The average EV is heavier than the average gasoline car, but lighter than many gasoline SUVs.
Increasing battery power density allows for lighter weight. Having to move less weight will also add range. Currently own a Hyundai Ioniq plug in hybrid.
Elon Musk has made the point about weight in the past: “We could’ve made a 600 mile Model S 12 months ago, but that would’ve made the product worse imo, as 99.9% of time you’d be carrying unneeded battery mass....".
Tesla made the choice that investing in convenient and plentiful superchargers would be better than their cars carrying around all that extra mass. Given that all other manufacturers are still waiting for their respective governments to build the charging network that they need, they need batteries as big as they can get to reduce range anxiety.
I almost hate to "weigh in" because I feel like the punch line is coming in Part 2.
I'm a fan of plug-in hybrids. I drive a Toyota RAV4 Prime. It is lighter than a Tesla Y and nearly as efficient based on lifecycle emissions according to MIT, https://www.carboncounter.com/#!/explore
I do all of my driving around town on battery and can take long road trips without having to worry about where to charge.
Weight is definitely an issue as people want more range and with less efficient shapes (most SUV’s) & that means much bigger heavier batteries. Tesla does quite well generally 1750-1836kg for M3, 1909-1995kg for MY for typically the longest range in each class and less than most competitors. But most new petrol or diesel cars with similar inside size and equipment aren’t much lighter. A BMW 3 or the new 5 with similar space performance and equipment aren’t much different in weight than a model 3 or Y or S and are obviously not 0 emissions -and the hybrids weigh comfortably more. I think that the issue is now whether legacy auto can bring the weights down towards where Tesla is whilst improving range, efficiency with smaller batteries. Even expensive luxury EV’s don’t do much better from legacy typically because they need bigger batteries and haven’t paid as much attention to weight (luxury is pretty heavy). But I suppose that more of the damage is actually done by heavy trucks (?) than passenger cars - perhaps some of the answer is get more freight onto electric rails with distribution locally by EV vans as well as some sort of lobby to persuade folks to buy cars not SUV’s? BTW the latest leaf seems to be somewhat more than you quote due to equipment and a larger battery…1736kg for 60kw/h. An iPace is 2133kg or so..
Thank you for writing this article but I think you were to brief on the so what part. I think it would of been nice to include how road wear is proportional to vehicle weight and lots of jurisdictions raise taxes to address this cost implicitly through fuel exercise taxes that are declining due to electric car adoption.
Saying that EVs weigh less than SUVs is not instructive; when comparing their weights you should use vehicles with equivalent passenger and storage capacity. An SUV weighs more than a car but an electric SUV weighs more than an ICE SUV. Until the power density of batteries increases, or shorter driving range becomes popular, this will be continue to be true.
Also, I wouldn’t be concerned about bridges or parking garages collapsing since engineers over build by at least 2X and EVs aren’t that much heavier. Real concerns are road wear, tire wear (which causes particulate pollution), more expensive tires (to deal with increased stress) and increased force of collisions.
Worth noting that whilst the trend has thus far been for EVs to weigh more and more, this is likely to change as battery energy density improves. Solid state batteries, long thought to be eternally a few years away, are now realistic. Nio (Chinese EV company) is launching them in August, if their promotional material is to be believed. Toyota have said they’ll be ready to sell EVs with solid state batteries in a few years. Also worth noting that solid state batteries charge faster.
There’s a strong argument that one of the main reasons that EVs have been focusing on extended ranges is due to ‘range anxiety’ and the lack of substantial charging infrastructure. You won’t convince ICE fans to convert to EVs unless there’s comparable range - at least not until there are chargers everywhere and the batteries charge quickly.
Once solid state batteries, with their significantly improved energy density and charge rates, are readily available (at a competitive price) AND when there is a robust charging infrastructure in place, then EV weights should come down.
Lighter cars mean faster acceleration, better braking and improved safety.
Like for like EVs heavier. I looked at the type of car I am likely to buy.
- VW Golf 1.5 130hp : 1312Kg curb weight
- VW ID3 58kW 145hp : 1812Kg
So 500Kg difference.
Hmmm, still a small car would be better for the environment in any case. But more than 2 tons is not needed only for batteries, it's also to make the car larger and hipper.
If we just change all our cars to electric, this is no traffic revolution. It's just a propulsion revolution and will not be enough.
Also, most of the extra weight for electric cars is metals and rare earth in mindstaggering numbers, if scaled to all cars. Some of these metals won't last long enough, many are not really nice to extract.
Looking forward to part 2!
When you talk about the average, or the median, it looks as if you are taking one of each example make/model. In reality, the impact on bridges, parking structures, and road wear will come from the quantity of each example sold, and an overall weighted average of the fleet.
I think the future of battery electric vehicle is smaller, more energy dense batteries with either a more robust charging network (availability and charge rate) or a battery swapping network a la Nio (tough to see western OEMs adopting this soon). This will help reduce weight in an obvious way. However, I think there are hidden benefits/weight improvements from this as well. Especially early in BEV development the decision was do we want to increase range by spending money on lightweighting the vehicle (think replacing steel with aluminum etc) or by spending money on improving aerodynamics. Due to the already extreme weight of batteries, money spent on aerodynamic improvements could buy greater range than weight reductions. With lighter batteries or weight taxes, I wonder how much this equation will change and lead to additional weight reductions of the overall vehicle structure. Hope I’m not stealing the thunder of future posts but I think this is an under examined part of the EV weight “problem”.
Is there any hope of making EV charging faster? As long as it’s a better experience to drive all the way to your destination on one charge, the larger-range EVs will be much more desirable. If it was fast to charge and there were chargers everywhere then I wouldn’t care so much about another 200 miles of range.
This was fascinating as EVs always seem lighter, I suspect it's because they're predominantly newer than the average for ICE stock and are quiet, so don't have the audible heft.
Just to note; in the graph at the top of this piece, the Nissan Leaf is shown as 1505 kgs yet is ever so slightly to the right of the UK average of 1518kgs. I double-checked using my screen clipping tool and there are several pixels between them. Given the scale and the the mere 13kgs difference they should be pretty much in line.
Keep up the great work!