Michael Sheiman's picture

How a 50 mph dedicated EV lane system could solve to cost-per-range issue with EVs

It benefits all cars to travel at lower speeds from range and about 45-50 mph seems to be the sweet spot, anything faster and you start trading a lot of range for only slight gains in speed. In fact, you can get a $16000 EV to handle a 60 mile commute reliably by establishing a dedicated highway lane that allows safe, matched-with-surrounding traffic cruising at such speeds.

At 50 mph, the Mitsubishi i-Miev can go 70 miles on a charge, the Nissan Leaf 97 miles, and the Model S 300 miles.

Compare this to what those cars can do at a typical 70 mph speed: 260 miles range for the Model S, 68 miles for the Leaf, and 40 miles for the I-Miev. That's about a 15% range gain for the Model S, a 63% range gain for the Leaf, and a whopping 75% range difference for the I-Miev. The Tesla Model S's being a heavy and aerodynamic car factors into its inefficient low speed range and more efficient, relative to that, high-speed range.

So, for most cars, judging by the sample, we are talking about a 50%+ range gain for basic EVs and at 15%+ range gain for larger electric cars by enabling lanes on highways with a 50 mph speed limit where EV drivers can maximize range.

It seems to be a realistic compromise for commuters who can afford to take, say, 40 instead of 30 minutes to get to work.

Even the $16000 Mitsubishi I-Miev (after tax incentives) with its tiny 16kwh battery managed to get 70 miles on a charge at this speed, enough for a person to reliably make a 60 mile round-trip work commute (30 there, 30 back). That's huge. You can buy a car that costs $16K new and, given such a 50 mph lane, get to work and back on all-electric power and charge it at home overnight with just a basic 220 volt system (no need to charge during the day).

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How about a system of pusher trailers in various sizes available for rent? That's much easier to implement as it doesn't inconvenience other drivers. I mean, a slow speed limit would be good for lowering fuel demands, but it's not likely to be accepted.

While this may seem like an easy fix to the EV range problem, it is not a long-term solution. For many people this would be a compromise they are unwilling to make. In fact, it is likely that highway speeds will continue to increase at least for a while, as modern vehicles are increasingly built to be safer at higher speeds. Just wait until electric car technology continues to improve and become more affordable, don't make compromises like this for a short term gain.

How about you EV guys pay for those lanes yourselves? They could be a toll lane or something. This would be fair since only EVs could use those lanes and since you guys don't pay into the road taxes through fuel.

Ahhh, the whole point of the freeway is to go from Point A to Point B "quickly" by avoiding intersections, stop signs, and general congestion associated with surface streets. Most freeways are already crowded enough, without dedicating an entire lane to slow traffic. Besides, faster traffic would have to cross through this slow traffic when entering/exiting the freeway and that speed differential is what is dangerous.

If somebody is willing to take extra time to get to work, they should take a city bus or some other slow/cheap form of transportation. I love driving my Volt fast and hard, knowing that the cost per mile is a fraction of what it would be in a gasser. I certainly didn't buy an EV/PHEV to go slow.