How Much EV Range Do I Need?

Sebastian Blanco | Aug 08, 2022

Car shoppers have been deciding what powers their new car, truck, or SUV since well before the arrival of modern electric vehicles (EVs).

How much EV range do I need

For example, a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle might offer 3-, 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-cylinder engine options along with a manual, dual-clutch automaticcontinuously variable, or automatic transmission. Then you choose between front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive (AWD). Some models also offer diesel or natural gas power plants in addition to traditional gasoline-fueled engines. That’s a lot of decision-making!

With EVs, you don’t need to worry about any of that. Instead of selecting an ICE, transmission, and drive layout, you decide on an electric motor size and whether you want 2-wheel drive or AWD. Then you pick a battery size, typically a standard-range version or an extended-range version that supplies more miles of driving between charging sessions.

Your question is: How much EV range to I need? And the answer to that determines what size battery will give you the optimal real-world range and which EV will best suit your lifestyle. This article gives you some things to consider when choosing between a standard- or extended-range version of a new EV and why more is not always better.

What is the Average Commute to Work?

The first step in determining how much range you will need is calculating how many miles, on average, you typically drive on a given day. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the average American travels around 50 miles daily, and almost 85 percent of households travel less than 100 miles daily. If you fit this description, it doesn’t necessarily mean that an EV with 100 miles of range will be right for you. Knowing this is just a starting point.

Does Cold Weather Affect Electric Cars?

Living with an EV means never visiting a gas station. It can also mean completely rethinking how you replenish your car’s battery, especially if you have a home charger. If you do charge at home, the overall size of the pack matters less because you can start each day with a full battery.

Exactly how many miles you will be able to drive your EV each day will change during the year if you live in an area with cold winter temperatures. An EV’s range drops as the mercury dips, and the EPA says the average battery power decrease in cold temperatures is about 40 percent. That would mean a 200-mile EV might only have a range of about 120 miles in the depths of winter.

What are the Benefits of a Larger Battery?

Like cell phones, EV batteries last longer if they rarely charge above 80 percent full and don’t drop below 20 percent. You can program many EVs to stop charging once they reach a specific threshold, so you don’t need to remember to unplug the car.

A large battery gives you a buffer to drive the miles you need while keeping the battery state of charge in this middle ground. Also, if you limit maximum charging to 80 percent, a larger battery provides added peace of mind concerning range, no matter the weather conditions. For example, if your EV has a 300-mile range, that drops to 240 miles at an 80-percent charge. If it’s cold outside, the range further diminishes to as low as 145 miles. But that’s still enough charge to tackle most American commutes easily.

Another reason to buy a larger pack is that all batteries degrade over time. This is especially important if you plan to keep your EV much longer than the average American. In the United States, automakers warranty their batteries for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. These warranties allow for severe degradation, often 70 or 80 percent of the original capacity during the warranty period. The reality, however, is that most EV batteries won’t come close to this level of degradation during the warranty period. For example, Tesla says its EVs driven between 150,000 and 200,000 miles show an average degradation of 15 percent. Starting with a larger battery means that, years from now, you’ll still have enough miles.

If you don’t have a home charger, buying an EV with a larger pack means you don’t have to visit public charging stations as often. This might not be a concern if you live in an area with plenty of charging infrastructure. For apartment dwellers without access to overnight charging, recharging one big pack less often might make more sense than regularly recharging a smaller pack.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Buying an EV with the largest battery pack you can afford is not always the best financial move. You will pay more for the EV up front. Also, the extra weight of the larger battery will make each mile you drive slightly less efficient, which means you’ll pay more each time you charge your car.

Other Things to Consider

Some factors unrelated to the EV itself can help you decide how much range you need. For example, if you have a two-car garage and your partner’s vehicle can make longer trips, you can buy a shorter-range EV. If it is easy for you to borrow or rent a car for long drives, then buying an EV with a smaller pack can save you money upfront, and you can spend the money saved on the rentals. Some automakers provide short-term car rentals as an incentive to buy one of their EVs to alleviate any range anxiety over longer trips.

Summary

Because an electric vehicle’s range is tied to the size of the battery, it costs more to get more distance out of an EV. Knowing what you will use your EV for and the external factors that affect how far it can go will let you pick the right size battery and the right EV.

To learn more about the different types of EVs currently available and arriving soon, check out our Shopping Guides and New Car Previews.

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