If there is a certainty that prospective electric vehicle owners keep seeking, it is reassurance about the range of a particular vehicle. You might wonder where this anxiety is coming from, and we don't have to look far to find out its origins.
Let’s Turn The Clock Back
Turning the clock back about a decade, electric vehicles were on sale. However, they didn't seem like outstanding options if you looked at them. The reason was simple, and their range wasn't great. In 2012, ranges for electric vehicles generally averaged somewhere in the 30- to 50-mile category. After that point, it was like going over the falls in a barrel, whoop, whoop, whee!
The facetiousness aside, electrics of even a decade ago weren't promising. The reason, quite simply, was the battery tech. Battery tech lagged until the industry began to bear down on electrics about half a decade ago. Yes, there was lots of engineering development work going on with batteries, but the batteries' specific power densities weren't especially good.
It's not that the industry wasn't working on solutions to the battery issue, and that was one of the overriding efforts of the middle part of the last decade. Soon, battery power densities (one measure of just how far a vehicle will go on a specific battery package) began to inch upward as the engineers tried different battery configurations and platforms.
Battery Density Is A Key
By 2019 or so, battery densities meant that electric vehicles could have ranges of about 120 miles, which is quite a lift from the 30- to 50-mile range of just a few years earlier. And the engineering development teams continued their work, improving the battery range to the low-200s about a year later.
By now, the battery engineering development was leaping ahead to the point that by the start of the 2020 car year, electrics could enjoy ranges in the 250-mile vicinity – quite a leap from just a couple of years earlier. And the development continued to the point that in 2022 electric vehicles will have ranges of 300 miles and more. The 300-mile range level puts the electric vehicle on par with similar internal combustion vehicles, whose ranges have always been in the 300-mile or better.
To show how far the industry has come in a little more than 10 years, you can look at Ford, which has published the range of its soon-to-be-delivered line of electric pickups, the F-150 Lightning.
Ford's engineering efforts continuously improve over time. Indeed, some F-150 Lightning customers will benefit from an increase in range ahead of launch this spring. Indeed, the EPA and the automaker's engineering staff have completed putting the Lightning through its paces.
Lightning Completes Battery Testing
The all-new, all-electric F-150 Lightning has completed final EPA testing (like internal combustion vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the keeper of the electric vehicle range. The F-150 Lightning XLT and Lariat trim, with the extended range battery, both deliver an EPA-estimated range of 320 miles, while the F-150 Lightning Platinum has an EPA-estimated range of 300 miles.
Fleet customers can purchase the extended range battery on Lightning Pro and which has an EPA-estimated range of 320 miles. The following table summarizes the EPA findings:
F-150 Lightning (Target EPA-estimated range) F-150 Lightning (Final EPA-estimated range)
F-150 Lightning Pro SR: 230 miles F-150 Lightning Pro SR: 230 miles
F-150 Lightning Pro ER (Fleet): 300 miles F-150 Lightning Pro ER (Fleet) 320 miles
F-150 Lightning XLT SR: 230 miles F-150 Lightning XLT SR: 230 miles
F-150 Lightning XLT ER: 300 miles F-150 Lightning XLT ER: 300 miles
F-150 Lightning Lariat SR: 230 miles F-150 Lightning Lariat SR: 230 miles
F-150 Lightning Lariat ER: 300 miles F-150 Lightning Lariat ER: 320 miles
F-150 Lightning Platinum: 280 miles F-150 Lightning Platinum: 300 miles
"We are laser-focused on continually improving our energy consumption efficiency for Lightning. The team is happy to deliver these results for our customers," said Linda Zhang, chief program engineer, F-150 Lightning.
Other Electric Vehicles
As an added dimension, the auto industry has developed battery-only vehicles like the Ford F-150 Lightning, the Ford Mustang Mach-E (SUV), and the Ford E-Transit. It has also developed vehicles that combine the attributes of electrics and internal combustion engines. Across the industry, you will find not only standard hybrids in the electrical mix. Standard hybrids, as noted, rely more fully on both internal combustion and electric power. Then there are the plug-in hybrids that turn the standard map of hybrids on its head to rely more on the stored power supplied by the plug-in component.
Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent the usual number of misspent hours hanging out at gas stations Shell and Texaco (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper, "You Auto Know," an enterprise that I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my living while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.