While EVs may seem like the future, the groundwork for all-electric transportation was laid in the late 19th century. But the single biggest drawback for the earlier models, even ones from a few decades ago, was the battery technology. Since electric cars are relatively easy to produce with just a few moving parts and a simple electric motor instead of an IC engine, the batteries used are a lot more important, both in terms of performance and usability. Because of the relatively lower range of earlier models like the Nissan LEAF, they didn’t quite catch on in the modern market. However, the Tesla Model S changed the game, offering plenty of performance with usable range. In fact, the base Tesla Model S offered a range of over 200 miles back in 2012, making it a lot more appealing to potential customers.
After Tesla kickstarted the modern electric car revolution, almost all manufacturers now have an all-electric offering in their lineup. Ranging from smaller models made for city commutes like the Honda E hatchback to mile munchers like the new Mercedes-Benz EQS that offers up to 453 miles of range on a single charge, there’s an EV for everyone. But, right from the start, the biggest concern for potential EV owners is range. Range anxiety plays a major role for buyers in the modern car market, even after all the latest innovations in fast charging technology. So the burning question on everyone’s mind is how far an EV can go on a single charge. Because of the wide range of EVs on the market, the answer to this question depends on the model.
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Growing EV infrastructure
With a lot more fast chargers opening up around the country, most EV owners usually have a charger at hand when they need them. It is even possible to go on longer journeys if you plan the route, taking fast charger locations into account. But, unlike an IC car, all-electric vehicles can be charged at home, allowing you to leave with a full charge every time, and in some cases, there’s no need to use a public fast charger at all. While home charging may be slow, many owners are plugging in their cars overnight. But, depending on the size of the battery, a full charge may take up to 24 hours. It’s also possible to install a fast charger at home if you need it.
However, if you don’t have a driveway or live in an apartment, a fast charger may be the only option. If you plan on getting a Tesla, there are currently more than 1,200 supercharger locations throughout the U.S, making longer journeys a possibility.
To help owners, most manufacturers also provide apps that direct them to the nearest charging point. A lot of governments around the world have already set deadlines for IC car sales, and are providing incentives for the jump to EVs. As expected, this will also help fast-track the growth of charging networks around the country.
Updated battery technologies
Just a decade ago, one of the most popular EVs, the Nissan LEAF was limited to a maximum range of just over 100 miles with smaller 24 kWh lithium-ion batteries. While they were a huge improvement over the lead-acid-based batteries of yesteryear, it still wasn’t enough to replace a typical IC offering. Fast forward a few years and battery technologies have significantly improved. Manufacturers have developed new variations of lithium-ion batteries with different chemistry to improve the overall lifespan and performance. Most batteries used today can last at least 10 years and can go through more than 5000 charging cycles.
An active battery cooling system is yet another feature that has helped maintain battery health in the long run and improve efficiency. Initial models didn’t have active cooling, leading to premature battery failures and excessive degradation. The next generation of lithium-ion batteries is expected to reach the market soon with updated active materials that can store more energy.
With almost four times the energy density of an average lithium-ion battery, lithium-sulfur batteries could make their way into EVs very soon, especially ones that are designed for longer ranges. While they may not be as game-changing as solid-state batteries, it is still a technology to look out for.
Finally, we come to solid-state batteries, which can potentially be the future of EVs. The biggest difference with a solid-state battery is the usage of a solid compound instead of a liquid electrolyte. This provides better conductivity, safety, and is not flammable to a certain extent. It will also allow the use of denser batteries that are lighter than usual, ultimately resulting in excellent performance and a higher range compared to a similarly sized lithium-ion battery.
EV pricing and how it has affected the market
The biggest contributor to an EV’s price is the battery used, and as modern batteries become more efficient and cheaper to manufacture, the cost of EVs may also come down. Just over a decade ago, the cost per kWh of a battery was around $750, making higher capacity models significantly more expensive than their IC counterparts. However, as EVs began to rise in popularity and battery technologies developed, that price has come down drastically. As of today, the price per kWh is only around $125. As the popularity and sales rise, we can expect another reduction in prices soon. It is predicted that by 2023, the price per kWh will be less than $100, making modern EVs a lot more affordable, and more importantly, usable with a higher range and bigger batteries.
Models with the highest range
As of today, several models on the market offer a usable range along with the latest fast charging technologies.
Mercedes-Benz EQS – As of today, the EQS leads the pack with a massive 107.8 kWh battery under the floor, giving it a range of just over 450 miles on a single charge. The EQS also supports 200 kW fast charging for quick top-ups. Being a luxury model, you get all the creature comforts and features you expect in a flagship sedan to keep you comfortable and entertained.
Tesla Model S – The former range king takes the second spot if we consider the new Long Range Plus model. Using a 100 kWh battery, the Model S can travel up to 405 miles on a single charge, making it ideal for longer journeys. The Model S can also be used with Tesla superchargers around the country for quick top-ups.
The typical lifespan of an EV and battery degradation
Because of the lithium-ion tech used in EVs, the batteries degrade over time with multiple charge cycles. Most modern batteries will easily last more than a decade before showing noticeable signs of battery degradation that affect range. Because of this, even older EVs can be used if you can live with a shorter range. As of today, the average battery degradation per year stands at 2.3%.