited my discussion to 100,000 miles; beyond that the vagaries of individual makes enters too much into the equation, and further I don’t expect most ‘original owners’ of electric cars to keep them longer than that.

        What ICE maintenance costs am I missing?

        Of course the cost of gasoline is not being considered here – as pointed out above, except in California et al where the price of fuel is very high – the higher original cost of an electric vehicle pretty much burns up (heh) any fuel cost savings.

        Link from which I stole my talking points

  2. mdharrell Avatar

    My threshold for ownership is “catastrophic steering failure while pushing it off the trailer, followed by a year and a half (and counting) of immobility and probably very dead batteries, so let’s just go with ‘one car length of range.’” I would say this puts me in the category of “fault-tolerant early adopter” but that Xebra is from 2007, so it was over a decade old when I got it, which means I will instead categorize myself as “idiot.”


  3. P161911 Avatar

    500-600 miles with a full charge in less than 10 hours. That’s about the most that I want to drive in one day. But 60-80 miles for a PHEV would be really sweet.

  4. Sjalabais Avatar

    I would go lower and say 200 miles would fit most people just fine. If I remember correctly, your wife drives a lot, but superchargers are real, effective and everywhere – at least here. Our ancient EV has an effective max range of 90 kms, which means the operating range between 20-80% is about 50 kms. That is a cruel joke. Our 18 year old Camry, for comparison, does 800 kms on a tank of liquified dinosaur.

    So, 200 miles in the 20-80% range with some wiggle room for winters would probably mean a NEDC rating of about 300-350 miles, yes.

  5. onrails Avatar

    2 cars where one is ICE? I’ve gone all summer with a 40-50 mile range and the engine hasn’t turned on yet. BUT, I have been fairly disciplined on commuting/errands only with it. Long trips, we’ve burned some dinosaurs. Practically, I think 300 is probably the magic number. But there were 2 Teslas on One Lap of America this year that, with a little advance planning on finding charging stations, were present and competitive for every event with 500-600 mile drives between each. It can be done.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      The way I look at it is you want to only use 50% of the maximum range on a regular basis for optimum battery life. As a second car I’d be fine with 80-100 miles as a normal daily maximum, more possible if necessary, but the other car used for the longer trips.

  6. Zentropy Avatar

    For me, it’s not so much range as it is recharge time. I’d be ok with 200 miles if that range capacity could be recharged in 10 minutes (assuming plentiful, conveniently-located charging stations). It’s rare that we get that far without someone in my family needing to eat or pee. Yeah, I know– that’s asking a hell of a lot, but abandoning the convenience of the internal combustion engine is a huge opportunity cost.

  7. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    100 miles. It’ll never make sense as an only car, and as a second (or third) car in a household, it only needs to cover a daily commute. My daily commute is now only 24 miles round trip. 100 mile range would be more than enough buffer if I forgot to plug it in one night, or if I needed to make a detour to the grocery store on my way home.

    I think the focus on long range is the wrong focus on electric cars, because we’re already at the point of too much and still not enough. Way more than necessary for a commuter (with accompanying pricetag), and still not enough for the twice a year trip to visit family 3 states away. The laws of physics will never allow charging times low enough for a day-long drive. The upside of long range is the power that comes with it. Range, power, and charge times are all interconnected in an electric car in a way that seems counterintuitive.

    100 miles We should be able to get that with 30kWh in a car that costs less than the average new car. That would limit peak power, but I’m not trying to win races on my commute.

    1. Scoutdude Avatar

      I agree that there is too much focus on long range and super fast recharge times when the commuter car in a two car family makes a lot more sense. The smaller battery will cost and weigh much less, plus it takes less time to recharge. I’d say a little more than 100 would be ideal. I think 150 would give enough cold weather and battery degradation after 5-6 years for the vast majority of the population’s daily commute.

      My wife’s commute is just under 30mi round trip. However there are times when she doesn’t take her lunch and that’s 2-4 more miles, and then occasionally she’ll go to the chiropractor than can add another 12. So for her yeah 100 would be my minimum rated.

      For me there are times of the year when my commute is 65 mi, however there are time when due to traffic I end up going 75 miles to save 15-30 min. So yeah I want that 150 mi range because I can be in the dark running lights, wipers and heat sitting in traffic, and I’d want to be able to do that when it’s battery is degraded.

      For now though, we have a plugin hybrid (C-Max Energi) and the upcoming Escape/Corsair and it’s expected 30 mile EV range and ~40 mpg hybrid operation is looking very interesting as my wife’s next car.

    2. Zentropy Avatar

      My current commute is short, but my last one was 100 miles (if I didn’t pick up the kids), with no charge option at work. That would have been uncomfortably tight. The job before that had a commute that was over 475 miles, making an EV completely infeasible.
      For short commutes and as a second or third car, 100 miles makes good sense. Otherwise, it doesn’t work at all.

    3. Zentropy Avatar

      My current commute is short, but my last one was 100 miles (if I didn’t pick up the kids), with no charge option at work. That would have been uncomfortably tight. The job before that had a commute that was over 475 miles, making an EV completely infeasible.
      For short commutes and as a second or third car, 100 miles makes good sense. Otherwise, it doesn’t work at all.

  8. smokyburnout Avatar

    Personally, my “magic number” is not range but used price, and they’re dipping down to the point where the cheapest ones cost about as much as my current car plus the past 6 years of running costs, but I’m still thinking about it. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7a2f19160821cf86242b78fa319677a6520985e251198fb5310c8203b84e6652.png

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      That Leaf is an exact copy of what we bought in April. Expensive though…interesting to see how these cars hold their value in the US, given that new car prices are 1/3-1/2 compared to our new car prices (EVs are tax exempt though, a saving that carries over to used vehicles).

  9. Troggy Avatar

    The trouble with EV ‘range’ is that on one hand, 100km a day will do me fine for getting around on the weekends, but on the open road I usually do about 4 hours before I need a decent break. So anywhere from 100km to 400km I could live with.

    This is a concept I could also live with: Most of my distance trips these days is towing the camper trailer so we can save a bit on accommodation. If we were to build a camper on top of this guys range extender trailer, I would only need to hook it up to extend the EV range on road trips, and I obviously wouldn’t need a generator to power the camper lights at night.

    It could charge – albeit slowly – off solar panels, but if I’m camping, it could take all week to charge for all I care.

  10. 0A5599 Avatar


  11. Smaglik Avatar

    250, but it needs to be a robust 250. Weather and operational conditions may impact a bit, but not more than a few miles. That, more than anything else, keeps me away from an electric. Most of the year we have 40 degree swings from morning to midday. I don’t want to have to think about weather when it comes to traveling…

  12. SeattleCurmudgeon Avatar

    I don’t think an electric vehicle can be built with a satisfactory range. A hybrid is the obvious solution, but doesn’t answer the question. When an electric vehicle can be recharged to full in 10 minutes like a gas or diesel vehicle, 300 will be acceptable.

  13. crank_case Avatar

    120 miles if I can get 90-100 miles back in a 5 minute quick charge top up, but I live on an island where most places are no more than 3 hours away and not Texas.

  14. HycoSpeed Avatar

    I think 500 is the number. I also know that most folks don’t need nearly that much, but I think that is the comfort number. It is mentioned in another comment, but speed of charging is another factor slowing acceptance of electric.

    500 miles though, that is the biggest concern. ‘Everyone’ thinks they might need to go that far in a day.


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