Editorial: How Range Per Charge Really Transforms The Electric Car Experience

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be loaned a Tesla Model S 60D for a long weekend. Alongside thinking the car was all the Tesla anyone needs (want is a totally different prospect) and my views on AutoPilot, my final thoughts about the car are to do with the range.

There's a big

There’s a big difference between just over 100 miles in an EV and 200+.

Up until now my experience with electric cars has been of the 70-ish mile range variety. I own a 2011 Nissan Leaf and have driven similar ranged cars such as the e-Up!, the e-Golf, Smart 4Two EV and even a Twizy a few times.

The approximate route of my 240 mile trip

The approximate route of my 240 mile trip

I am happy with a range of 70 miles on a car. It works for my everyday driving needs: It gets the other half to work and back and gets me where I need to go at the weekends. But in the last few years, due to a slight range drop, I have had to start renting a petrol car for longer trips. Not a huge deal but something I would ideally like to avoid.

The next big step in EVs, and I mean big, is the increase in range. Fairly soon – maybe even before the end of this year – consumers should be able to buy EVs with a range of at least 150 real-world miles for the same price I paid for my 73 mile EPA-rated ranged car.

I am not angry about this. I am not jealous. I am happy I got on board when I did. I helped show there was a market for these cars.

But what was it like going from a 70-ish mile range car to a 200-ish mile range car?

Quite simple, a revolution. And one that wasn’t easy to get my head around.

The UK is really small. So why so much fuss about the range of EVs?

The UK is really small. So why so much fuss about the range of EVs?

The first trip I made in the car was from London to Lancaster. That’s a trip of about 240 miles. As usual my EV driver instincts kicked in and I was in ‘eco’ mode. Were we leaving with a 100% charge? Were we going to be warm enough without heating on? Where could we stop to charge?

All of those issues were eased when I realised that even if somehow the whole Tesla SuperCharger network was down, a stop at one of the many many CHAdeMO chargers in the UK would make the trip a breeze. And unlike in my 70-ish mile car, I wouldn’t have an option of just one or maybe two stops. I could choose when I stopped to charge.

It felt like the car could drive forever. It was an odd feeling to pass 70 miles in the car and realise that the car’s battery wasn’t even half way depleted.

To put the car’s 200-ish mile range into perspective in the UK, if you measure mainland UK as the crow flies, it measures just over 600 miles from the top of Scotland to the southern most point of England.

Land’s End to John o’ Groats, the route to take if you want to drive the length of the UK, is about 850 miles depending on the exact route taken.

A 200-mile ranged car in the UK can cover about a quarter of the distance from North to South.

And that quickly becomes evident when driving an EV with a long range in the UK. It is a breeze. Just jump in the car and go. It is unlikely that where you need to go will be unachievable with the range and the charging infrastructure as it is today. Both of which are still improving over time.

A potential Land's End to John O'Groats route

A potential Land’s End to John O’Groats route

After 5 and a half years of driving my, what I guess will now become known as, short-ranged EV, making the change was hard.

On the last day of driving the car I had to drive from my home, to a family member’s, then to a friend’s, back to the family member’s and on to London. A journey that wouldn’t be possible in the Leaf in the time I needed it done even with the rapid charging network.

I spent about 20 minutes working through the problem like I usually do. I could stop here to charge. Or detour there to rapid charge. Maybe my friend won’t mind me nabbing a trickle charge at his. And so on. Until it dawned on me. The car could just do the journey. Even without starting fully charged.

My mind has adapted so much to the range-cautious nature of owning a car that can only go about 70 miles that the idea of 200 miles is foreign to me.

It is becoming clear to me that we are fast approaching a mass adoption point. Maybe not a ‘majority adoption’ point but a point in time where car buyers who usually wouldn’t consider an EV may agree to take one on a test drive when cross-shopping. 200 miles, especially in the UK, is getting to the point of not needing any mental shifts when it comes to charging.

A salesperson can honestly say ‘Drive as you would a normal car but use these chargers to charge while grabbing a coffee – the car will be done before you are. And don’t forget, when you wake up every morning it will have a full tank.’

The next few years will be exciting indeed.


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  • Dennis Pascual

    I know many Tesla owners and find, in general, the ones that are most thankful for its capabilities tend to be those that have owned and used EVs of a previous generation. Whether that’s GM EV1 and its era or early adopters of EVs in this generation. Even Roadster owners that have moved from Roadster to Model S (and its supercharging network) understand the joy of being able to drive over 200 miles and recover 160 of those miles in about half an hour.

    Glad to see more and more longer range EVs, though, at the end of the day, most folks will still drive their EV slightly higher than the “national average” for their nation. Because, the EV Grin makes driving a pleasure (whether autonomous or not.)

    • vdiv

      Some of us even started with a 35-mile slow-charging EV, albeit it had “training wheels” on it 😉

      • Joe

        What 35-mile EV are you referring to? I’m imagining a LEAF with 100k+ miles on it. 🙂 Or maybe a Volt that’s allergic to hydrocarbons.

        • vdiv

          Very allergic. Was a great car. It’s making someone else happy now.

  • Martin Lacey

    As I’m fairly new to EV ownership, the limitations of my Leaf are only apparent when travelling from Norwich to Nottingham. The Ecotricity electric highway works best if you are going north or south. Going east to west from Norwich to Nottingham is rather range challenging. Rest of the time it’s a breeze!

  • Richard Glover

    Really lovely piece Mark.
    I have have held on to my lovely blue Leaf (75k miles, 2 bars down) but the new leased i3 rex I got two months ago is also for me a revelation, a truly i3rilliant car. No more two charge stops to Heathrow and back, just there and back with a dash of petrol.