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Sep 2014

In Germany, It Makes Most Sense For People In Small Cities To Get Electric Cars

02 September 2014 | Posted by Zachary

Electric cars are now cost-competitive for millions and millions of consumers. Furthermore, they offer a much better driving experience. Many more people would benefit from driving electric cars than currently realize it.

However, most electric cars on the market today do have one limitation that makes them less than ideal for a number of people — they often have around 80 to 100 miles (130 to 160 kilometers) of range on a full charge and take quite a while to charge up. If your daily driving is under 80 to 100 miles (as it is for the vast majority of people), that’s no problem, but if you drive more than that and don’t have good charging options with which to recharge throughout the day, driving an electric car loses its practicality and convenience.

With that one limitation of electric cars explained, in which places is owning an electric car the most practical? Logically, those would be the places where people don’t tend to drive very long distances (or places with a lot of fast electric vehicle charging stations).

Small towns come to mind initially, but people in very small towns often have to travel quite far to reach shops, services, and employment in more metropolitan areas. Large cities don’t seem like they’d be the best places, as people in big cities sometimes have to drive a great deal throughout the day, crossing the city for one thing, then another, then another.

As with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the medium size is "just right." With pretty much everything you ever need within your city, but a city not too large in size, you can easily drive a Nissan LEAF, Renault Zoe, BMW i3, Volkswagen e-Up!, Peugeot iOn/Citröen C-Zero/Mitsubishi i-MiEV, or of course a Tesla Model S on a daily basis.

Also, home charging is an important key to electric car ownership, but until it becomes more mainstream, those living in apartment buildings generally don’t have the ability to charge at home. Almost all electric car owners have a garage in which they can charge overnight. In medium-sized cities (versus large cities), people are more likely to live in a home with a garage.

This idea that small to medium-sized cities are the best for electric car ownership has been backed up by research conducted by Patrick Plötz and Till Gnann of Fraunhofer Institute. To be specific, the researchers focused on Germany and found that cities 5,000 to 50,000 people in size were most ideal for electric car ownership.

electric car chart

Important lessons from this, in my opinion, include:

* More resources should go into encouraging electric car adoption in small to medium-sized cities.

* Car manufacturers should make their electric cars available to people living in small to medium-sized cities, not just big cities.

* More work should be done to get apartment building owners, developers, and building managers to include electric car charging options in parking areas.

Despite small and medium-sized cities being more ideal for electric car owners, I don’t want to make it seem as though electric cars aren’t also good for many people in big cities. When it comes down to it, if you live in a city and drive an average amount, you can generally charge your car fully overnight and never have an issue with range. Actually, a lot of people charge every other night.

Of course, many people take occasional long-distance trips in the car for vacations. However, for such trips, one can rent a car, take a train, take a plane, or swap cars with a family member or friend who doesn’t yet have an electric car.

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