What Are Extended Range Electric Vehicles?

July 27, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Extended range electric vehicles combat the range anxiety that many electric vehicle owners feel. Range-Extended electric vehicles help fleet managers and drivers combat range anxiety, lower fuel costs, and maximize the use of their vehicles and staff.

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Electric vehicles (EVs) are the next-generation of cars displacing traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. EVs have an electronic motor that operates from a stored electric charge in the form of a battery. 

EVs reduce or eliminate the consumption of fossil fuel, removing dependence on oil and thus eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. They can convert energy into motion with less fuel input than a traditional vehicle, improving overall energy efficiency. There are several primary benefits for operating an EV in place of an ICE vehicle.

  • Lower energy cost per mile for electric cars: Off-peak charging during night hours is available at a lower cost than peak hours.

  • Reduction of fossil fuels and carbon emissions: EVs have low or zero emissions of their own. 

  • Overall efficiency in converting energy into motion: Electric cars generate less wasted heat and consume less energy when traveling the same distance.

  • Renewables charging: Fleets can use solar and other larger-scale renewable energy charging methods.

Read on to learn more about extended-range electric vehicles, their benefits, and how telematics solutions can help maximize your EV investment.

Electric vehicles and driving ranges

The typical driving range of an ICE vehicle is around 300 miles. Because of this, consumers also expect electric vehicles to have similar driving distances. Currently, the average EV range is about 250 miles. The demand for comparable range encourages EV manufacturers to continue improving technology.

“Range anxiety” is one of the biggest factors that prevent fleet managers from adopting an electric vehicle fleet. It sets in when an EV has little charge remaining with few charging stations nearby. The fear of potentially being stranded in a vehicle without power and without access to a charging facility is the basis of range anxiety. 

External environmental factors can also reduce the range of the EV. For example, extreme cold temperatures can reduce the EV’ s range available to the driver. Without range autonomy to enable longer distances, EV fleet drivers may also feel limited in their travel distance.

But recent developments in EV design and technology has enabled extended range features. This helps address the shorter-range capability of first-generation EVs. Aside from focusing on battery technology itself, manufacturers are also providing features to recharge the battery pack while the vehicle is in motion.

What are extended-range vehicles? 

Current EV models are using new features that extend the driving range further than before. The industry is taking multiple approaches to extend the EV range. For an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV), an auxiliary power unit (APU) is often used as a companion to charge the battery pack. These E-REVs are also known as plug-in hybrid vehicles. 

The APU is a small internal combustion engine with the sole purpose of recharging the primary batteries of the EV. This small engine has its own 5-10 liter fuel tank that supplies it with energy. The output power of the APU will match or exceed the power of the battery. If the APU is not equal or larger in power than the battery capacity, the battery will continue to discharge. A common APU is a micro gas turbine. While it provides only minimal power output, it’s enough to charge the battery pack of a standard EV.

When the battery charge capacity gets depleted to a predetermined low threshold (5-10%), the APU charges the batteries while the vehicle is in operation. This recharging happens automatically with no driver intervention. The additional APU charging removes the need for long charging times or the immediate requirement to find a charging station. This effectively extends the range of the EV to allow longer traveling distance.

There are several abbreviations for an electric vehicle with a range extender. These are the most popular abbreviations of principally the same function:

  • EREV: Extended Range Electric Vehicle

  • REEV: Range Extended Electric Vehicle

  • BEVx: A Battery Electric Vehicle with a range extender

  • E-REV: An Extended Range Electric Vehicle

  • PHEV: A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle can have batteries charged from the grid or a range extender

4 benefits of extended-range EVs 

Given enough extended range, managing a fleet of EVs can be more efficient than comparable ICE vehicles. With range extenders, each EV can travel longer distances and complete more trips without the stress of mid-day charging. 

The benefit of the APU to recharge the EV can provide many benefits to your fleet. Longer ranges will improve flexibility for fleet managers. More electric vehicles will be available for longer trips. Vehicles will also be able to make more trips on a single charge. With more route choices available, managers will be less constrained in options for vehicle deployments. Here are the primary benefits of range extender technology for fleets:

  1. Range anxiety reduction: Vehicles with a longer range reduce anxiety about being stranded on the road with no remaining EV charge. Soon, EVs with extenders will approach or exceed the range of a typical ICE vehicle.

  2. Range autonomy: An extended vehicle range allows autonomy of assignment. Drivers can travel long distances with less restriction. 

  3. Productivity gains: An EV with a longer range due to an extender will enable more choices of assignment to maximize the use of the vehicle and staff. Efficiency benefits also depend on how the vehicles are driven.

  4. Lower costs: Although the extender within the EV uses conventional fuel, the better range and efficiency means that refueling an APU tank is far lower in cost than that of traditional ICE vehicles. The fueling frequency will also be less often as the primary charging of the EV battery source is by electricity.

As EV technology advances, range extension will likely continue to be one of the key order-winning features of these vehicles. Some manufacturers have targeted the range as a primary selling point. Other EV producers have leaned toward premium luxury models with higher power output. Each may have tradeoffs depending upon the needs of a vehicle fleet. Below are six of the more popular electric vehicle models on the market today.

Manufacturer & Model Type

Description

BMW i3 REx

The i3 is powered using a relatively small electric 22kWh capacity battery with an optional gasoline-powered range extender APU. The APU provides an average increase in range from 80 to 100 miles without the APU, to 150–185 miles with the APU enabled.

Chevrolet Volt

With a relatively short range of only 40-60 miles using the primary charge-depleting mode, the Volt may not be as attractive without its range extender. Its primary battery has a capacity of only 16kWh and has a range-extending, gasoline-powered ICE as its APU.

Audi E-Tron

The E-Tron uses a 90kWh battery pack to drive two electric motors — one on each axle. It provides an average 204-mile range from a full charge.

Nissan Leaf S+

The Nissan Leaf has been one of the most popular EVs on the market, with a battery capacity of 62KWH and a range of 226 miles. There are no range extender options as a companion for plug-in hybrid charge capability. However, extender options have been available on prior models at the expense of the plug-in capability.

Tesla Model S

This premium model EV sedan achieves a superior range of 390 miles per charge from a 100kWh battery capacity. There are no range extender options from the factory.

Toyota Mirai

The Mirai is a fuel cell vehicle with a total range of 312 miles. It operates by using a 113kWh hydrogen fuel cell that drives an electric motor. No extender options are available from the manufacturer.

Why fleets should use telematics to track electric vehicles

For fleets looking to make the most of their electric vehicle investment, telematics is the next critical step. 

For many EV fleets, not having sufficient battery to complete a round-trip or not being able to find a charging station in time is a major concern. Since electric vehicles can take over eight hours to fully charge, electric vehicle fleets require a major shift in driver behavior. Those unaccustomed to electric cars might forget to stop and charge in time, putting themselves at risk of being unable to complete their job. 

Because of this, planning is even more essential for an electric vehicle fleet. Monitoring data points such as state of charge, nearby charging stations, or charging history are essential to ensure every electric vehicle in your fleet can make it to a charging station and complete their job on time.

3 reasons to choose Samsara to monitor your electric vehicle fleet 

1. Samsara gives you remote visibility into your electric vehicles’ real-time state of charge: With State of Charge Reports you can view current and historical vehicle state of charge to help inform fleet dispatching and operational decisions. You can also easily monitor charging status to determine if your electric vehicles are plugged in and charging. 

2. Samsara helps you stay charged and save on costs: With the Samsara EV Charge Stations Map Overlay, you can see nearby charging station information including open hours, available charging types, and more so you can find the closest station available and plan routes accordingly. Additionally, with the Charging History report, you can reduce costs for charge times during peak hours and save money. 

3. Samsara is one unified platform for all of your vehicles: Whether you have electric vehicles, hybrids, or gasoline powered vehicles, Samsara allows fleet managers to monitor all of their vehicles in one, easy to view dashboard. With features to assess the suitability of electrifying your fleet, Samsara provides our customers with the tools they need to reach their sustainability and cost savings goals. 

Reach out for a free trial today.

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