No one ever used to think about auto range, ever

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 3, 2024, 10:59 AM | comments: 0

My first car was a rusted-out beater of a 1989 Ford Escort, which was 5-years-old when I got it. It famously threw a rod in the first two weeks that I had it, which was pretty devastating, but my dad helped me replace the engine. I picked up the habit of logging all of my gas filling and maintenance, mostly because I felt that I could see data in the log. If there were problems, the gas efficiency would most certainly show it, like when the gas tank started leaking. I also appreciated the variability of winter, when I'd get more like 20 mpg instead of 30 when it was really cold.

But what I never did was worry about how many miles I could drive. Especially then, car range was at best a guess, and not one that anyone would ever make. That's because if the fuel gauge was low, you stopped and put gas in the car. That beater probably could go around 250 miles on a tank, maybe a little more if it was warm and mostly on the highway, but I never tested it, because of the gas gauge.

This is why the range anxiety that people have over EV's is comically ridiculous. Oh, the haters will rattle off a million anecdotes about why you should worry about it, especially those around road trips, but they refuse to admit that the majority use case for American driving is not only perfectly fine for EV's, but better.

People drive an average of 29 miles per day. Two-thirds of Americans have a garage. So already, range and charging is irrelevant to a majority of Americans because they basically have a giant cell phone that they charge every night. We keep our cars at 80%, because it's better for the battery, and I couldn't tell you what the range says when leave the house. One of them is six-years-old, and presumably has some battery degradation, but I couldn't tell you what that is. It doesn't matter.

So what about the third that doesn't have a garage? They obviously have to rely on public charging, but beyond that, why is it any different than having a gas car? When the gauge gets low, you charge. At this point, chargers are pretty ubiquitous, and this is doubly true when your car can work with a Tesla charger, and more locations are opening up for non-Tesla cars. The only slow part of charging is the last 10%, which most of the time you don't need because you only drive 29 miles per day. Our cars can generally get to 80% or 90% in 15 minutes, and that extra 10 minutes relative to gassing up is inconsequential.

That leaves the road tripping scenario. I don't know if we're typical, but I suspect we need this at most five or six times. The only additional "burden" is having the car figure out where we can stop, and it generally works out to the point at which we need potty breaks or food anyway. The app has notified me about being almost finished charging countless times while in line to pay for food. Are there other anecdotes not like these scenarios? Sure, and they account for a fraction of a percent of real life.

But I go back to my original point... no one looked at range with gas cars, so why would you with an EV? The situation is actually better when you don't have to stop for "fueling," almost ever.


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