2018 Nissan Leaf with EVgo fast charger at NJ Turnpike Molly Pitcher travel plaza, Feb 2018
At about 188 miles, the range of today’s electric cars is enough. It’s the price that needs to come down.
So says Carlos Ghosn, an electric-car pioneer among CEOs of mainstream automakers. Ghosn made the statement at a Nissan event in Hong Kong, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
The speech revealed key marketing insights from one of the world’s bestselling makers of electric cars.
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“We have seen that consumers do not talk anymore about range or autonomy as long as you guarantee more than 300 kilometers (188 miles),” Ghosn said. “You could not have guessed this through studies. You had to have 500,000 (electric) cars on the ground to understand that consumers do not put autonomy on top of their concerns any more when you cross 300 km.”
The debate over how much range is enough has raged among electric car advocates since before the first commercially available cars rolled out in late 2011.
Since then, most electric models have had ranges of about 80 miles, which will cover the daily driving of about 90 percent of the public, according to census and Department of Labor studies. Yet many carbuyers still rejected those electrics from range anxiety: would there be enough charge left for incidental trips after work? To the store or daycare?
Ghosn says buyers no longer worry about those things if their car can go more than 188 miles on a charge, which is still less range than many internal combustion-powered cars can travel.
Today, several electric cars can go farther than 188 miles on a charge, most notably the Nissan Leaf’s key competitor, the Chevrolet Bolt, which is rated at 238 miles. Every model Tesla sells has a range of at least 200 miles. A new version of the Leaf is expected to go on sale later this year with a 225-mile battery. And later this year Hyundai has announced it will sell the new Kona Electric with a 236-mile range, and a new version of the Ioniq Electric is expected to get a battery with about 200 miles of range.
Engineers have made rapid improvements in battery technology, packing more energy into batteries the same size as those in original electric cars. And they’ve done so without raising prices commensurately.
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Ghosn says now the cars are still too expensive, many depending on government subsidies to attract buyers. The electric cars we’re familiar with in the U.S. are too expensive for places like China, Ghosn says. Inexpensive electric cars are more popular in China, he said.
All this could have big implications for the electric-car market worldwide. As Nissan’s costs for batteries come down, instead of holding prices flat as they jam more capacity into batteries, Nissan, and presumably its competitors, may build cars with smaller batteries to reduce prices. That’s when electric cars could gain popularity among mainstream buyers.