The electric car range tipping point

August 24, 2016 0 Comments twitter, electric cars, Tesla, Renault Zoe

Tesla have just announced the 100KW/h battery pack option for their cars, complete with not just more range, but more FAST too (as if they weren't quick enough already). Much as I'd like to drive a Model S, the car is well beyond my budget... but the announcement did start me thinking again about more attainable electric options.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of driving a Renault Zoe for 2 weeks, courtesy of the Renault Press team. Honestly, I was smitten with the little grey car. Yes, it's a bit small for an 'only car' and yes, the interior is a bit plasticky and basic, but the powertrain really impressed me and the 100-miles-if-you're-sensible range means that for a lot of scenarios, the Zoe could be all the car you ever need. I rather like the styling too. What I really loved was that although it felt like 'the future' (I particularly liked the way you could cruise around silently and the linear acceleration afforded by not having a conventional gearbox), the Zoe felt like a normal car a lot of the time. It was easy to drive and you didn't really have to do anything special, although I couldn't help but get sucked into trying to drive in an eco-friendly manner and maximising the regenerative braking! Best of all, Renault have adopted a very competitive pricing model for the Zoe (based on a vehicle lease / battery lease split) - the BMW i3 is certainly a better car for example, but it's a difficult proposition against a conventional vehicle given the price.


The reason I didn't / wouldn't / couldn't buy a Zoe was really the range. We only have one car and although being able to squeeze out 100 miles is pretty decent, for the journeys we do not that infrequently, we need at least 150 miles. But what range would actually make me pull the trigger? Is it 150 miles? 200 miles? 300 miles? I think it's probably getting 200 miles even in sub-optimal conditions (going quickly, in the cold weather with the heating on, or hot weather with the A/C full blast). Had the Zoe delivered that, I think I wouldn't have resisted ordering one on the spot, despite the space / comfort caveats above.

Vehicles with this kind of range are just around the corner - indeed I anticipate the 2017 Zoe offering something along these lines and with all the major manufacturers launching electric offerings very soon, the market is likely to move on very fast.

Another option is a plug-in hybrid vehicle such as the Golf GTE, which offers an internal combustion engine together with a limited electric range. Pretty cool and for people who do a lot of short journeys about town, a nice option, but again these cars are just too expensive at the moment.

Obviously I'm not alone in this position, so I wonder if there is a ballpark range that would make the majority of people consider EVs. Although range is only part of the equation (factors such as charging infrastructure at home and on the move have to be considered too), 'range anxiety' is I think the major concern.

Thoughts? Have you considered / what would make you consider an EV?

Paul O'Brien
Norfolk, UK