Game changer? VW says electric car range will be between 310-370 miles by 2020
The most frustrating thing to electric car enthusiasts is how slowly battery technology is improving (this is something we share with mobile electronics enthusiasts -- wouldn't it be nice to charge your phone once a week?). Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that battery tech isn't good enough; it demonstrably is good enough for most people. If you don't drive long distances frequently, the current crop of electric cars is probably able to meet your needs, especially if you have the wallet fortitude to go for a higher-end EV like a Tesla Model S with biggest battery pack (85kWh). But even if you go for a much cheaper EV or plug-in hybrid, chances are you'll be fine because, unlike with gasoline vehicles, every morning you leave with a full charge, and the 80-100 miles that most EVs can drive on a single charge is more than enough for most people's daily commute (and with plug-in hybrids. you don't even have to worry about a thing since if you run out of electrons, the gas engine kicks in).
But in this cases, more seems to be better. Primarily for psychological reasons, the very same people that only drive more than a few dozen miles a few times per year feel like they need a vehicle that has hundreds of miles of driving range "just in case". This phenomenon is getting better over time as people see many people driving EVs without range problems, similarly to how people mistrusted hybrids when they first came out and now they're not giving them a second thought. But true mass-adoption of EVs will probably require for even the most inexpensive models to have 150-200 miles of driving range.
But there's good news on that front. Volkswagen's head of powertrain development, Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser, recently said that he believes that plug-in hybrids are only a stop-gap technology that is only bridging the past and the future on the road to 100% electric vehicles, and that as early as 2020, these could have between 310 and 370 miles of range (500-600 kilometers).
"Battery [technology] makes the biggest steps in very short time frames. If you look at when we started with the e-mobility of the Golf, and you look now to the Passat, we have done the first step," said Dr Neusser. "We have more energy density in the batteries [than before], and in 2015-16 will come the next step which means we come from 25-28 ampere hours (Ah) energy density to 36-37Ah. Now we are actually working on the next step to around 60Ah... with research will come a completely new electro-chemical chemistry inside the batteries, and this will come at the beginning of the next decade. We have to look to the e-Golf, which had an operating range of around 190km. I expect the next generation in 2015-17 will increase to around 300km and the following step will be around 500-600km."
Hopefully Dr. Neusser is right. Even just getting to $20k EVs that have 200 miles of range would be a huge milestone because of how cheap these vehicles would be once you factor in fuel savings. Who would want to get a gasoline vehicle when you can get an electric vehicle that is quieter, cleaner, and cheaper to own? The electric motor torque will also make it more fun to drive... It's a no brainer.