Auto industry long-range-or-not

Published on October 26th, 2011 | by Christopher DeMorro


Toyota Developing 600+ Mile Battery; Nissan Says Long Range EV’s Unnecessary

As the world’s automakers slowly move to embrace electric vehicles, each brand or group is taking a decidedly different approach to EV’s and hybrids. Just look at the vastly different approaches of Toyota and Nissan. While Toyota is working to develop a battery with 600+ miles of range, Nissan says that 95% of Americans only need 100 miles of range a day.

Driver’s Don’t Need Long Range EV’s…

Batteries are by far the biggest expense factor when it comes to electric cars, and contribute to the bloated MSRP’s of cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. Another supposed shortcoming of electric vehicles are their limited range, with the Leaf officially rated at just 73 miles in average driving. And while many consumers claim they want more range, according to Nissan, they don’t actually need it.

Nissan cites data it collected from Leaf drivers that shows the average Leaf driver only travels about 37 miles per day, and the average trip was only seven or so miles. Nationwide, 72% of drivers travel less than 40 miles a day, and 95% of Americans travel less than 100 miles a day. The problem is that if you do want to travel a significant distance, you are limited by an EV’s range. American consumers may not need that extra range…but they want it available should they need it, some day.

…But Consumers Want Long Range EV’s

Toyota meanwhile is taking the opposite approach. Japan’s largest automaker is close to finishing a solid-state battery with 600 miles or more of range on a single charge in a compact electric vehicle. In “existing” vehicles the battery would only provide 124 miles or so of range…but that’s still a major improvement over just 73 miles provided by the current Nissan Leaf. T

he battery could be ready for production between 2015 and 2020, though there is no mention of costs or charging time, two huge factors in EV acceptance. And while 600 miles of range on a single charge sounds nice, the huge difference in range between “compact” and “existing” cars raised my eyebrows. When they say compact, do they mean a car…or a golf cart?

I like Tesla’s scheme best; base pricing on range. The Model S sedan will be available in 160 mile, 230 mile, and 300+ mile flavors, with a $10,000 price bump between models. I think the major OEM’s need to take a look at this pricing strategy, as some people may only need that 60 or 70 miles a day. Other people will surely pay a premium for extra mileage if it is priced right.

So which strategy do you think will win out? Is Nissan right that people don’t need a lot of range, or will Toyota become an EV leader with its 600+ mile battery? Or is Tesla doing it right with their priced-by-range method? Let me know down in the comments!

Source: AutoObserver | Nikkei

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About the Author

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. When he isn't wrenching or writing, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Marco Groot

    Not only does Tesla offer different size battery packs on purchase of the vehicle, they also offer the option to temporarily swap to a long range pack as the battery packs are easily swappable. So you can buy the ‘cheap’ version and occasionally hire a long range battery pack when you need it.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    It’s funny how a few years back Toyota said Plug-ins weren’t good and only hybrids would be while Nissan said pure EV’s is the future and now they want to do a plug-in. They are going to regret letting GM get the early plug-in start…


  • WhereIsIt

    My considerations for buying an EV are based on price and range. With the lack of quick charging infrastructure and lack of quick charge batteries, range is a major factor in my purchase of an EV. For Nissan to make decisions on required range based on leaf drivers behavior is horribly ignorant. The reason people don’t drive all over town all day long in a Nissan leaf is because they can’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love the EV movement and look forward to buying my first all electric car. However, I won’t consider the Nissan leaf until they provide a 150+ mile range and I mean 150+ mile range. I don’t want to hear that the 150 mile range is doing 20 mph down hill in 75 degree weather with a tail wind. The range should be based on 70 mpg in -5 degree weather with 2 inches of snow on the ground. The range on the leaf seems to keep going down. Nissan advertised 100 miles per charge, then the EPA says it’s 73 miles per charge. According to Engadget, there are a couple of people who already ran out of charge on the road. People are guessing the cold weather was why the cars died when the dash said there was 10+ more miles left on the charge. So now it’s not 73 miles per charge, it’s 60 miles per charge. Nissan needs to add high ranges like their business success depends on it … because it does.
    Berkley lab made a major breakthrough in battery tech that will 10x battery capacities. Nissan should be all over this improvement.
    I look forward to the demise of fossil fuels used for transportation. Go Nissan!

    • nofreelunch

      Wow…so how does burning coal to generate electricity for your car become the demise of fossil fuels for transportation?

      • Joe

        Burning coal produces about three times as much carbon dioxide as gasoline, according to the Department of Energy. But an electric car, having a more efficient motor, can travel about three times as far using the same amount of energy. For instance, the Nissan Leaf gets 99 miles per “gallon equivalent” of electricity. So in the end, if all the electricity came from coal, the environmental impact would be about even.

        But not all electricity comes from coal. The other half comes mostly from natural gas and nuclear power. Also worth noting is that wind will provide about 20 percent of our power generation by 2025. Gotta look at the big picture. Muddling around in the present, accepting complacency is a horrible way to live.

        • Jack

          “wind will provide about 20 percent of our power generation by 2025.” This is not going to happen for the USA. One particular locality maybe, but not 20% of US energy use.

      • compmaster

        One large, regulated, and well maintained coal power plant is better than ten thousand small power plants that become less efficient day-by-day. So you should think of cars as little power plants that only get worse over time, and EVs as the flexible solution that will only get more efficient as the years go on and the power generation fuelscape of the USA changes.

  • Marc P

    It’s not about what the consumer needs, it’s about what the consumer WANTS. Of course, I don’t drive much more than a few miles a day for work, but why do I have a car in the first place…. only to go to work or the local shopping mall ??? Right now, I think the Volt has the perfect balance of reasonable battery-only range for the week and battery/fuel-aided range for the weekend. Hope more vehicles come out with the same basic idea.

    A 65mile range EV may be fine for families with a second car, but if you really want a vehicle for the masses, you need a range that is at least comparable to current gas cars.

  • buzz

    Tesla has it right. But it’s about cost and weight. I would spend an extra $5k for another 30 mi range. That price option isn’t there yet. I also don’t want to be carrying an extra 300 lbs of ballast I won’t use but every 3 months.
    I have about 9000 mi on my LEAF. I can think of two times when it would have been nice to have about 40 mi more range. Next month I’m driving 600 mi to the mountains with wife/kids. I’m renting an SUV; very cost effective. I didn’t expect owning a LEAF to do this but I’m never again buying a car without a plug.

  • whittib

    Toyota…… We want more range even if we do not need it everyday. If I want to take an 8 hour trip in a Leaf, I would have to stop and charge 4 or 5 times. The average american will drive 8-9 hours (500 ~ 600 miles) to go on vaction, any more than that they will most like stay over somewhere.

    I think Toyota has the right thinking. Who cares who is the first one out of the gate, it is all about who has it right!

    • rholiday

      I would like to see in the future, an extended range electric with an all-electric range of 200 plus kilometers before switching over to an efficient atkinson cycle ICE. You would not need a lot of horsepower to “limp home” at 120 kph once you have depleted the battery pack. In fact, most vehicles would be fine with far less than 100 hp. as it only takes about 10-15 hp. to maintain a 120 kph cruising speed in a vehicle with a low mass and low coefficient of drag. Fiat has developed a turbocharged twin cylinder for the Fiat 500 which is capable of 30 km/liter at highway speeds. In theory, an extended range electric could be developed which would only consume 3 liters of fuel for 300 kms. of travel, once lithium ion battery technology improves. In the next few years, we should see energy density of lithium- ion batteries approaching 400 Whr/kg. and at about half the price per kWhr. stored compared to today’s technologies.

  • Craig Williams

    One solution to this seeming dilemna is for the development of modular batteries. Then, when I’m low on charge I can pull into the EV “gas” station and the attendant can pull out my depleted battery and insert a freshly charged one. I pay the station for their service and drive on. More importantly, in this scenario the batteries become a commodity, lowering their price, and vehicles can be designed to carry one or more modular batteries depending on the vehicle size. Just a crazy thought for the future.

  • William Zimmerman

    Why not provide a rentable range extending “power trailer” that you could pick up for those long trips and swap out at rental locations along the way?

  • Dennis Rowan

    2.5 kw of solar installed, offsets around 12,000 miles/year for 25 years of EV sedan travel in Pennsylvania. In California you would only need about 2 kw to offset 12,000 miles of driving. In five years 2.5 kw of PV installed will cost $3000. In three years 2.5kw of solar installed will cost $5000 installed. Today it costs $10,000 unless you can do it yourself (electrician to do the final tie in) for $6000. This is without any rebates.(yes you have to shop wholesale for these prices. Solar to EV is a great emerging energy system in many states and countries. (Lookup the Sunshot program.) right now in Pa. 12,000 miles with a 20 mpg car costs about $2400/yr in gas alone. PV to EV makes a lot of sense for many aps.

  • Ramon Leigh

    Tesla Model S adds aero wheels and ups 300 mile range to 320 miles. Right now Tesla’s
    strategy makes the most sense, especially since their battery packs can all be totally recharged in
    around 45 minutes. It’s cost that prevents EVs from invading the below $36K price range. Even $49K
    EVs have paltry less-than-100 miles ranges, which are, despite Nissan’s self-serving BS about driving
    ranges, totally inadequate, even for around town daily driving. Take the Leaf – it can assure around 75 miles of range. When new. After about 7 years, expect that range to shrink to a ridiculously small 60 miles. The Leaf is a niche vehicle with no ability to roam more than 35 to 40 miles from home, new, and probably no more than 25 to 30 miles from home after 7 or 8 years. That’s absurd. No one can survive owning just a Leaf. It can’t even function as a typical second car. It is a specialty vehicle of no particular value. Unlike the Tesla Model S , the Leaf battery cannot be upgraded at some future time, when cheaper batteries become available.

    • Jo Borras

      Um … WHY can’t you upgrade a Leaf’s battery? Having made non-hybrids into hybrids, 6-cyl cars into twin-turbo V12 cars, and bicycles into mopeds – I can assure you, you CAN upgrade just about anything. If there are enough Leafs (Leaves?) out there, new battery tech will pop up to upgrade them, just like the plug-in Prius conversions.

  • albo2

    Why do people keep churning out oil company fud about shifting the burden of responsibility to coal fired electricity, who burns coal to fire their power plants in the refinery process, that never seems to be added to the equation, or the diesel in the trucks to deliver the stuff, just forget that as an argument, pure electric is the way to go who needs an electric car you have to put petrol in.

  • Bob zuckerman

    Tesla along with Toyota have the right idea. I would want the 600+ mile flavor and it would also be nice to get a cheap shorter range car for my family’s second car. It would save on money for our two car family and still give us the option to go on long range road trips to places like LA or Vegas if need be. I also like tesla’s charge station plan. I could also put up with a 200 mile version if there was a fast charge station with some kind of food or drinks (non-alcoholic) available.

  • Jim

    Someone said it’s not about what consumers need,but what they want. Hey man not always. I NEED a minimum of 150 mile range. I drive 47 miles each way to work. No way I’m buying a Leaf. And when it’s 90 degrees here in D.C. I want some AC, and I want to listen to the radio and view my GPS without worrying about whether I’ll have to call a tow truck to get me the last ten miles to home. Nissan said it came up with it’s statistics from current Leaf owners. Duh, I guess current Leaf owners wouldn’t be driving further than the car goes. Seems to me the market for fuel efficient vehicles is with consumers who drive the furthest on a daily basis. If I only had to drive a few miles to work, I’d have a Hummer.

  • Ray Mulvey

    EV cars will only become a reality when they do provide the same long range ability as gas models. Why? We cant forget the emotional comfort one gets by knowing the can go places without thinking about every mile along the way. Using an ‘average’ drive per day is unrealistic. Although ones’ commute by average 25 miles each way, what bout the days we need to pick up the kids from soccer…and then run to the grocery store…or the trip back to the hair salon when one may have forgot our wallet or purse? For true economy to succeed, we need to be able to do all of the unexpected things that require additional mileage beyond a single 60 to 80 mile range. There are days one may not drive at all…and other days that one may drive 200 miles. Yes, that may average out within the current EV range…but none of those days are average in themselves. How about that montly trip to visit the in-laws 5 hours away…or the vacation in the mountains or in a neighboring state? Owning a car that cannot provide for any of these scenarios is not a car that is truly useful for most consumers. Also, owning several cars to meet short and long-term distance is more wasteful than just having one gas-fueled car. Lastly, those of us that would save the most from using an EV car are the ones that drive the most miles. Living in Tampa, my bi-weekly trips to Miami or Palm Beach are 225 miles each way. If I could purchase an EV car in a nano-second…but to expect I would have a car that can only go 30 to 50 miles in each direction is ridiculous. That would, with almost no exageration, barely get me to the county-line and back. Long-range is the only option to make an EV car a no-brainer option.

  • Bobby

    The answer is obvious. Many people use cars to get to work. Electric cars provide people with transportation costing pennies on the dollar, compared to gasoline. The cheaper the commute, the more affordable a commute becomes, thereby extending the range many people are willing to drive to get to work. Houses are much cheaper away from major metro areas. Lets see, affordable rural/exurban housing, affordable commute, the math says “I can now live farther away from work”. Of course these people want EV’s with a long range. You had to think about this?

  • Raymulvey

    The only reason I have not gone EV is the limited range.  I don’t know who these 95% of Americans are who drive less than 40 miles a day…but I think they missed that an average monthly mileage isn’t the same as daily driving.  There are days I don’t drive at all but others where I drive 200 or 300 miles.  Living in Florida where the distances between cities exceeds 100 miles to almost 300 miles…the current EV ranges means I can’t drive to any other city in Florida…period.  Never mind about round trip.  It means if I go shopping at a store and they are out of an item…but have it available in a location 10 miles away…its likely I cannot go and retrieve that item if I have been running errands earlier in the day.  It means if I live in Boston and use the EV as a commuter…I still cannot use the EV to go to the Outlet Mall south of the city.  It means if I am at my other home in Tampa, Fl…I cannot drive to the town next to Tampa (St Petersburg…22 miles each way) without barely making it back to Tampa.  People do not always drive exclusively between point A and point B.  It means that if a friend calls me when I am on the way and asks me to make a detour and pick them up along the way…I can’t without risking getting stuck.  I could not use my EV to visit family that live in RI when I am in Boston.  I could not use my EV to visit family in Palm Beach, FL on thanksgiving, Christmas, a wedding, a birthday, an emergency etc.  It means…I can never, never ever go further away from my home than 35 to 40 miles in any one direction.  Thats ridiculous.  In addition, its those that drive long distance on a regular basis that have the most to gain from an EV car.  Those that drive infrequently don’t spend much on gas.  They save the least…and the initial expense on an EV means infrequent divers never see a savings payback before they retire the car.  In short, there is a reason that gas-feuled cars aren’t made with 2-gallon gas tanks.  If auto makers made a car with a 2-gallon gas tank…they wouldn’t sell any cars.  As an analogy…does your fridge and cabinets at home only have enough food for 1 meal?  Do your kids have only 1 pair of pants and 1 shirt? Does your insurance policy only cover 1 item in your house?  No…it is safe, prudent, and comfortable to have a little more than you need in case the unexpected occurs.  The unexpected ALWAYS occurs.  Driving a car is no different.  Tesla has it right…300 mile range…and funny…don’t they have a several year waiting list on their cars?  They can’t make them fast enough.

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  • Al Tyler

    Tesla has the concept 100% correct. However they’re still a bit pricey. Tesla has failed to date to carry to market in larger or more significant sales numbers. The reason for this is the higher starting price for the base model or the S model starting price makes it much more affordable to consider an alternate EV like Nissan’s Leaf or Toyota’s Plugin Prius at less than half Tesla’s base start price. At least that’s been the san diego experience for for my own family. Tesla’s biggest obstacle is getting vehicles into average family budgets with typical tax incentives that match or exceed Nissan’s current $7500 Federal Tax Credit and an additional $2500 from the State. A 10K price reduction on Nissan Leaf makes me want to consider an entry level Leaf at a third off the total cost of ownership rather than an entry level Tesla at a significantly less attractive overall rebate /discount.

  • Cary Harvey

    I have a Leaf, and I can tell you that the 80 mile range is not enough, I drive 55 mile round-trip every day, and I need more range after work to do all my errands, etc. I love the car, and I feel that once a battery with at least 300 miles on a single charge is developed, that it will definitely put the EV’s in everyone’s mind. Right now, I’d have to unfortunately consider a hybrid after my lease is up, until these new batteries with higher ranges are available on affordable cars like the Leaf. I think Toyota has the right idea by developing this 600 mile range battery, and I will be there first in line for one. When this happens, gas powered cars will be on their last legs. Everyone I talk to wants an electric car, but can’t get one due to the limited range. This to me is the only thing that is holding back EV’s from blowing up everywhere around the world.

  • Romans5.8

    Wow. Collected data from leaf drivers? Leaf drivers are OBVIOUSLY not people driving over 100 miles per day because they CAN’T! Personally, I think the plugin hybrid is the way to go. Give me a plug-in hybrid with 60mpg with the engine on and 250 miles on electric. That’s the perfect car. 99.999% of the time, most Americans will use just the battery. But, it still has an engine for road trips, power outages, and even battery failure!

  • Enrique

    If the price is more economical in the long run, you will have a FLEET of pizza delivery drivers driving around in these long-range EV’s in very little time. Yes, most of them will be purchased as used vehicles, but they WILL get bought. I currently drive about 180 miles each work day, and that’s the ONLY reason I drive a Prius Hybrid instead of a Nissan Leaf. If the Leaf could do even 300 miles on a charge, I’d be all over that.

  • GJ

    i would have to have a range of at least 300 miles before I considered an electric car, I normally drive about 250 miles per day but that’s just work not counting if I have to run errands on the way home

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