Hooniverse Asks: With EVs, do you care more about total range or quick charge times?


I’m sitting at a dinner with other automotive journalists and a handful of PR folks. The latter work for a German automaker that’s prepping an electric vehicle for the market. I mention that I’m impressed with the Hyundai Kona Electric and its EPA-posted range fo 258 miles. Plus the rest of the car is pretty solid. The PR folks argue that range isn’t the concern anymore, but the charging times.
I argue from there that for luxury and premium EVs, that seems to make sense. But for those buying Bolts, Leafs, and Kona Electrics, the total range is still a selling point. It was an interesting conversation and actually shows a potential dividing line for EV buyers. Those with means, want an EV that charges quickly. A standard EV buyer would prefer greater range and might not be inclined to charge their car every night.
What say you? As total range rises, will charging times overcome the marketing messaging? Or does total range still win out?

29 Comments

  1. Yes. For most people, a range of 50 miles and a several hour recharge time would work for a daily driver. For longer trips, both range and recharge time become concerns. Fortunately, the two are inextricably linked. A larger battery gives more range. A larger battery also facilitates faster charge rates (unless limited by the charger).
    The added benefit to enthusiasts is that a larger battery also has a higher maximum discharge rate, and that means more power. The speed of a Tesla is largely incidental. To get the range they wanted, they just “wound up with” a bunch of power.
    Basically, the answer to everything wrong with electric cars (except for weight) is “bigger battery.”

    1. ^^This.
      An electric car is like your phone.
      You plug it in every night.
      Or even at work and at home.
      The energy to move a vehicle 300-500km is not going to change
      A 240V 50A will charge a battery that size from empty in a night.
      (Welding plug, one size up from a dryer plug.)
      One per car, and you’re completely future proof.
      Fast and opportunistic charging only matter for very long distance days.
      The bigger issue is street parking in urban areas where emissions matter the most.
      There’s a big opportunity if you can figure out how to get the plugs to the curb.

      1. first thing to consider upgrading is your electric utility box and circuit breaker panel. most homes only have 150amp service some only 100 amp boxes.
        All EV plugin owners should concern themselves with where their power is coming from. Me, I would prefer nuclear. As in 50Kw NTEG. great big radiation warning signs on the car. go ahead and hit it. glow in the dark fool.
        seriously, the electricity comes from some where, doesn’t it? I guess most EV owners just don’t care cause they done their part, right?

  2. Much like Dwight Yoakam, I’m a Thousand Miles From Nowhere – so yeah, if I’m going ‘lectric it better have some serious range (and cope with cold temps. it’s -9 here this morning. brrrrrrrr)

  3. Big battery charged once or twice a week on a shared charger could be a solution for retrofitting older apartment buildings that can’t support a lot of extra current draw.
    Otherwise I’m in the lighter runabout Ev and rent a combustion engine car for occasional longer trips being more viable for most urban dwellers. But there are as many different use scenarios as there are car models currently.

    1. transportation is more than ever about convenience than ever now days. bus routes change and busses are just too damn big for city traffic and create more problems than they solve, trains are too expensive to put in and inflexible once track is laid in. bicycling in the winter-give me a break. Can anyone name a RTD company in the US that is not taking a taxpayer stipend? Tesla is STILL suckling on the taxpayers tits. don’t hand me the EV solution until you solve the electrical power generation and distribution network problems to support them. If only half the vehicles on the city streets were plugins, the city wiring would melt down trying to pass enough watts to charge them.

      1. Hey I agree, I very rarely use public transport as I am out in the suburbs and services rarely match where I want to go let alone the travel time would be double to ten times the driving time, let alone service frequency and hours of operation restrictions. For that matter I’m not looking at owning an EV, but more the scenarios in which they can work.
        When saying urban I really mean inner-city. Usually there are lots of transport services so it can work, and parking can be a challenge or very expensive. Winter in Australia is mild so still bike-able, I did it when I lived close to the city. Obviously this is not the case everywhere; mind you years ago we had an exchange student from Finland who rode her bike to school over there in -20°C.
        Greater Melbourne has grown 25% or 1 million people in the past 10 years – roads can’t keep up and will never be able to solve the problem by themselves. Traffic in inner suburbs here is worse on the weekend than in rush hour. Mass population requires mass transit, eg things like football games, horse racing or other events with 100k crowds don’t work with cars in a city built before the automobile.
        I’m not writing a thesis on transport solutions here, but part of the solution is charging EVs at night when power demand drops – being able to fit within the current infrastructure is part of EVs being viable.

  4. It’s rare I drive much more than 400-500km in a single day (hell, that’s my average weekly mileage right now), and with most EV’s getting to about that point on a charge, I’m not concerned about much improvement.
    But then for that matter, the supercharger standard set by Tesla (80% in 30 min) is pretty adequate as well – in the event I’ve actually run the battery down enough to need charging on the fly, I probably need a break to physically recharge as well.

  5. Just give me a plug in hybrid with a 50-60 mile EV range. It solves all the problems. Now give it to me in a mid-sized SUV under $50k. I like my Volt, but a bigger car as a family car would be nice. Aside from the Tesla Models S and X it seems that most of the EVs and all the PHEVs are small economy cars or at best small crossovers (Kia Niro). I want something Explorer/Traverse size with a plug in hybrid option. I don’t care if it gets 22mpg after the electric range runs out. If you could convince a consumer that they would save at least $100/month on gas, then you could easily get a $5,000 premium for a PHEV option (It pays for itself!) (1k miles/month with 22mpg with gas at $2.50/gal.)

    1. Well the Explorer’s cousin the Aviator will have the option of a plug in hybrid power train, while they have announced a hybrid Explorer, they haven’t officially announced a plug in version of it.

      1. I doubt the Aviator will be under the $50k mark. Of course by the time I’m in the market again, a CPO Aviator might be a good choice.

        1. I agree that the Aviator Energi or what ever moniker they use on the Lincoln will be more than $50k, however the fact that it exists means that they can do it in the Explorer as well and I suspect it will be available eventually.

  6. It depends on how long it takes for a quick charge. If I could drive 100 miles and then top off at any convenience store in less time than it takes to pay for beef jerky and a coke, then repeat every 100 more miles, that’s acceptable. If it requires a meticulously planned trip to end up at charging stations that take several hours to do their job, then I want a range of 16+ hours of driving.

  7. At this point I care more about range. For my daily winter commute I do 80-90 miles depending on traffic (which dictates what path I take home). So I need an advertized 150 mi or so range to ensure when there is no quick way home, its dark, cold and raining that I actually make it w/o a charge. However I also take some weekend trips that are about 120 miles each way and I’d like some range when I got there and prefer enough to get home without charging if required. So yeah I want 300 miles and then I don’t really care that much about charge times.
    I have a friend with an i3 and he only charges it twice a week most of the time. He has a free charger at work so he’ll top it off Mon and Fri and he is good to go.

  8. “With EVs, do you care more about total range or quick charge times?”
    As the owner of a Lyman Electric Quad, an EV Global Mini-E-Bike and a Zap! Xebra, my answer is:
    No, I do not.

  9. Voting for range. As EVs are getting ubiquitous in Norway, charging points pop up everywhere. Gas stations are rethinking their business models, trying to cram as many charging points as possible onto their lots while offering the same mix of disturbingly bad food and overpriced Chinese plastic articles to the EV crowd that other gas station users are accustomed to.
    Yet, charging points are often occupied. Sometimes, you see petrolradicals™ or just bored kids destroy charging stations:
    http://www.vaksdalposten.no/polopoly_fs/1.2508589.1539597922!/image/2883155434.jpg_gen/derivatives/derivative_980/2883155434.jpg
    It might be a long ride to the next. Or you end up waiting for hours just to refill for half an hour yourself. This is something I’d seek to avoid. And even though recharging cars gets faster and faster, a good range to start with also means that you are better equipped to handle situations like marathon traffic jams, very cold weather, or just being the averagely mentally present person that is allowed to forget plugging in the charger one evening or two a week.

  10. Range first, charge second. An EV isn’t going to be my only vehicle. I’ll take something else on really long trips. As a commuter, the EV needs at least a 200 mile range to get me through three days. 110V charge times are a factor, in case I find myself in a pinch.

  11. Range will get you through the headache of slow charging better than fast charging will get you through the headache of inadequate range.

  12. Charge time, every time, if you want to have fun anyway.
    Look at this way, loads of combustion engined cars have terrible range, but no-one really notices. e.g. A mitsubishi evo 6 drinks like crazy yet has a tiny fuel tank, so its “range” is rubbish. As long as you can afford the fuel bills, does anyone actually care? No, you fill it up, and off you go again like a hyperactive kids thats paused for a brief sugar hit before terrorizing the neighbourhood again.
    That’s what you want in an “enthusiast” EV – do a few laps, charge for 10-15 minutes (the sort of pause many ICE cars would anyway to let brakes and other things cool), off you go again, rinse and repeat.
    Unless you genuinely live miles from civilization, range is there mainly to combat range anxiety, which like most anxieties, isn’t based on anything rational.

    1. That is not a bad idea for track days.
      I doubt that real fast-charging that doesn’t increase battery degradation will happen, trade-offs like that just seem to be the way the world works.

        1. Or simply changing the batteries, and letting the “battery station” charge them over an hour or so to get them ready for the next customer. Ah, if only the car industry had standardized battery size/shape… I guess it took a while to get the 6V batteries (and later 12V batteries) standardized, so there might still be hope.

          1. Maybe, but they’re to hefty to swap by hand, it would limit the progress of battery tech if you tried to lock everyone down to a standard at this stage and reduces your options for distributiing the weight of the cells across the car.

  13. Actually, my biggest concern is the fact that I live in an apartment complex with no access to charging. Therefore, I would have to rely on an offsite station, so I suppose charge time would be more important than range.

    1. And EVs are most practical for people that live in urban areas, who are more likely to live in apartments.

      1. If I was building a new apartment building I would definitely be future-proofing it for EV charging if not installing it already, and in the slightly longer term older buildings will have to compete with that.
        On the other hand, there are lots of apartment buildings being built in parts of Melbourne with basically no parking, on the basis that the residents will use public transport, bikes, walking etc. My sister does that, and uses car-shares or rentals when needed. However on the whole I think it is a flawed assumption that inner-city residents won’t own cars at all.

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