One of the major challenges facing electric cars is range anxiety, and some automakers are doing much better at rising to that challenge than others.
The Nissan Leaf has a driving range of about 80 miles. The Leaf has sold about 200,000 units worldwide, but that is far short of the goal that Nissan set of selling 1.5 million EVs by 2016.
The Leaf's 80 mile range looks insufficient in the face of Chevy and Tesla, which have both promised (and in the case of Chevy delivered, a a 200 mile electric car that will cost around $30,000.
Larry Nitz, GM's director of global transmissions and electrification was happy to respond to questions about range though. He sees 200 miles as the critical range that will have consumers consider an EV just like a petrol powered car. "Today's drivers of 100-mile electric cars always need to look for the next charge," Nitz continued."We are very aware of what's happening in the market," said Ken Kcomp, director of product planning at Nissan, in January. "Nissan is developing longer range batteries."
Kcomp declined to comment about the range of a future Nissan EV or when it might be introduced. In the meantime, the 2016 model-year Leaf took baby steps toward longer range—giving consumers the option of a bigger battery pack that provides 107 miles of estimated range for about $5,000 more than the $29,000 base model.
There are some that aren't so convinced that range is the be-and-end-all.
Carbon fiber and aluminum are used to build the BMW i3 which reduces the required battery energy and also contributes to quick acceleration, handling and performance."I question the race to the 200-mile electric car," said Jose Guerrero, head product manager of electric vehicles, high-performance models, and connected technology for BMW of North America. Guerrero cited statistics that the average American commuter drives about 36 miles a day, well within the range of the BMW i3. He points out that consumers wanting more range for occasional longer trips can choose the i3 with a two-cylinder, range-extending gasoline engine. That adds nearly $4,000 to the car's price, pushing it beyond $46,000 (before incentives).
Ask Audi and their executives bring up the term "first-car ability." That means that an electric car should be able to serve a driver in every way that a gas car can. Audi has built an Audi E-tron Quattro that holds a 95 kilowatt-hour battery pack that should provide a 300 mile charge.
Will people want a cheaper EV that has less range? A more expensive one that can drive forever, or something middle of the road that has a reasonable price (after incentives, of course)?