A decade ago, Tesla released the Model S vehicle, a sports saloon with over 330 miles of range. At the time, the EV world was ecstatic. It was the lengthiest range of any production electric vehicle in the world.
However, today, expectations and goals are higher. Drivers want automotive perfection: long-range electric vehicles with 500+ miles of range that will get them to most destinations without needing to stop at a charging station.
Unfortunately, the technology hasn’t arrived immediately. While cells are improving, progress feels more linear than exponential.
Things are changing, though. We explore some highly applicable questions related to ultra-long-range EVs, including why there are so few of them, which companies are focusing on these models, and what technologies are driving the transition. We also explore the next long-range breakthroughs: the battery technology that could make such vehicles possible.
Why are there so few ultra long-range EVs?
Several reasons explain why there are so few long-range EVs on the market. The main stumbling block is the absence of suitable battery technology and capacity. While several chemistries are on the test bench, relatively few have made their way into mass-production vehicles. Most EVs still rely on the same basic lithium-ion technology introduced by Sony over three decades ago.
Another factor limiting long-range EVs is the environment. Electric vehicles lose efficiency and range in cold weather because low temperatures affect batteries’ energy storage ability. Cells must expend more energy staying warm, reducing performance and overall range.
What companies are focused on ultra long-range models?
Several companies are now focusing on building long-range EVs that can solve these problems. The winner will have a captive market and will be able to help its customers overcome range anxiety, a major stumbling block on the path to universal EV adoption.
The current record-holder for the longest-range EV is the Lucid Air. The Grand Touring version of the motorcar boasts 516 miles of driving on a single charge, with the entry-level “basic” model offering an industry-leading 410-mile range.
Tesla also remains a leader in the space, and offers the second longest-range vehicle on the market, the new and updated Tesla Model S, with 405 miles of range. The Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+ Sedan comes in third position with 350 miles of range, according to data from Kelley Blue Book.
What is the technology driving this?
Amazingly, the Lucid Air’s range does not come from new or exotic battery technology. The car still uses the same liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack as practically every other vehicle in the space. The innovations pushing its exceptional range come from refinements elsewhere.
For instance, the Lucid Air has a physically larger lithium-ion battery than most other vehicles in its space. This feature adds to the weight and total energy usage of the car, but it also increases the range.
The designers also worked hard to reduce the weight of the rest of the vehicle. The Lucid Air has a minimalist interior where drivers control most of the car’s functionality from a single touchscreen interface (as has become more common in range-topping EVs).
Finally, the vehicle uses a series of compact motors. Also designed in-house, these enable the car to use its energy frugally while delivering the face-melting performance we’ve become accustomed to in the EV market.
What is the next long-range tech breakthrough?
It’s not clear where the next long-range EV tech breakthrough will occur. However, several automakers are already working on vehicles that will smash current range records.
Toyota, for instance, recently announced it is working on efforts to create a car powered by solid-state batteries, slated for production in either 2026 or 2027. The Japanese automaker says that such a vehicle would have a range of 932 miles, nearly double Lucid Air’s current record.
The vehicle will use fundamentally different cells packing more energy per unit of weight, enabling higher energy densities than current-generation technologies. Such a car would also be safer because of the absence of a liquid electrolyte.
US scientists at the Department of Energy are working on related technology to spearhead advanced battery technology and boost EV adoption. So-called “lithium-air” technology would, like Toyota’s idea, use a solid-state electrolyte and increase the energy density of existing technology by over four times. The technology, tech leaders say, has the highest energy density of any battery technology currently being considered for the next generation of cells.
Ultimately, these developments mean that ultra-long-range EVs might be here sooner than expected. With these, drivers can side-step range anxiety and feel confident covering much longer distances without recharging.
If you unsure if a modest EV is affordable for you then check out this article.