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Will EV range will become less important in the coming years?

One executive at Volkswagen predicts anxiety about charging electric vehicles will soon be a thing of the past.

Volkswagen ID.3 Production
ID 3 is the first of many electric vehicles the Volkswagen Group will introduce over the next few years.
Craig Cole

What is the ideal range for a mass-market electric vehicle? Well, it all depends on who you ask.

A person that lives in a rural part of the upper Midwest, a region of America with miles and miles of space plus frigid winters, might be turned off by anything that won't travel more than 500 miles on a single charge. Contrast that with someone residing in one of New York's five boroughs who might be well served by an EV with a mere 100 miles of range.

But in the coming years, more drivers will happily make do with less battery capacity, at least if one executive is reading the tea leaves accurately. "If you ask me today, we need a range between 450 and 500 kilometers [280 to 311 miles], but I'm definitely convinced if you would ask me three or four years later, the range will decrease," Thomas Ulbrich, board member for e-mobility at the Volkswagen brand, said while at the production launch of the automaker's new ID 3 electric car -- which is about the size of a Golf. This seems somewhat paradoxical but his reasoning makes sense.

Thomas Ulbrich is the board member for e-mobility at the Volkswagen brand.

Craig Cole

"Because nowadays the customers are a little bit anxious or excited, 'Where can I charge?' 'Where's the next charging point?' and so on," Ulbrich explained. "But I am sure as soon as the charging infrastructure is growing, the customers will accept also the lower range." Like having a gas station on every corner, the greater availability of public chargers will make it easier and faster to keep an EV juiced up. This might encourage consumers to avoid vehicles with heavier, more expensive batteries.

Volkswagen's new ID 3 electric hatchback just entered series production at the company's assembly plant in Zwickau, Germany. It will be offered with three different driving ranges: 330, 420 and 550 kilometers, or 205, 261 and 311 miles. Broadening the appeal of EVs, VW plans to install some 30,000 charging locations in its facilities and dealerships across Europe by 2025.

"It is a puzzle really to make e-mobility successful," Ulbrich said. "But based on the last 15 to 18 months with all that happened, especially in Europe… I think there's a good chance that e-mobility now will be successful."

The Volkswagen Group is betting the farm on electric cars around the globe. Across a range of brands including VW, Audi and Skoda, the company is aiming for sales of around 22 million battery-powered vehicles, a figure provided by about 70 different models. 

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