The Biggest Electric Vehicle Myth Is Hard to Kill

2015 Nissan Leaf
A 2016 study shows 87% of daily U.S. driving could be done by affordable EVs like the 2013 Nissan Leaf, debunking the biggest electric vehicle myth of them all: range anxiety | Source: Nissan

We can’t help checking in on the electric vehicle myths of the day. Who doesn’t love a good debunking now and then? In this segment of the auto industry, confusion continues to reign. Polls taken as recently as early 2016 show most Americans don’t know anyone driving an EV and could not guess how far a plug-in hybrid could go. But the biggest myth of all is still range anxiety, or the idea you can’t use an electric car to handle everyday driving needs without charging.

A study published in August 2016 by researchers from MIT and Santa Fe Institute took up the concept of daily range requirements and found 87% of cars on the road could be replaced with affordable electric cars already on the market. Using the original (2013) Nissan Leaf with a mere 73 miles of range as its test car, the study found EVs could actually replace as much as 93% of driving done in the 12 most populated cities in America, and do so without any charging.

2016 Nissan Leaf
Emissions reductions goals for 2025 are possible using current EV technology | Source: Nissan

This last detail — that no charging would be necessary during the day — was one of the more surprising revelations of the study. Researchers departed from the idea you might need a charging station at work or even a standard (110v) outlet to add a few extra miles per hour. It was assumed there would be no plug available throughout the day and charging would only be done at night. Still, the needle didn’t budge.

They used the least capable Leaf, rather than the 84-mile or 107-mile models, to make sure the car was both widely available and affordable. (A used 2013 Nissan Leaf sells for less than $10,000.) To make it relevant for the residents of America’s very different urban landscapes, researchers took into account places like Houston as well as New York City. Again, they found nothing to inspire range anxiety. But the study did show gasoline consumption could be cut by 60%.

2016 Nissan Leaf
Using the original, 73-mile-range Nissan Leaf and charging only overnight at home, nearly all of driving in America could be done using an electric car | Source: Nissan

Inspired by these findings, the team from MIT and Santa Fe Institute decided to get greedy and see if the most ambitious goals in emissions reductions (i.e., cutting 80% by 2050) could be met using the dated technology of the 2013 Nissan Leaf. That wouldn’t happen, researchers concluded, but it could happen with a 55 kWh Leaf that could surpass 173 miles along with a cleaner electric grid. In other words, the vehicle technology is almost here and will take form first in the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

The Bolt will feature a 60 kWh battery and have a range surpassing 200 miles, as will the Tesla Model 3 promised for 2017. At that point, range anxiety would be a stretch, with the number of trips that could be handled by an electric car surpassing 90%. Drivers in rural areas who operate at higher speeds and travel greater distances would join those in cities who could overwhelmingly use short-range EVs on the used car market in 2016.

Though many EV drivers knew this already, two-car households can easily have one pure electric model in the garage. In the off (13%) chance you may need a vehicle with longer range that day, there is the option of using a gasoline model (or plug-in hybrid). You might also wade into the pool of public charging.

Range anxiety has been a tough myth to put to bed, but if that’s what has kept you from going electric, the data says you can relax and plug in without fear.

Source: Washington Post

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