Electric vehicle range is now well above 100 miles around the world and rising fast

Image: EPA-EFE/Daniel Irungu
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The range race is on.

Last year was a record year for electric vehicle (EV) sales, with 1.2 million plug-in vehicles sold globally, 58% higher than 2016. But “range anxiety” remains among buyers’ biggest concerns about going electric. Although a single charge in most models now covers several times the average US commute, carmakers are cramming more battery capacity than ever into their vehicles. The Department of Energy reports that the median EV range in the US has risen from 73 miles to 114 miles since 2011 (with a top range now exceeding 330 miles). That will be in the rearview mirror soon. Samsung announced last year its new battery pack would be able to power cars for 372 to 435 miles.

To see which countries are getting the most electrified miles per car, Quartz analyzed the EV index released this month by global business advisory firm AlixPartners. For now, countries with relatively low EV sales, and higher per capital incomes, tended to have the longest range per vehicle.

That likely reflects high-end purchases, such as premium cars from Tesla (the Model S and Model X both have ranges above 230 miles). Yet even in the biggest markets, the US and China, the average range now clears the 100-mile mark, with 139 miles and 103 miles, respectively. That’s particularly impressive for China, which has a per capita GDP just one quarter of that of the US, and a proliferation of smaller, cheaper EVs.

When it comes to range, you get what you pay for. High-end Tesla, despite selling slightly fewer cars than its biggest Chinese competitor, BYD, had more than double the aggregate EV range in the third quarter of 2017  (To calculate a carmaker’s total EV range, AlixPartners added the electric range potential of all EVs sold by the manufacturer in each quarter).

That achievement is largely thanks to Tesla’s success designing batteries for cars people will buy at premium prices, from the $35,000 (base) mass-market Model 3 with a 220 mile-range to the $68,000 Model S with a 335-mile range. Yet Tesla’s lead may not last. China has said it wants 11% of all its car sales to be electric by 2020, and domestic companies already dominate the world’s largest car market.