EV Range Dips Nearly 25 Percent While Carrying Load: AAA

EV Range Dips Nearly 25 Percent While Carrying Load: AAA
A model of the all-new Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup is parked in front of the Ford Motor Company World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on April 26, 2022. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
Naveen Athrappully

The range of electric vehicles can fall by up to a quarter when made to carry heavy loads, according to a study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) on Ford’s EV pickup truck F-150 Lightning.

In an unloaded state, the 2022 Lightning had a driving range of 278 miles. However, with a payload of 1,400 pounds, the driving range dropped to 210 miles, a decline of 68 miles or 24.5 percent from the unloaded range, according to the June 13 study. Such payloads are equivalent to hauling around 20 bags of concrete mix. AAA advised that prospective buyers of EVs who are likely to carry heavy loads regularly should “consider the impact this can have to their driving range.”
“This study is important for broadening our understanding of the limitations of electric vehicles,” said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson for AAA, according to a June 13 post. “Range anxiety remains a top reason consumers are hesitant to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs.”

Greg Brannon, director of AAA Automotive Engineering, pointed out that though the test revealed a “significant range reduction,” it was done with the EV loaded near its maximum capacity.

Most buyers will typically use the Lightning with a lighter load. As such, even though there will still be a range reduction, it will be lower than the reduction at maximum load, he pointed out.

Winter Impact

EVs not only lose range when carrying heavy loads, but they also lose it during winter conditions. In December 2022, EV insight firm Recurrent published research on range loss among electric vehicles during freezing conditions, finding that the loss of range can go up to 35 percent.

Recurrent explained why EVs lose range in winter by comparing it with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. ICEs turn all the energy that they don’t use into “waste heat,” or lost energy. During cold weather, this energy can be redirected from the engine to warm the cabin.

“On the other hand, an EV has a much more efficient motor which does not generate as much heat. In the cold, available motor heat is routed to warm the battery itself, meaning that cabin heating requires a power source. Cabin heaters generally draw from the high voltage battery, reducing how much battery is left for driving,” it said.

Comparing 13 popular EV models in freezing versus 70 degrees Fahrenheit temperature, Recurrent found that Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Chevy Bolt all lost 30 percent or more range in colder conditions.

The Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X, and Model Y lost between 15 and 19 percent of their range, depending on the model. The Audi e-tron lost the least range at just eight percent.

EV Ownership Challenges

In addition to range issues, EVs also pose multiple other challenges for owners, like the cost of batteries. EV batteries usually come with manufacturer warranties of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever is earlier.

The cost of replacing an EV battery ranges from more than $15,000 for a Tesla to over $23,000 for a VW e-Golf. So, people who own used EVs or plan to buy one might end up in a tough spot if the battery were to malfunction.

To make matters worse, EV fuel costs are now even beating gas-powered vehicles. An analysis by Anderson Economic Group (AEG) found that “in Q4 2022, typical mid-priced ICE [Internal Combustion Engine] car drivers paid about $11.29 to fuel their vehicles for 100 miles of driving.”

“That cost was around $0.31 cheaper than the amount paid by mid-priced EV drivers charging mostly at home, and over $3 less than the cost borne by comparable EV drivers charging commercially.”

During an event in September 2022, geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan dismissed the possibility of EVs going mainstream over the next 10 years, citing limitations on materials and unresolved supply chain issues.

“The lithium comes from one place, and it’s all processed in China. So, just building the alternate processing infrastructure … and by the way, we have to invade Russia too … just to get the materials to do EVs at scale is just laughable for the next decade. We need a new technological series of breakthroughs in material sciences before that is possible,” he said.

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