600 miles on a single charge? Automakers race to beat Tesla on electric car battery range

·5 min read

In the race to try to catch Tesla when it comes to electric car supremacy, automakers are literally going the extra mile – at least when it comes to battery output.

With the auto industry turning its full attention to the development of stylish long-range electric vehicles, car companies are looking to be able to boast about gains in how far their cars and SUVs can travel on a single charge as the way to separate themselves from the pack.

Mercedes-Benz just unveiled a concept vehicle for the CES tech trade show in Las Vegas that it says is capable of going up to 620 miles before it runs out of juice.

While Mercedes' Vision EQXX is only a prototype – it's not clear when or if its technology can be transferred to a production vehicle – it is surrounded by real-world competitors showing impressive gains in going the distance.

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Mercedes' announcement was followed by General Motors CEO Mary Barra revealing the new electric version of the Silverado pickup will be rated at 400 miles per charge. It's due in fall 2023 at a starting price of $39,900.

It will put it solidly in the company of other new vehicles like the latest long-range version of Tesla’s luxury Model S sedan, which can travel up to 406 miles on a single charge. Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV can go up to 314 miles. And Mercedes' new EQS sedan can slide along the highway for up to 350 miles.

The leader at the moment is the new electric Lucid Air luxury car with an estimated EPA range of up to 520 miles.

General Motors has introduced the 2024 Silverado EV pickup, an electric that it says will have 400 miles of range per charge
General Motors has introduced the 2024 Silverado EV pickup, an electric that it says will have 400 miles of range per charge

They are the kind of numbers automakers hope will light up indifferent buyers.

“They are trying to make a splash…They are trying to stand out,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of insights for Edmunds.com. “It’s giving them that ‘wow’ factor.”

Despite all the attention they have received, electric cars remain only a blip on sales charts. But with a slew of new models on the way amid pressure from the government's fuel economy rules, there's hope the electric transportation future is finally taking shape.

Range isn’t just a gimmick to entice motorists to trade gas pumps for power plugs. It helps allay car shoppers' fears that batteries will run dry on a long trip and leave them stranded miles from the nearest charging station.

Next comes the question of how much range is enough.

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The first round of the industry’s electric cars about a decade ago couldn't go much further than 80 to 100 miles depending on conditions. That was “barely acceptable,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal.

The jump to 200 miles of range made more sense and 300 miles “takes away a lot of the range anxiety,” Cogan said. But 600?

A range of 500 or 600 miles could allow people to be assured they can take their electric cars across the country and get to the destination even if a charging station is closed en route. While Tesla has created its high-speed Supercharger network, the nation’s charging infrastructure isn’t fully built.

Six hundred miles of range could also allow motorists to skip charging along the way altogether, avoiding having to sit for an hour while their batteries gulp enough electrons to get them zipping along the highway again. They could charge in their own garages then not again until they reach their destination.

Think of driving from Dallas to Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Nashville to Pittsburgh or San Francisco to Las Vegas one day in the near-term future. Your batteries could make it nonstop even if your bladder can't.

Mercedes-Benz isn't alone in chasing the 600-mile dream. General Motors is after it too.

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In her CES presentation, Barra said GM is working on electrifying heavy-duty trucks as well as everyday cars and trucks. The lineup will have "a range needed to get the toughest job done," she vowed.

The Detroit-based ain't has unveiled a new generation of batteries packing 60% more energy and costing 40% less than the previous ones. They would be good for up to 450 miles of driving per charge. It's the generation after that one that could produce 500 to 600 miles per charge with twice the battery energy density, announced Mei Cai, GM’s Lab Group general manager, last year.

Mercedes-Benz said it achieved a 600-mile range in the Vision EQXX through a raft of improvements, including battery chemistry, packing the cells tighter and moving electrical and electronic components to a separate compartment.

The car also has wind-cheating aerodynamics, roof panels that collect solar power and lightweight aluminum brakes.

“Electric range sounds easy but is a complex technical challenge,” said Joerg Bartels, Mercedes vice president for vehicle engineering, in a statement. “With Vision EQXX, we’re presenting the results of an extraordinary challenge: we pushed efficiency to a totally new level.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tesla, Lucid, Mercedes-Benz, GM compete for longest electric car range

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