ICE Cars Have Relative Range Equilibrium: Will This Be True Of EVs?

ICE Cars Have Relative Range Equilibrium: Will This Be True Of EVs?

08/19/2021

Taking a look at how automakers are compelled to offer a product that can compete.

Commenting on my recent article on the future of EV road-tripping, one reader had this to say.

“Building huge batteries into our vehicles is a horrible idea. The weight alone is reason enough but when you factor in the resources depleted to have that battery it’s really a losing argument. …  At that point, charging speed is WAY more important than range. … Why do you need a lot of range when EVERYWHERE you stop has charging. And this is only talking about the ‘road trip’ scenario. Daily driving is a whole different thing when you leave each day fully charged.”

DL

DL your comment got me thinking, so I’m providing this update. Keep in mind, I post my ideas and opinions here in hopes of sparking conversation and getting varied insight and perspectives, hopefully, to help shape understanding and narrative. This is precisely why I’m responding with this follow-up article.

Question: Why did so many of the top 25 selling IC cars of 2020 have average ranges of about 460 miles? Why didn’t several of them have average ranges above 600 miles and a few others have average ranges below 300 miles and the rest have a wide variety of ranges in between? Why did so many of the top-selling vehicles have average ranges that were so similar to each other (give or take 50 miles)? And why weren’t there any that had an average range of 250 miles? I’ll tell you why in just two words: Market Equilibrium. 

Based on the list of the top 25 IC cars (see below), it seems market forces have pushed automakers to settle in on about 460 miles of average range as the minimum amount they dare offer and still be competitive. The auto-buying public has found that amount of range to be, on average, adequate to meet most of their driving needs. This satisfies their driving thirst. This is what the automakers have become compelled to offer. The push and pull of the market have caused the double-pan scale of range to balance around that point.

It appears few automakers consider it wise to spend the extra costs (those go beyond just a larger tank) to offer a 600-mile average range IC car with the hope of selling only a very few extra vehicles.

Conversely, no company would be foolish enough to try and save even $5 per vehicle by offering a limited 250-mile range IC vehicle. That product would be shunned. It wouldn’t be competitive. It would not sell well, even though the fueling infrastructure is ubiquitous, and that it would take less than two minutes to fill it up (not counting transaction time).

Consider this. If you were CEO of Toyota, which sells about 9 million vehicles a year, and you could get away with saving the company even $5 per vehicle by using a smaller 30-liter gas tank, wouldn’t you do it? You’d save Toyota more than $200,000,000 over a five-year period. What a hero you would be! But market forces won’t allow that. Toyota has to offer a product that can compete. It has to follow the flow of the range river in its most natural course.

Now, when it comes to EVs I’ll admit they are a little different animal. I suspect that possibly their market equilibrium point might end up less than that for IC vehicles. Perhaps market forces will settle the EV average rated range equilibrium somewhere around 350 miles. We’ll have to wait and see. But I prognosticate that it will not be anywhere near 250 miles.

Keep in mind that the rated range is not the same as the real-world usable range. The actual usable range can be less (and on rarer occasions more) than the rated range. Regardless, it’s never wise to bury the needle in the red E. I would think, for example, that road tripping in a 200-mile range vehicle would require quite a few charging stops.

Perhaps someone with experience can chime in on this, but I would imagine that a good bit of time would be burnt up in just pulling off the freeway and getting to the charging stations. A vehicle with a longer range reduces that required transaction time. That camel can go much farther between oasis stops.

As for the comment regarding a large battery pack being a waste, I agree that if the extra range is used only three or four times a month, or less, then the resources involved do seem a little misplaced. That is a conundrum. But what can be done about it?

25 Best Selling IC Vehicles of 2020

*via Car and Driver

Vehicle | # Sold | MSRP | City/Hwy Range | Average Range

  1. Ford F-Series | 787k | $29,000 | 468/598 | 533
  2. Chevy Silverado | 586k | $29,000 | 390/572 | 481
  3. Ram Pickup | 563k | $32,500 | 390/546 | 468
  4. Toyota RAV4 | 430k | $26,000 | 406/507 | 456.5
  5. Honda CR-V | 333k | $25,300 | 392/476 | 434
  6. Toyota Camry | 294k | $25,000 | 403/561 | 482
  7. Chevy Equinox | 270k | $23,800 | 387/461 | 424
  8. Honda Civic | 261k | $21,200 | 396/520 | 458
  9. GMC Sierra | 253k | $30,000 | 390/572 | 481
  10. Toyota Tacoma | 238k | $26,200 | 422/485 | 453.5
  11. Toyota Corolla | 237k | $20,000 | 409/528 | 468.5
  12. Nissan Rogue | 227k | $25,600 | 391/507 | 449
  13. Ford Explorer | 226k | $32,200 | 316/446 | 381
  14. Toyota Highlander | 212k | $35,000 | 375/519 | 447
  15. Jeep Grand Cherokee | 209k | $32,500 | 467/639 | 553
  16. Jeep Wrangler | 201k | $28,400 | 385/507 | 446
  17. Honda Accord | 199k | $25,000 | 444/562 | 503
  18. Ford Escape | 178k | $24,800 | 345/439 | 392
  19. Subaru Forester | 176k | $24,700 | 431/547 | 489
  20. Subaru Outback | 153k | $26,700 | 481/610 | 545.5
  21. Mazda CX-5 | 146k | $25,300 | 370/458 | 414
  22. Nissan Altima | 137k | $24,300 | 448/624 | 536
  23. Jeep Cherokee | 135k | $26,500 | 363/489 | 426
  24. Ford Transit | 131k | $24,600 | 379/458 | 418.5
  25. Toyota 4Runner | 129k | $36,500 | 391/506 | 448.5

Average | $27,204 | 401/525 | 463

As always, I’d love to read your perspectives on this topic. Head down to the comment section and start a conversation. What do you think? What will the range equilibrium be for electric vehicles?

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