It’s Not How Far They Don’t Go . . .

  • April 16, 2024

Most of the criticism of EVs focuses on their range – or rather, the lack thereof. And without doubt, it’s a problem. But that’s not the real problem, which can be shown easily enough by pointing to the fact that it’s never been a meaningful problem for thirsty gas engined cars.

Because it’s not a meaningful problem to get more gas.

The Hellcat Charger you can’t buy anymore because of government regulations that have forced it out of showrooms to make room for EVs had less range than almost any new EV.  Just 222 miles on a full tank. That is about 50 miles less range than the ’24 Hyundai Ioniq 6 I’m test driving this week.

But the Hellcat – rest in peace – could be driven farther in less time because it took about as long as it has for you to read this far to refill its tank. That is only a slight exaggeration.

As opposed to the indicated range remaining the EV says you have left.

The other day, I took the Ioniq for a drive. When I started out, the car’s range-remaining indicator said I could drive 197 miles. Well, after driving 46 miles, the range remaining indicator said 127 miles remaining. Which meant I lost 70 miles of indicated range, a difference of 24 miles not actually driven. This is not a small difference. And it is a meaningful problem – because of the time it takes to recover any meaningful charge.

Especially at home.

If you have had your garage wiring and your home’s electrical panel updated by an electrician to be capable of allowing for “Level II” (240V) charging, you can recover a full charge in about six hours. That’s awfully long to wait if you’re wanting to drive somewhere in the meanwhile. If you haven’t paid an electrician to update your home’s wiring, then you’ll be waiting a day or two to get back enough charge to be able to drive somewhere again – because that’s how long it takes to recover more than about 46 miles via “Level 1” (ordinary household outlet) charging.

Of course, you could drive to what is referred to as a “fast” charger, which is only fast in relation to how slow home-charging – even “Level II” charging – is. It takes about half an-hour or so at the “fastest” commercial high-voltage charger to recover a maximum of 80 percent of whatever the EV’s advertised fully charged range is claimed to be. So – in the case of the Ioniq – you would have about 216 miles of indicated driving range after “fast” charging. But – keep in mind – you probably have about 20-25 percent less actual driving range than that.

Especially if you turn on the AC.

When I did that, the indicated range remaining took an immediate dump from 172 miles to 166 miles – a loss of 6 miles of estimated driving range, before I’d even driven a few yards. The computer that calculates the range remaining adjusted the range remaining on the assumption that the battery would have to power the AC as well as the electric motors that propel the Hyundai. And this is probably why I ended up burning through 70 miles of indicated range remaining after just 46 miles of actual driving.

This left me with 127 miles of indicated range remaining by the time I got back home. Given how much actual range was consumed during this drive, the actual range remaining is probably more like 80 or so miles, which won’t take you far and – more importantly – isn’t much of a margin. It is not enervating to drive a Hellcat Charger down to the Low Fuel light coming on because you know you’ll be able to continue driving after stopping for a few minutes at a gas station. The Charger’s thirst is not a meaningful problem. A Charger can be driven as far as you need to go without it taking all day.

An EV can only be driven so far – so often – because it takes so long to get it ready to drive again. And that is a very meaningful problem. Electric vehicles can be described  – fairly – as Occasional Use Vehicles because of the time in between charging them that’s spent not driving them. Some will say you don’t wait more than the moment or two it takes to plug in at home. This is as absurd as it is untrue. Of course you’re waiting. You’re just doing something else while you wait. The wait remains. And if you need to do something – like drive somewhere, because something unexpectedly came up – then you’ll be very much aware of the meaningful problem you have tethered to an outlet in the garage.

Speaking of which. Another meaningful problem I’ve encountered with every EV I’ve even test driven (which encompasses most of the models currently on the market) is that if you leave them untethered when you’re not driving them, you’ll find the indicated range remaining is less than what it was when you parked it.

That’s because EVs burn energy – electricity – even when they’re not being driven. Chiefly, to power the EV’s thermal management system, which keeps the battery in the Goldilocks Zone (not too hot, not too cold) when the EV is parked. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep the EV always-tethered, because the loss of even 10 miles of indicated range is more of a meaningful problem when it takes so long to recover it.

This a problem that is not likely to ever be solved.

The best that can be hoped for is to increase the actual (not indicated) driving range of EVs to 400 miles or more, which would compensate a little bit for all the waiting EV owners will still have to put up with.

But this will not solve the underlying problem – which is figuring out how to get an EV fully charged in the same time it takes to fully refuel a gas-engined car. That is not likely to ever happen, due to the problems (plural) that attend “pumping” extremely high voltage electricity that quickly. Plus the problems that attend generating all the high-voltage electricity that would be necessary and having it at-the-ready at “fast” charging stations as conveniently situated as gas stations, particularly in out-of-the-way places.

Maybe it will happen. Maybe light-speed travel will happen, too.

But whether it’s likely to happen is the more relevant conversation.

. . .

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