TAMPA — A new study from the AAA Automotive Engineering research team finds that electric vehicles (EVs) lose a significant amount of range when loaded with heavy cargo.
The study tested the Ford F-150 Lightning, a popular electric pickup truck, and found that its range dropped by 24.5% (from 278 miles to 210) when loaded with 1,400 pounds of sandbags - 110 pounds shy of its maximum capacity. For context, 1,400 pounds is the same as hauling around 70 bags of mulch or 20 bags of concrete mix.
“This study is important for broadening our understanding of the limitations of electric vehicles,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Range anxiety remains a top reason consumers are hesitant to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs. While this study may heighten concerns, it’s worth remembering that excess weight reduces fuel economy in gas-powered vehicles too.”
“Our testing revealed a significant range reduction, but it’s important to note that the Lightning was loaded to near its maximum capacity,” said Greg Brannon, director of AAA Automotive Engineering. “Most buyers will likely use their Lightning with a lighter load, resulting in a much smaller range reduction.”
Refer to the full report for methodology details, including specific testing equipment and test track characteristics.
Physics and Driving Behavior Play a Role
Extra weight requires more energy to move. The type of driving also plays a role. Highway driving, which typically involves higher speeds and less regenerative braking, will further reduce range. Unlike gas-powered vehicles, which perform more efficiently at highway speeds, EVs thrive in urban driving conditions due to regenerative braking from more frequent stops. Regenerative brakes capture the energy from braking and convert it into the electrical power that charges the vehicle’s high-voltage battery. This electricity can then be stored in the car’s battery or power other electrical components.
In the case of battery electric pickups used as work vehicles, permanent loads (such as equipment racks, toolboxes, and equipment trays built into the vehicle) will reduce the range at all times, even without additional cargo.
EVs Still a Viable Option for Many Drivers
“For buyers concerned about range, it’s essential to consider the driving they will be doing and choose the right EV for their needs,” said Jenkins. “AAA understands that popularity and interest in electric vehicles is growing. That’s why AAA developed a wide range of educational material. We’ve also expanded roadside services in select regions to assist EV owners who run out of charge.”
AAA Provides Mobile EV Charging in 15 Cities, Including Orlando
AAA launched a pilot program last year that offers roadside charging for EVs in 15 metro areas. The program utilizes mobile charging trucks to provide members with an additional 10 - 20 miles of range - enough to get them home or to the nearest charging station, at no additional charge.
AAA Resources for Electric Vehicle Owners
• Used EV Buyer’s Guide - helps consumers buy an EV with confidence
To help educate the public, AAA conducts ongoing research on EVs, including consumer sentiment surveys, testing to determine factors impacting electric vehicle range, the true cost of electric vehicle ownership, and a survey on consumers’ experience with going electric. To see the full body of research, visit AAA Newsroom.