Electric vehicles have skyrocketed in popularity over the past several years, largely thanks to significant technological improvements that have lowered costs and enabled more people to get their hands on one. At the same time, EVs still have several limitations that have prevented their sales from growing even more. Perhaps the largest reason why EVs still lag behind is range anxiety.
Range anxiety has been a barrier to EV sales since the beginning
Many people have experienced the anxiety that comes about when their car is running low on fuel and there isn’t a gas station in sight. Although this situation is largely preventable by filling up at readily available gas stations in most cities and towns, it presents a similar scenario to what many actual or prospective EV owners feel regularly.
Unfortunately, charging stations aren’t nearly as abundant as gas stations in this day and age, which makes driving range a legitimate concern for those thinking of getting an EV. Additionally, EVs can’t be refueled quite as quickly as gas-powered vehicles, as they often require several hours to fully charge unless there is a quick-charging station available.
As a result, most people aren’t ready to leap on the EV bandwagon, especially if they typically drive long distances or frequently go on road trips. Researchers from companies worldwide are working on solving this problem, and one Australian company presents a fascinating way to add a bit more range to electric vehicles.
An Australian company has an interesting solution for EV range woes
According to Forbes, the Australian wheel maker Carbon Revolution has created one-piece wheels made of carbon fiber that can potentially add 5% to an EV’s range. Although this may not seem like a huge win, it’s still an intriguing proposition, as most companies are focused on ways to increase capacity by creating better batteries that require precious metals.
These carbon fiber wheels weigh 40-50% less than aluminum wheels, which are the current industry standard. Lighter wheels allow the EV to use less power while traveling, sure, but it also makes starting and stopping less energy-intensive too. Plus, these wheels are estimated to be 13 times stronger than most aluminum wheels, and they project far less noise.
So, what’s the catch? You know there had to be one. Carbon fiber wheels are priced at over $10,000, which many will scoff at in comparison to the measly range increase they add. However, the head of Carbon Revolution is hopeful that the demand will shift, and other innovations in production will allow the prices to drop drastically in the coming years. We certainly hope so.
Actually, anything that makes vehicles lighter can increase range
The idea of reducing wheel weight is a captivating one, as it could lead others to play with weight reduction in other areas of EVs. When it comes down to it, making any part lighter in a vehicle can increase its range, though it’s tricky to strike the right balance between weight, performance, durability, and cost.
Even still, if other car part manufacturers can figure out how to lighten the load of their parts to give EVs even a tiny increase in range, those minor improvements could add up. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, a 10% reduction in vehicle weight can produce a 6 to 8% improvement in fuel economy.
Innovations like these could push the average EV range higher than anyone ever thought possible without making sweeping or costly changes to batteries. Only time will tell whether carbon fiber wheels will hit the mainstream, but the future is certainly looking bright for EVs when it comes to tackling range anxiety.