EV vs. Gas: Is 1,000 Miles LTS the Metric of the Future?

“What’ll be the 0-60-mph stat of 2036?” That question was posed during multiple brainstorming sessions for the launch of our InEVitable project. My response was that having served us for a half-century, 0-60-mph will surely survive another 15 years. But its relevance is clearly fading. At one end, hypercars are bumping into the physical limits of tire traction in the barely sub-2.0-second realm, while the heart of the market has sort of decided that anything in the 6-to-8-second range is plenty quick enough for purchase consideration. Not surprisingly, that represents the average 0-60 time of every stock vehicle we’ve tested over the last five model years (6.2 seconds) plus one standard deviation (1.8 seconds). Autonomy will undoubtedly dull 0-60’s luster even further. When anyone else is driving, folks prefer gentle launches. Of course, ubiquitous autonomy is way further out than 15 years.

So, what can we test or research and report that you might be more interested in over the next 15 years? We considered the current barriers preventing wider adoption of battery electric vehicles. Range and charging are the two biggies. Charging infrastructure is gradually improving across the country, but some 60 percent of Americans (and an even larger slice of our readership) can utilize a Level-2 charger at home or at work to meet their daily commuting needs. And with the 52 separate BEV models on the EPA’s 2021 and 2022 data sheets averaging 266 miles of official range, we reckon our audience faces little or no legitimate “range anxiety” around town.

Longer trips are problematic. Most EVs run out of juice before their combustion counterparts and then take longer to “juice up.” So we thought, let’s come up with a number that tells folks how much longer it would it take to make a trip, of say, 1,000 miles (the farthest most folks would consider driving in a day). And we’re optimistically assuming that within 15 years, the frustrations we experience today with inoperative or unavailable chargers, payment hassles, etc. will be relics of the past.

So we rounded up range and charging info for all 52 of those EPA-rated EVs along with similar info for a the top-selling combustion, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid vehicles to compute the difference in time it would take to cover 1,000 miles traveling 70 mph between stops (a legal, or at least prevalent and non-felonious speed on most interstate highways).

We assumed a fixed 10-minute time required for every vehicle to slow down, exit, enter a filling station, hook up, pay, stow everything, and return to traveling 70 mph. For combustion refueling we had drivers stopping with 5 percent of fuel remaining and a refueling flow rate of 10 gallons/minute. The combustion fleet averaged 14.7 hours to make the trip (68.4 mph). At the top were vehicles with either a high enough EPA highway rating or a large enough gas tank to require only one stop, resulting in a total trip time of 14.5 hours for an average speed of 69 mph. At the bottom sat the range-extended BMW i3, with a 2.4-gallon tank that would require 12 fuel stops, stretching the trip to 16.5 hours for a 60.7-mph average speed.

Then we computed travel times for every BEV the EPA has tested, using DC fast-charging information provided by manufacturers or measured by reputable third parties. These times generally represent charging from some minimum to 80 percent state of charge, above which the charging rate slows considerably. The savviest EVs come with navigation aids that optimize trip planning by suggesting charging locations that align with these suggested max/min battery charge levels.

Beyond two outliers, every EV needs between 15.3 hours (Lucid Air, 65.4 mph average) and 23.5 hours (Mini Cooper SE, 42.6 mph). That means driving a kilomile in that Lucid only takes 4 percent longer than in a combustion vehicle, whereas in the Mini you’ll spend 60 percent longer on the road. The average of the DC fast-charge vehicles was 18.2 hours/55.5 mph, or 24 percent longer than the average combustion vehicle. Numbers that are sure to improve greatly over 15 more years of continuous progress in battery chemistry, EV powertrain efficiency, and charging speeds. Those outliers? The Chinese Kandi city car features a tiny battery and no DC fast-charging, so it would have to stop 19 times for a 7-hour charge each time, resulting in a 6.6-mph average speed. Road-trip torture. Similarly, a Nissan Leaf S lacking the $1,690 Quick Charge option would take 35 hours to make the trip, stopping five times for a four-hour charge, averaging 42.6 mph.

Will 1K LTS become the next 0-60? Doubtful. Might it better inform your perception of an electric vehicle’s viability for road trips? Let us know at [email protected]

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