Chart: EV ranges are growing, but at a cost

Range anxiety is being replaced by materials anxiety as automakers roll out more powerful batteries that gobble up a greater volume of scarce minerals.
By Eric Wesoff

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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Range anxiety, a nervous malady afflicting early-21st-century electric-vehicle drivers and would-be owners, is being cured by better and bigger batteries with storage capacities that have consistently grown year by year. 

EV driving range has been increasing roughly 10 percent per year since 2018, according to BloombergNEF, due to a combination of bigger batteries, improved efficiency, and increased prevalence of larger vehicles.

According to the research house, the average range of EVs globally grew from 143 miles to 210 miles between 2018 and 2022. Range figures in the U.S. are even higher because Americans favor bigger vehicles with larger batteries.

The soon-to-be-delivered Chevrolet Silverado electric pickup has a 200-kilowatt-hour battery pack and a range of 400 to 450 miles. The Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck, with range options of 230 or 320 miles, is already for sale, while other American-sized trucks such as the RAM 1500 REV and Tesla’s controversial Cybertruck are alleged to soon hit the market.

But there’s a downside to the longer ranges that come from these larger vehicles — they require big, heavy batteries that put more strain on an already stressed EV supply chain, sucking up hard-to-source materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.

Governments could help ease the rush to bigger batteries by investing more in public chargers, curing range anxiety with reliable and accessible charging networks. They could also incentivize the purchase of smaller, lower-priced EVs and stop handing out subsidies for monster electric trucks.

Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.