When Half Full is Almost Empty

  • December 3, 2023

One of the reasons why the public is beginning to become hesitant about buying into battery-powered vehicles is the disingenuous manner in which they’ve been presented to people.

There is this ludicrous business of “fast” charging, for one thing. It is no such thing. It is merely not as slow as other forms of charging, as at home (which is so slow you almost might as well walk to where you need to go in that you might just get there before the EV is ready to drive there) which is not the same thing as fast.

It takes at least 20-30 minutes to recover a partial charge at a “fast” charger. Observe that they almost never mention the italicized part. To get a full charge takes much longer.

To characterize either as “fast” when it takes less than five minutes to fully refuel a gas-powered car is etymologically malicious, because it is meant to manipulate people into using a term to describe something that is the opposite of what the term is generally understood to mean.

The same etymological maliciousness manifested during the “pandemic,” which wasn’t that, either. At least not in terms of what most people understood the term to mean (that being a mass die-off event such as the plague of the Middle Ages or even the Spanish Flu of the early 20th century).

Well, here’s another – except it’s visually malicious.

EVs have range and charge remaining indicators. The range indicators (and this is based on personal experience driving a dozen different makes/models of EVs) always indicate optimistically, to the tune of 10 percent (typically) in my experience. As a most-recent for-instance, I drove a 2024 Ford Lightning to my friend Graves’ shop and back, a round trip of 47 miles. When I left my place, the indicator indicated 167 miles of range remaining. When I got back home, it said there were 111 miles remaining – an actual loss of 56 miles of range.

Extrapolating from this, I don’t actually have 111 miles of range remaining. More like 100 – and it’s actually less than that because unlike a gas-powered car – which can be run down to almost-empty without worry, because it’s easy (and fast) to get gas – if you run out of charge it is not easy to (or fast) to get more. It is also hard – on the battery – which is the most expensive part of the EV. It is therefore advisable to take good care of it – and this entails avoiding heavily discharging or “fast” charging it.

Effectively – and paradoxically – this means if you use the EV’s maximum range (and deplete the charge) you will use up the battery faster. More accurately, you risk reducing its service life – its capacity to receive and hold a full charge.

But if you don’t make full use of the EV’s maximum range – by not depleting the available charge –  the available range is significantly less than advertised. Not counting the additional 10 percent less you (typically) can’t actually go vs. how far the indicator says you can.

Of course, you could limit how far you drive – and accept having to wait all day for a (slow) charge – in order to extend the useful life of the battery. But then you have an Occasional Use Vehicle (OUV) which is perhaps a better – because more honest – acronym than EV.

There’s more, too.

The charge remaining indicator says there’s “53 percent” charge remaining – and this is technically true. But it is also arguably deceptive in that you only have – in the case of the Lightning I’m driving that I’m using to explain this business – 111 miles of indicated range remaining.

Most people are used to driving gas-powered cars and when such a person sees a display that says “53 percent” they probably associate that with a half-full tank. When you have a half-full gas tank, you don’t need to be thinking about stopping for gas anytime soon because you still have a long way to go – before you’re close to running out.

But in a gas-powered car, the low fuel light would be coming on soon because 111 miles is not far from empty. It is where you’d be if you only had about three or maybe four gallons of gas left in the tank, which isn’t much and nowhere near half a tank.

It is more like a fourth of a tank – optimistically.

And – again – it’s not even that. Because of the need to avoid discharging the entirety of the range remaining (so as to avoid over-working the battery) and because of the time it takes to get more charge vs. gas. Especially if you don’t charge “fast.”

Is it any wonder people are becoming hesitant about buying into this EV business?

The more interesting wonder is why the government is indulgent toward these misrepresentations. Does anyone think the government would indulge the manufacturer of vehicles it claimed were “clean” – i.e., completely compliant with every jot and tittle of federal regulations – when they were just slightly less so?

Ask VW about that.

How about Hyundai – which got in trouble with the government a few years ago for mildly exaggerating the distance its cars would go on a gallon of gas?

But for some reason, EVs are indulged.

They can be sold to people using deceptive advertising. For example, “MPGe” – which is used to psychologically exaggerate how far an EV can go by marketing EVs as being capable of – as an example – “90 MPGe” when the thing has a maximum range of 250 miles. People read “90 MPGe” and they think – or are encourage to think – that the EV goes three times as far as a gas car that gets only 30 MPG (no “e”).

And by getting them to use the term “fast” to describe that which is very slow.

But when they find out how far they can actually go – and  that “53 percent” actually means almost-nothing-left – their hesitancy is like to increase even more.

. . .

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