When it comes to electric cars, short ranges not only hinder a driver's mobility, they also hinder sales. "Range anxiety" is one downside of most current electric cars that automakers have found particularly difficult to overcome.
But at least one car company may be on the verge of a technological breakthrough that could help alleviate that problem.
Volkswagen is closing in on a new battery technology that could represent a "quantum leap for the electric car," chairman Martin Winterkorn told German publication Bild recently (as translated by Autocar).
Winterkorn said that VW is researching a "super battery" in Silicon Valley that is cheaper, smaller, and more powerful than anything currently available. It may be good enough to significantly increase the range of future VW electric cars.
"An electric Volkswagen that can travel 300 kilometers (186 miles) … is in sight," Winterkorn said.
The current Volkswagen e-Golf has an EPA-rated range of 83 miles, which is about average for electric cars sold in the U.S. right now. A range of 186 miles would fall short of what internal-combustion cars can do, but it's hard to sneer at an improvement of more than 100 miles.
An increase like that may also be necessary simply to keep Volkswagen competitive. The Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 are both expected to go on sale in 2017 with 200-mile ranges and price tags under $40,000. Nissan is also reportedly planning a big range increase for the next-generation Leaf.
Volkswagen has one more way to help drivers deal with range anxiety in the pipeline. It's developing a three-wheeled scooter called the Last Mile Surfer that's intended to be kept in a car and used for the final part of a journey, Winterkorn said.
The battery-powered scooter will reportedly be similar to a Segway, but will be able to fold and fit in a car's trunk. It will cost around 1,000 euros ($1,109), although Winterkorn did not discuss a launch timetable or regional availability.