You don't need an electric vehicle with a long range — buy one you can afford instead
- Many prospective electric car buyers worry about an EV's range, or how far it goes on a charge.
- But with new battery tech and more available charging, range shouldn't be a prime factor.
- EV-buyers should focus on other things instead, experts say.
When car-buyers consider going electric, they typically wonder about the vehicle's cost, charging setup, and how far it can go on a full battery. But some experts say that in picking the right electric car, that last question of range is becoming less important — and less helpful.
Take the first Nissan Leaf, which offered a range of just about 73 miles when it debuted over a decade ago. Today, it can go 212 miles without plugging in. And that's for a $27,800 car. If you're willing to drop $138,000 on a Lucid Air Grand Touring, you don't have to worry about recharging for more than 500 miles.
These rising figures stem largely from improving battery tech. But even with better batteries, range isn't necessarily the best factor by which to select an EV.
That's because in reality, most drivers don't need long-range EVs.
"That's the key thing: Reassuring people in the first place about how far they're really, really driving," Nigel Zeid, an EV educator and sales specialist, told Insider. "You need people to understand how far they're actually driving in a day."
How much range is enough for your electric car?
Most estimates suggest a full tank of gas in an internal-combustion engine vehicle gets on average 300 miles. If drivers are good with that, a 300-mile-range EV should be more than enough.
"For vehicle range, we will reach a 'good enough' number, especially as charging infrastructure gets built out in more and more places," Scott Case, CEO of firm Recurrent. "You don't need batteries that go 800 miles when it's convenient and easy and quick to recharge every 300 miles.
"You will start to see fewer and fewer cars that have the really long range," Case added, "and somewhere between 250 and 350 miles of range is probably where the market settles out."
How you should pick your electric car instead
The nation's charging build-out has a way to go in terms of affordability and functionality, and even availability. The US needs four times as much charging infrastructure by 2025, and eight times as much by 2030, to accommodate the coming influx of EVs, according to an estimate from S&P Global Mobility.
And automakers can't expect all EV-buyers to plug in at home, given various living arrangements, income, and geographic barriers.
"We estimate that roughly a half of American car buyers could plausibly install and control a home charger sometime over the next five years," Patrick Anderson, founder of Anderson Economic Group, said.
Whether a vehicle qualifies for federal EV tax credits might be another factor.
Meanwhile, another thing car-buyers should focus on: Until recently, there weren't many EVs available that spoke to the top segments in the US: pickups and SUVs. That's shifting, said Steve Patton, EY Americas mobility sector leader.
"It's no surprise and no coincidence that most of the new models being introduced or planned to be introduced over the coming months are around that segment," Patton said. The automaker "has to produce the vehicles that we as consumers want to purchase."
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