Are Electric Cars Practical – Even for Long Trips?

Electric vehicles are all the rage these days—but many people are worried about their practicality, especially for long trips. If you’re someone worried that your electric vehicle (EV) won’t get you from A to B without being stranded in between charging stations, we can get rid of some of those concerns.

Lucky for us, electric cars are absolutely fine in terms of practicality—even for long trips. Battery improvements have meant that the ranges electric cars are capable of have grown tremendously in the past decade. Not only that, but the global number of charging stations has also erupted, many of which can be found in the convenience of home.

Let’s explore some of the supposed ‘impracticalities’ of electric vehicles. Then we’ll take a look at the numbers – the capable ranges between charging as well as the number of charging points. You’ll finish this article feeling much better about electric vehicles and the distances they can travel.

Impracticalities of Electric Cars: are there any cons?

Electric vehicles are everywhere. They’re on the roads, in the news, and even popularized in modern music (as of 2019, ‘Tesla’ was featured in 142 songs!). You may be one of the many, many people considering buying an electric vehicle for yourself. However, this decision doesn’t come without its own unique set of considerations.

Although many of them are being addressed and electric vehicles are becoming more accessible for the Average Joe, several “impracticalities” of electric vehicles have become apparent over the years.

For many, the price tags of the vehicles themselves have been a purchasing barrier (although these are gradually coming down). For others, simple things like the sound and smell and feel of a petrol car are too hard to trade in for an electric car. For some, who want unlimited choice when it comes to make, model and color, conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars still have the upper hand when it comes to variety.

One of the biggest considerations: Just how practical will my electric car be—especially for long trips? 

Along with price and technology, the range of electric cars has been another thing on the minds of potential EV drivers. In fact, many people are experiencing what has been deemed ‘range anxiety’—the fear that an electric car will run out of charge while driving, most particularly while on a long trip.

Woman Charging a Tesla
Woman Charging a Tesla

It’s a good thing then that experience has demonstrated that these fears, for the most part, aren’t warranted. Especially over recent years, improvements have been made to electric vehicles to ensure that they continue running long enough to get you from A to B. Not only that, but on a global level, there have been more and more charging points popping up, too.

Improved Range of Electric Cars

When the Tesla Roadster first hit the market in 2008, it had a range of just over 320 km (200 miles). In fact, most of the electric vehicles that were introduced in the early days had ranges that were around 160 km (100 miles). Well now, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself, the automaker is quickly approaching the 643 km (400 miles) benchmark for its Model S. Right now, both the Model S and Model X have ranges of about 380 and 330 miles (611 km and 531 km), respectively.

Thanks to battery energy upgrades, electric vehicle manufacturers have been able to improve range at a rate of around 15% each year. Even more inspiring, solid-state batteries will mark the next generation of electric vehicles, and manufacturers are expected to roll out mass production around 2025. These will replace lithium ion batteries, costing much less and reducing any risk of fires. They’ll also be capable of ultrafast charging. This means that we could see luxury EV models reach an average of 804 km (500 miles) of range within this decade.

While the aims to increase the range are starting to prove successful, EV manufacturers are mostly driven to make these changes to improve public perception of electric vehicles, not out of necessity. It’s estimated that 99% of driving trips could be met with a 170 km range—and most electric vehicles far exceed that.

By comparison, most ICE car manufacturers suggest that their cars have a range of 400 to 600 km (300 to 400 miles). When this is taken into consideration, along with the fact that the price of “refueling” an EV is much cheaper, then the practicality of an electric car becomes very clear – I’ll dive a little deeper into the energy savings in a moment.

Specific Electric Vehicle Stats

Here’s where we currently stand when it comes to new 2020 electric car models and their ranges. You may be shocked (pun intended) to find that many cars have longer ranges than expected.

  • Tesla Model S: This is the standard for all-electric cars, and it can currently travel around 611 km (380 miles) between charges.
  • Jaguar I-Pace: Combining luxury with performance, the I-Pace has an average range of 469 km (292 miles).
  • Tesla Model 3: The Model 3 outcompetes some of the luxury models—even with a much more affordable price tag. You’ll get around 500 km (310 miles) in between charges. 
  • Hyundai Kona Electric: Here’s another affordable option with an impressive driving distance. Large enough for families, this EV can make it an estimated 415 km (258 miles) on your next road trip. 
  • Kia e-Niro: Similar to the Kona, the e-Niro combines affordability with performance. Also large enough for a family, distances under 453 km (282 miles) will be no problem. 
  • Nissan Leaf e+: The Nissan Leaf is nearly as popular as the Tesla Model S. After improvements in battery life, the Leaf e+ can get you 384 km (239 miles) between charges—and with a very nice price tag.

How practical are EV charging stations?

Electric Car Chargers
Electric Car Chargers

We’ve taken a look at how electric car manufacturers are making improvements to the EVs and their batteries, but it’s also important to consider what cities, countries, and electric vehicle owners are doing to make life a little easier for long-distance driving.

When electric vehicles were first rolled out, you could go a while without the need of a charging station. In 2010, Europe had a reported 3,201 charging stations. That isn’t the case anymore. Just as demand for the vehicles themselves has gone up, so too have the number of charging stations. By the end of 2019, there were 170,149 charging stations in Europe.

It’s apparent that there’s a tremendous demand for charging stations, and while some are slower than others, local and national governments are responding to the demand. And with global growth of the electric vehicle market anticipated to remain around 22% every year, more charging stations are expected to become a staple on the roads—some in the form of lamp post chargers, solar roof charging, high-speed chargers, and autonomous robotic charging.

Supplementing, or in some cases replacing public charging stations, many EV owners are opting to charge at home. Most electric cars get their charging from residential stations and visit public stations infrequently. The convenience of plugging in before passing out at night alleviates most, if not all, concerns about long trip practicality.

What about costs?

Electric cars are becoming cheaper and cheaper to charge and use, which in every respect, makes them more practical to own than cars with internal combustion engines. Some studies have shown that on average, running an electric car costs 50% less than what you would have paid for a fuel-powered car – that’s a big saving.

In addition to that, the tax relief in some countries increases the savings you make by owning an electric car, adding to the practicality of owning one.

There’s always Hybrid

Charging Electric Car
Charging an Electric Car

If range anxiety is something that you just can’t overcome, but you still get excited about the world of EVs, there are plug-in hybrid cars you can consider. These are cars which use both regular fuel and electric. Consumer demand for plug-in hybrid models has risen just like their fully electric counterparts. Many drivers are conscientious about CO2 emissions, but not ready for the infrastructure requirements of purely electric vehicles. Hybrids may be the solution to that—without any range anxiety. You can also pick up used Hybrids for pretty cheap now, so there’s no real excuse as to why you shouldn’t own one.

How long will it take for electric cars to take over?

Like many other readers, you may be thinking that all this talk about electric cars is futuristic and that we won’t see it in our lifetimes, but how true really is this?

First, we have to define what ‘taking over’ means. In my opinion, the point at which electric cars take over is when over 50% of the cars on the road are powered by electric.

A study conducted in 2020 showed that 3.2% of all new car registrations in the United Kingdom were electric cars and as part of the U.S. commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement, the Federal government in the US has an aim to achieve a huge 50% market share for electric vehicles by 2025.

So, I think it’s fair to say that electric cars will take over by 2030 – by that point, I don’t think you’ll see many vehicles which use fuel on the road, especially with the advancements within the EV tech sector.

Is it worth getting an Electric Car?

Take a big sigh of relief. Now you know that electric cars are indeed a practical option, even when you’re going on a long road trip. And with continuous improvements being made to batteries, as well as an increase in the number of charging stations, it looks like electric cars will keep getting better and driving long distances will keep getting easier. Is it finally time for you to take the plunge and buy an electric car? Who knows, but I hope that I’ve helped you with your decision.