FUD: Range is really important and a hybrid would be a better option Of all the mistruths about electric cars – many promoted by traditional car manufacturers who are struggling to introduce new technology – the greatest is “range anxiety”. The stark truth is that for 95% — or probably more – of Tesla owners, range is simply not an issue. It just means a little more planning. And you absolutely do not need to buy an environment-damaging hybrid (see separate FAQ). The reality is that most people (some exceptions are noted below) do not drive 500 miles without pausing! Even 200 miles is plenty of range to get you all over Europe. Look at this real data from 2,110 drives made by a Model S 75D owner (one of the shortest-range Teslas) over three years – a mix of UK medium-haul (return trips 1.5 hours each way) and European long haul (Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Scottish Highlands driving, plus some local journeys:
- Here is the longest single hop that driver has ever need to make: 3h19 min – which still left 17% of battery (and that’s on an older, short-range vehicle), easily topped up to 40% while having a fine lunch and ready for the next hop:
- Looking further into this driver’s “real world” data over 36,000 miles it is clear that there is no need for range anxiety:
- In reality, only three legs were ever over 140 miles
- Most journeys were local, or max 1-2 hours
- Longer journeys were broken into 1.5-2 hour chunks, with a short break for pressing onwards.
- On a drive from Geneva to Calais no more than 20 minutes was spent “waiting for charging”. All other stops were charging while grabbing a coffee, eating lunch, etc.
- By using Tesla’s extensive network of destination chargers, most overnight stops had free charging while the driver slept
- Travelling around Europe, this driver used 102 superchargers 198 times; destination chargers 49 times — and only needed to resort to the less-reliable public charging network 22 times (typically in remote places, eg the Scottish Highlands or the Norwegian fjords … and north Wales).
- A little planning allowed the driver to take regular short rest stops as recommended in the Highway Code – but timed them to match superchargers in Tesla’s extensive network. And, not to put too fine a point on it, passenger bladder capacity < car range capacity every time.
Driving an electric car does require some adjustments:
- think through your route; if it’s new or complex, use A Better Route Planner or a similar app which will find the optimum stopping points
- charge at home overnight so it’s “full” when you start off: for most journeys this means you never need to stop and charge
- on long journeys, take regular breaks to recharge both you and the vehicle. Neither you nor the vehicle should need to fill to 100% capacity, or empty below 15% capacity – so you should almost never need
There are some drivers with particular requirements where range is more of a concern. But very few. Here are some examples:
- you don’t have the ability to charge at home and need to do a lot of short-haul commuting before a weekly stop to recharge. Local councils are working on better infrastructure to help you solve this problem – or just watch Netflix in your Tesla for half an hour and chill out!
- you regularly travel a long return trip (eg 4-5 hours), you are time constrained, and there is no ability to top up at your destination. For these drivers, a short stop will be required – although increasingly many long-distance commuters find they can top up a bit while they are at their destination (workplaces, hotels, public car parks, a 3-pin plug overnight, a second charger at the in-laws, etc)
- you are a taxi driver or similar, where “time is money” and you drive all day especially in a very cold climate (where range is reduced)
- you like to look at the range estimate in your car and get cross that it doesn’t match some notional specification by the manufacturer. These drivers will be angry all the time … while comfortably making all their journeys without a problem
- you drive rally-style, swapping shifts with your partner to cross Europe without stopping. Hmm. Is it safer to stop for a 15-minute break occasionally perhaps?
- you really, really, don’t want to do any planning. We have plenty of those in the Tesla Owners’ Group. A few have made it to the infamous “0 miles left” and survived. But most have been absolutely fine.
For almost every electric vehicle driver, with just a little adaptation to a new way of travelling, range anxiety is a myth. We do not need to burn petrol to travel long distances.