Survey finds jump in electric vehicle acceptance at 300-mile range

A trip along I-91 from New Haven to the Canadian border comes to just under 300 miles. A recent survey suggests that drivers would be more willing to purchase an electric vehicle if they could make this drive on a single charge.

The automotive site Autolist surveyed 14,476 people between October 2016 and July 2017 to gauge their opinions on electric vehicles. In particular, the survey looked at what respondents saw as problems with electric vehicle ownership and how much range they would like such a vehicle to have.

"Range anxiety" has often been cited as a factor causing people to decide against electric vehicle ownership. Drivers fear that they won't be able to reach their destination on a single charge, or that charging stations are too scarce to give them an opportunity to recharge the vehicle's battery.

The Autolist survey named range anxiety as the main reason they would hesitate to buy an electric vehicle, with 34.2 percent citing battery range as an issue. Cost was named as the biggest concern by 24.5 percent of respondents, followed by a lack of charging stations at 16.7 percent.

Issues that were less likely to be named as the main reason for hesitation included the time needed to recharge the battery (9.5 percent), the ecological impact of the battery (8.2 percent), maintenance costs (5.9 percent), and a lack of engine sound (1.2 percent).

Several electric vehicle models offer a range of about 200 miles, but only 14.6 percent of respondents considered this to be adequate. Just 3.7 percent felt a range of 100 miles was sufficient.

However, respondents showed more acceptance of an electric vehicle's range when it was expanded to 300 miles. A total of 38.9 percent thought this was sufficient. Combined with those who were satisfied at a shorter range, this indicates that 57.2 percent of respondents would be satisfied with an electric vehicle that could drive 300 miles on a charge.

Another 16.1 percent of respondents said they thought 400 miles was an adequate range. Just over one-quarter—26.7 percent—said they would like to see electric vehicles achieve a range of 500 miles.

Tesla's recently released final design for its Model 3 electric vehicle includes an option for a long range battery capable of 310 miles of travel per charge. Several other automakers are aiming to have electric vehicles with a range of 300 miles or more available by 2020. These include a crossover from Ford, a luxury sedan from Genesis, and a next generation LEAF from Nissan.

Other companies are looking at farther ranges. The California automaker Fisker Inc. says it is working to develop a vehicle with a 400-mile range. The Dutch startup Lightyear has released plans for a solar-powered electric vehicle capable of 500 miles per charge.

Despite the demand for longer range, some studies have suggested that current electric vehicle ranges would be sufficient for most drivers' regular trips. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggested that 87 percent of drivers would have sufficient range for their regular commute by simply recharging the vehicle overnight.

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