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  • Joe Siudzinski

How Far Can You Go in Your Electric Car?

Invariably, that is the first question asked by both the casual passerby as well as someone seriously interested in buying an electric car, the implication being how far you can drive on a single battery charge.

All electric cars have something called an "EPA Range" which, despite its faults, offers a consistent comparison among different cars. Nowadays, cars have EPA Ranges between 100-400 miles; however, range has never been an issue for most electric car drivers, and the following discussion will try to show you that taking any trip in an electric car is easily managed.

The average miles driven daily in the US is only 30 miles, which virtually every electric car can handle comfortably. Remember, the car is usually charged overnight at home, so every morning it can have a 'full tank'.

Almost all local driving can be handled without needing to recharge and longer trips can be easily accommodated by stopping at a dc fast charger which will quickly replenish a car's battery.

If you are interested, do yourself a favor and keep a logbook for a week or two of your daily and weekend driving. What are your daily driving needs, exactly, and what are your needs for longer excursions? It is important to separate "needs" from "wants". Are you really a person who drives to Los Angeles without stopping? Recognize that many electric cars can be almost fully recharged during a 1/2-hour lunch break.

Over the years a lot of publicity has been given to something called "Range Anxiety" - a phrase that GM actually tried to trademark about ten years ago. It simply doesn't exist, and here's why -

Every electric car has some sort of "Range Remaining" number on its display. Nowadays, with GPS and Google/Apple Maps or a car's navigation display you know EXACTLY how far you are going to drive. As long as the total trip distance is less than the Range Remaining, you don't need to stop and recharge, which is the case in the vast majority of car trips.

Should you need to recharge the car along the way, there are many phone/ tablet apps which provide excellent guidance as to the location of public charging stations (both fast and slow) and their quality and availability, the most popular being PlugShare <>. Some cars, like the Tesla, plan the trip for you and provide the charging information on the car's display.

Let's use a practical example: you own a Chevrolet Bolt with an EPA range of 259 miles. You've been driving around a lot during the day and your Range Remaining is now 125 miles, but you'd like to drive to San Francisco from Los Altos to attend a concert at Davies Symphony Hall that evening. Can you do this with your electric car? Sure you can, with no charging needed along the way! Davies Hall is 38 miles away from Los Altos Town Hall, so the round trip is 76 miles, much less than the amount of range still available in your car. Should you have an electric car with a lower Range Remaining, you can either plug the car in and charge at the Performing Arts Garage while attending the concert or else make a short stop along the way (for example at Whole Foods on El Camino in Los Altos right after you leave home or at Park Place just next to Bayshore Freeway in San Mateo on your way back from the concert) for a 15-minute partial recharge which will result in a painless anxiety-free trip. In reality, since you knew ahead of time that you were going to San Francisco that evening, you would have recharged your car before leaving home. As you can see, lots of options.

Five final thoughts -

  1. Always leaving a range surplus of at least 25% allows you to easily accommodate those few unexpected/unforeseen excursions throughout the day.

  2. Taking the opportunity to conveniently plug in the car when it is parked allows you to easily avoid wasting any of your own personal time. Analogy: how often do you sit there twiddling your thumbs waiting for your cellphone to charge?

  3. On the road it is almost never necessary to waste time fully charging an electric car, as a short partial charge will invariably get you to your destination.

  4. In nine years of driving our Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars (EPA range of 62 miles) for over 150,000 miles, my wife and I have never run out of charge... and I've even driven it to Lake Tahoe!

  5. Remember, having a 'full tank' every morning (after an overnight charge) at home is priceless!

Here are some useful resources in getting you started on your EV journey:

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