200-Mile Electric Cars Are Overkill, Suggests Academic: 100-Mile Range Is The Sweet Spot

It’s the same reason restaurants needlessly pile our plates ever-higher with far more than our dietary needs dictate: the more you get, the more you want.

But like picking an all-you-can eat buffet over a modest meal off the menu, car buyers will always pick size, performance and — in the case of electric cars — range over more sensible notions like affordability, common sense and scientific data.

Which car would you choose? Turns out the LEAF may be the smarter option.

Which car would you choose? Turns out the LEAF may be the smarter option.

As a consequence those whose needs might be met by a medium-range electric car like a Nissan LEAF or Chevrolet Spark might find themselves lusting after a range-extended electric car like the BMW i3 REx or Chevrolet Volt instead — just to make sure. Even those considering a Tesla Model S will find that their fear of running out of charge, however irrational, will cause them to spend extra money and opt for the longer-range 85 kilowatt-hour Tesla Model S over the bast model 60 kilowatt-hour model.

Yet the purchase decision to opt for a longer-range electric vehicle in order to mimic the range capabilities of a traditional gasoline or diesel car is both illogical and financially unsound, argues a new report (via GreenCarReports) from a senior researcher at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

The study, entitled  Optimizing and Diversifying Electric Vehicle Driving Range for U.S. Driverspersonal transportation requirements of more than 36,500 drivers in the U.S., examining their individual driving patterns and “household flexibility” to see just what kind of ranges an electric car would need to be in order to allow a switch from gasoline to electric. Moreover, it calculated how electric car range would change as the cost of lithium-ion battery packs decreases and the number of public charging stations increased.

For now, sub-100 mile electric cars make the best financial sense.

For now, sub-100 mile electric cars make the best financial sense.

What it found was that electric cars with ranges of less than 100 miles are far more cost effective to buy and a far more logical financial decision over longer range electric cars — at least until the cost of battery packs fall to less than $100 per kilowatt-hour.

Based on our own experience of electric car ranges, we’d have to agree. While it’s nice to have a car capable of driving more than 250 miles per charge, the reality of everyday driving is that in most cases a range of under 100 miles will suffice. When it comes to longer-distance driving, being able to rapid charge every few hours in the time it takes to grab a meal or a coffee is enough.

What’s more, the money you’ll save on buying a larger-range electric vehicle can be spent elsewhere: buy a second plug-in car, or perhaps even save up for that next-generation battery pack several years in the future.

Of course, we don’t always do what’s best for our wallets, ruling with our hearts sometimes rather than our heads. But do you agree that 100-miles is more than enough for your daily driving needs? And would you seriously consider spending less on a smaller-range car if you could save money in the long run?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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