Gas versus electric vehicle range

Illustrating the importance of perspective… a friend was driving a 2013 Ford Focus with his father.

  • Dad: “We had better fill up the tank. The computer says that we can drive only 70 more miles before empty.”
  • My friend: “If this were an electric car, that would be the full battery range.”

10 Comments

  1. Arthur

    December 13, 2013 @ 1:56 am

    1

    Not if it were a Tesla. Mine has more than 200 miles of range, and batteries are getting better.

  2. Bas Scheffers

    December 13, 2013 @ 4:42 am

    2

    You make it sound like a problem!

    My Leaf’s range isn’t much more here, driving freeway speeds through hills to and from my home.

    Yet we have put 7000 miles on it since we got it in July, and just this week for the first time was I “inconvenienced” having to sit in a coffee shop for an hour and a half doing work I would have otherwise done at home, to give it a top-up.

    How much time does the average gas car driver spend unproductively refueling their car in a year? :)

    It may not be suitable as only car for everyone, but in this two car household it is brilliant!

  3. Chris

    December 13, 2013 @ 8:35 am

    3

    Ford Focus : ~20,000 USD
    Tesla Model S : ~63,000 USD

  4. Justin

    December 13, 2013 @ 11:20 am

    4

    … And $63,000 is a very low estimate. The average model being sold today is around $100,000. You *might* be able to get one for $63k but that’ll have the smaller battery with less range and that price will be net of a $7,500 federal tax credit. It will also have few options.

    Great car. But a great luxury car.

  5. Frank Tamborello

    December 13, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

    5

    Buy a diesel if you’re concerned about range or economy and you still want your car to be reasonably-priced. For example,
    http://web.vw.com/tdi-clean-diesel/

    OTOH, Tesla kind of money is well into the territory of models that are well established as being very nice cars. Just out of curiosity, why would someone who could afford a BMW 7-series or Mercedes S-class buy a Tesla instead? Ignore issues that have nothing to do with the car itself, such as political motivations (e.g., green-minded or want to support American industry).

  6. philg

    December 13, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    6

    Frank: Supposedly Tesla tested objectively better than the Mercedes and BMW competitors, according to Consumer Reports. I don’t think that they adjusted for personal feelings about buying American or saving the planet (as noted in http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2012/09/06/destroying-the-earth-by-buying-organic-locally-produced-food/ , I personally think that the amount you spend on your personal lifestyle is a pretty good approximation to how much damage you’re doing to the Earth).

  7. paul kramarchyk

    December 13, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

    7

    “I personally think that the amount you spend on your personal lifestyle is a pretty good approximation to how much damage you’re doing to the Earth.”

    Exactly. This is not an open question. You spend money, you consume resources (oil, gas, minerals, stuff). The question for the world is, what level of economic activity can the planet support without serious adverse effects? I don’t know the answer. But I think limiting population growth is part of the answer.

    Electric cars will work for some (<20%) as a commuter car or retirement community runabout. Electrical transmission and distribution system (T&D) would need major upgrade to carry the load. Current power generation fuel of choice is natural gas. Nuclear would be better but politically impossible in the near term.

    Longer term I'm betting on hydrogen powered fuel cells for personal transportation (cars). Hydrogen is made from sea water by offshore nuclear plants (fission/fusion/solar). Best guess, maybe real in the last few decades of this century. Very iffy.

  8. Bas Scheffers

    December 14, 2013 @ 1:37 am

    8

    What research is your 20% figure based on? According to this (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/05/commuting-in-the-u-s-is-long-and-hellish-but-at-least-it-hasnt-gotten-worse/) I would say that it will work for 90% of people. And with more and more recharging points, taking the long way home to have diner won’t stop you either.

    And if you drive a lot, the savings from no more petrol and hardly any servicing, more than offset the higher purchase price (compared to similar petrol car, not Focus vs. Tesla!) so the few times a year you need to do a big trip, you are better off renting.

    And I say this as someone whose situation, most people will tell you, is no good for electric cars. (See post above)

    5 KW of solar on my roof means a near-0 electricity bill.

    Frank: you’d buy one because regardless of any green cred, electric cars are much more fun to drive with better handling, lower vibration, faster and smoother acceleration, quiet and best of all: no stinky petrol station visits. I suggest you go test drive one!

  9. davep

    December 16, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    9

    Bas Scheffers: “And if you drive a lot, the savings from no more petrol and hardly any servicing, more than offset the higher purchase price (compared to similar petrol car, not Focus vs. Tesla!)…”
    If you “drive a lot”, you are likely have many days per year that exceed the range of an electric vehicle.

    Bas Scheffers: “…So the few times a year you need to do a big trip, you are better off renting.”

    70 miles is an optimistic range for any affordable electric car.

    Keep in mind that a “big trip” is anything over 70 miles of driving in a day (you can’t assume that you’ll be able to recharge your electric car during a trip).

    Many people do more than “a few” of these sorts of trips a year.

  10. John O

    December 16, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

    10

    I now work closer to home, but for a few years my commute was 34 miles one way. With no charging station at my workplace, that was simply too small a margin of error to consider electric.

    Bas Scheffers, you said you got your car in July. I’d be interested to hear your report after you’ve driven it through a winter, assuming you’re not in South Florida or California. I’ve read more than a few stories about sketchy battery range in cold temperatures.

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