There’s no replacement for displacement, even in electric vehicles.
While there are several ways to eke out more range from an EV battery, like more efficient power electronics and improved cooling, if you want to increase range by hundreds of miles, you need bigger batteries.
Earlier this month, Elon Musk had something interesting to say on this topic in reply to a call out from Whole Mars Catalog on Twitter. Here’s the gist:
Whole Mars Catalog
“Lucid delivered the first 500 mile EV. Tesla will be the first to mass produce one. @elonmusk”
“We could’ve made a 600 mile Model S 12 months ago, but that would’ve made the product worse imo, as 99.9% of time you’d be carrying unneeded battery mass, which makes acceleration, handling & efficiency worse. Even our 400+ mile range car is more than almost anyone will use.”
Musk has extremely valid points here.
EV batteries typically weigh 400kg to 600kg, depending on their capacity. The higher the capacity, the more the battery weighs.
Once you get to the 500-600 mile range marker, EV batteries have to exceed 600kg because they need more cells, and cells require volume.
For example, the 75kWh battery in a Tesla Model 3 Long Range weighs 480kg, giving it a range up to 360-miles. To get that up to 600-miles, the Model 3 would require an additional 250kg of battery weight.
That is a lot of weight. As Musk says, it would affect handling, acceleration and efficiency, making the Model 3 a worse car, even if it did have extreme range.
Make no mistake – more range is nice on paper, but most people do not need to drive 400+ miles without stopping, and when a stop is needed, you can charge.
Ultimately, electric vehicles must find a balance between battery size (which determines weight) and driving dynamics.
More weight means a more cumbersome vehicle, and highly expensive engineering trickery to bring driving dynamics back in line.
Future battery technology holds the key to lighter, longer-range electric vehicles
Future battery technology will provide a solution to the range and weight issue.
Solid-state batteries are lighter than lithium-ion batteries with greater energy density, with semi-solid batteries showing commercial viability.
Graphene also holds plenty of applications in future EV batteries, acting as a bridge for several chemistries including aluminium-ion and sodium-ion batteries.