Should range anxiety really be a concern?

Bear with me on this one, because I’d like to talk about data. Yes, a dry old series of numbers does occasionally throw up something interesting.

I was on a call with Mercedes-Benz this week, talking about the new C-Class plug-in hybrid. This all-new car has a considerably larger battery than before, doubling the potential electric-only running from 50-odd kilometres to around 100 kilometres. And one of the reasons Mercedes has chosen to do this is customer data.

The figures it pulls from all its customer feedback is that 100-odd kilometres of electric range is perfectly adequate for what its customers need most of the time. This gives them the flexibility to run in electric mode most of the time, with only an occasional need to resort to the petrol or diesel engine.

As Ruben Voigtländer, responsible for development of the C-Class PHEV, pointed out to me, the customer data is clear: “We check our data from our vehicles and see the daily driving behaviour. From that, you can guess at an optimum what you will need to cover most of your daily commuting trips, and if you look at our data, [customers] cover most of their trips with 100km of range.”

Statistics back this up: the average Australian car travels 36.4 kilometres per day. Cars spend hours simply parked up, idle for the vast majority of their lives.

The data shows we shouldn’t be worried. We know the charging infrastructure is improving and we know that electric cars are increasingly able to suck in that juice at ever-faster rates.

Why are we buying cars for the rare, 1% journey? People don’t buy houses on the basis that one day you might throw a party and need to squeeze 60 people in the back yard. So you could argue that a car that is built correctly for 99% of your life requirements is all you need.

I’d argue we all need to buy for the majority case and be flexible for those rare occasions you need more. The data says it’s possible.

Piers Ward

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