Statistics of the Week: Comparing Vehicle Ranges for Gas, BEV and PHEV Models

Will vehicle range be the biggest hurdle to achieving adoption of electric vehicles by late adopters and laggards in the US?

Cost of EVs, availability of attractive models of the type US consumers want (SUVs, CUVs, pickups), adequate charger availability and acceptable charging times should arrive in the next 10 years. And an average range of 300 or so miles for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) should arrive by around 2022 and be an acceptable range for early adopters and early majority consumers.Diffusion of Innovation

But to achieve adoption by the late majority and laggards, EVs will likely need a range of 500 miles. I will explore this idea in a future article, but first let’s look at where we are currently and how far we have to go to match the range of gas vehicles.

Like EVs, vehicle range of gas-powered vehicles varies widely, but according to US Department of Energy data for 2016 model vehicles, the median range is 412 miles. To compare and validate this data, I analyzed the range of 32 small 2016 SUVs and found a similar median range of 410 miles and mean of 418. Among these 32 SUVs, 81% have a range of 375 or more miles and 68% have a range at or above 375 miles.

Range - Gas-BEV-PHEV-1.27.18

By comparison, the current median range of the 13 BEVs (17 including all battery pack versions of Tesla models) available in the US is 114.5 miles, while the mean is 192. And if you exclude Tesla models from this, then mean and median range drops to 142 and 112.5 miles respectively.

Currently Available BEVs in US - 1.20.18-2

This means that in early 2018 there is basically an average (median) range shortfall of 300 miles when comparing BEVs to gas/diesel-powered vehicles. And when comparing BEVs to PHEVs the average shortfall increases to 325 miles. As mentioned earlier, I estimate a median range for BEVs of just under 300 miles by 2022, however, that will still be roughly 110 miles fewer than gas-powered vehicles.

Now, you can argue until you are blue in the face that most Americans only use a range of 400+ miles during their few long-range trips a year and so a shorter range should suffice. However, there is a large segment of the US population who take multiple long trips per year or who will simply compare straight up the range of their ICE vehicle to that of a BEV. And for them, unless the range of an EV is higher – perhaps at least 500 miles – they will not be motivated to give up their ICE vehicle.

In future articles I’ll explore the differing range expectations and acceptance for early adopters versus the early and late majority/laggard customer segments. And I’ll outline a concept of range trifurcation in the EV market based on three range requirements for different types of consumers.