It’s not so much the range that’s the primary electric car gimp – it’s the time it takes to recharge.
Which is a minimum of 30-45 minutes, assuming you have access to what is hilariously styled a “fast” charger. These are 240 volt rigs (twice the voltage of standard household outlets) that can reduce the time it takes to recharge an electric car from several hours to under a hour.
But that isn’t very “fast” compared with the less-than-five-minutes it takes to refuel a non-electric car.
Especially given the non-electric car can be refueled to full in those five minutes at any gas station – while the not-so-fast-charging electric car can only recoup a partial charge – about 80 percent of its full-charge capacity – at a “fast” charger. This additional limitation is necessary for both fire-safety reasons (to avoid excessive heat build-up) and in order to preserve the useful life of the battery.
Electric car batteries – like the 12 volt starter battery in a non-electric car and any other battery yet devised – gradually lose their capacity to accept – and retain – a charge over time.
Hitting them with too much charge – too fast – causes that to happen faster.
But unlike a 12 volt starter battery – which costs about $100 to replace – an electric car battery costs thousands of dollars to replace. Which is why it’s very important in terms of electric car economics to make the battery last as long as possible.
Hence the partial – and not really very “fast” -recharge.
Which also amounts to a 20 percent reduction in whatever the electric car’s range on a fully recharged battery would have been. Which is another way of saying you’ll have to recharge sooner after you “fast” charge.
Or, wait longer – to get back to full charge – by plugging in to a standard 120 volt household outlet.
If you can find one.
One of the cognitively dissonant things about electric cars – which because of their range/recharge issues are fundamentally city cars – is that finding a place to plug in is more of challenge in cities. Because most people who live in cities live in apartments or condos and don’t have garages with electric outlets to plug into.
Ask the Starbucks people to let you run an extension cord into their joint and mooch off their power?
“Fast” chargers are harder to find than household outlets – because they are specialized and expensive outlets – and the potential for expansion is limited in number by the available real estate. Each “fast-charging” electric car takes up a car-sized parking space while it charges. Imagine circling the block looking for an open “fast” charging spot.
Either way, it’s a pretty long wait.
What if you haven’t got the time?
What if you need to keep driving – because something unplanned for came up? Like an emergency? Or you just want to get where you’re going before tomorrow gets here?
You’ll need another car – probably not electric. Or someone else, to give you ride.
Some electric cars have more range than others – but they all take comparatively forever to recover what range they have. This is a problem of battery chemistry – see above – and will remain a problem unless battery chemistry changes.
There is no sign of this happening.
It’s a problem analogous to making ice cream. The ingredients have to be mixed together – and then cooled. There’s no such thing as instant ice cream.
A poorly tuned ’67 Chevy with a slipping transmission that only gets 10 miles-per-gallon is still a much more practical car than an electric car because however much gas it uses, that gas can be replaced quickly.
Even if the 10-miles-per-gallon Chevy only had five gallons of gas in its tank (about a fourth of actual capacity) and so could only travel 50 miles in between fill-ups, those fill-ups would still only take five minutes. Less, actually – because it doesn’t take five minutes to pump five gallons of gas. You can can pump 15-20 gallons in that time. Most non-electric cars carry at least that much gas.
Which would mean at least 150-200 miles before our clunker needed more gas.
And the clunker can be refueled to full – not 80 percent of full – almost anywhere, almost anytime.
This lets you get where you want to be – or need to be – before tomorrow gets here.
The unplanned for is not a problem.
Even assuming a preposterous 50 miles of range (10 MPG, with just five gallons of fuel in the tank) our hypothetical Chevy could recover 450 miles of driving range in the time it takes an EV to recover 80 percent of its range just once.
And no electric car currently available can travel anywhere close to 450 miles on a fully charged battery.
Most require a plug-in before they’ve gone even half that far – and as a practical matter, it’s actually less than that . . . because of the time it takes to recharge.
Because of the potential inconvenience – or worse – that running low in an EV represents.
You can risk running on fumes in a non-electric car because even if you run out of fumes, you can be back on the road in the time it takes to pour a couple of gallons into the tank. But in an electric car running on “fumes” – a battery nearly depleted – you face a best-case scenario of a 30-45 minute wait.
If you can find that “fast” charger.
If you can’t, then it’s overnight.
Bad news if you need to be somewhere before then.
. . .
Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
If you like what you’ve found here please consider supporting EPautos.
PS: Get an EPautos magnet (pictured below) in return for a $20 or more one-time donation or a $10 or more monthly recurring donation. (Please be sure to tell us you want a sticker – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)
My latest eBook is also available for your favorite price – free! Click here.