It’s no secret that many people who would otherwise be interested in electric cars are scared off by the significantly shorter range of the vehicles when compared to gas-powered competitors. But a new report from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is located in Knoxville, Tennessee, says that consumers would be wise to stick with electric vehicles that have a range of 100 miles or less. The reason is purely economics since the cost of batteries is still high enough that having a greater range on an electric vehicle costs more than the added benefit it provides. In fact, the report suggests that consumers should go with the shorter-range EVs until the price of batteries drop to at least $100 per kilowatt-hour.
Almost all of the current electric vehicles on the market have a driving range of under 100 miles. Even the base model of the revered Tesla Model S only provides an estimated 208 miles, albeit double the 100 that this report suspects people need.
For the study, over 36,500 drivers were studied by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including their unique driving patterns and “household flexibility.” That information was used to create the optimal range for electric cars, plus how that number would be affected as public charging options multiply and the price of batteries falls. Ultimately, the study makes the recommendation that automakers should stop trying to give electric cars the same kind of driving range as gasoline options, which is something most car owners likely disagree with heartily.
Despite the findings, the tides of change in the industry seem to be shifting more towards better range, since car companies realize shoppers are the ones who decide what sells and what doesn’t. As a result, the next Nissan Leaf will come with two or three different battery options that will increase range. The 2016 Chevy Volt will also possibly feature two range options as a way to lure in more consumers.