Electric Vehicles – Lower Prices or Longer Range?

Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield tweeted a question today that got me thinking. She basically raised the question:

What would have the biggest impact on take up of EVs… longer range or lower prices?

Initially I thought that was pretty hard to determine but I answered that price would have more effect than range.

Once I had tweeted my reply I started to have second thoughts. I have always thought that range was paramount in the success of EVs and now was I going against that belief? Longer range meant less dependency on public charging and people would be able to drive all the way to their destination more often with longer range thereby avoiding the need to charge on route. After all… if you didn’t have to stop on route and charge then why would you?

So this question dug deep into my beliefs as to what was important at this early stage of EV roll out.

With a little more consideration I think my answer was probably the right one in my opinion. My reason is clear. Range is all very good and any EV driver will tell you they want more range. I am sure that even Tesla drivers may well say that they could do with more range from time to time! Most people though won’t be driving 200-300 mile Teslas though and so with our more modest 80-100 mile Nissan Leafs, Renault Zoes and soon to be BMW i3s we really need more range rather than just want it. So as more EVs hit the roads and prices come down should manufacturers allow prices to fall or do they take up the slack and add battery capacity keeping prices pretty much the same. Also, when new models are launched should they be lower priced with modest ranges or similar prices to those of today but with much longer ranges.

The answer to me is obvious. Get prices lower, get more people into EVs even if with the current range. It is no good having EVs with 250 mile range if no one can afford them. We need cars first and foremost that people can afford or the extra range becomes just pointless.

So for me, the priority for manufacturers should be get the price down to be as affordable as possible so as many people as possible can afford to buy into the EV market. Longer range options can always be included at a higher price and at a later date if that is what it takes.

I have not changed my opinions on range though. Ultimately, range, along with speed of charging, will be the long-term answer to the success of EVs in my opinion but not at this stage. Right now we need to win the hearts and minds of the sceptics and the media and I believe price will be the key element in that battle.

So what do I think of the BMW i3? I don’t know as I don’t test drive it until 13th December but I know what I think of the price. I don’t think that at that price the BMW i3 will have a huge impact on take up of EVs until there are also EVs at affordable prices for those people that would normally buy Fiestas, Astras and  Corsas. Those people are not going to suddenly spend £35-40,000 on a BMW no matter what the range and until EVs are available in that sector at similar prices to their petrol/diesel variants then I believe EVs will remain a niche product.

What should the ranges be? What should the prices be? Now that is the 6 million dollar question…

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