8/19/2014 | 1 MINUTE READ

Study: EV Makers Should Target a Range Below 100 Miles

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Until battery prices drop below $100 per kilowatt-hour, electric vehicle buyers would be wise to shop for models with a range of less than 100 miles, counsels an analysis in Transportation Science.

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Until battery prices drop below $100 per kilowatt-hour, electric vehicle buyers would be wise to shop for models with a range of less than 100 miles, counsels an analysis in Transportation Science.

Fortunately, 80% of the EV models offered in the U.S. market have certified ranges below 100 miles, notes author Zhenhong Lin, a senior R&D staff member at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tenn.

His report assesses the driving patterns of nearly 37,000 EV drivers in the U.S. It analyzes the interplay among such factors as battery costs, electricity prices, charging infrastructure, vehicle price, miles driven per day and household vehicle ownership.

A bigger battery extends driving range, but it also hikes the price of the vehicle and lengthens the charging period. If drivers don't actually need the range (and the analysis suggests most don't), it would be more cost effective to buy an EV with a smaller battery.

Until the Nissan Leaf EV debuted at the end of 2010 with a government-rated range of 73 miles per charge, electric car makers targeted 150-200 miles per charge. But the author says the lower "range-related cost" of most smaller-battery EVs is in line with actual customer needs.

The analysis suggests sub-100-mile EVs will be more popular than longer-range vehicles for many years. It says EV developers lower battery prices will bolster demand for longer-range EVs, and a more robust charging infrastructure will push demand for shorter-range vehicles.