Where can you go in that electric car?

Determining whether an electric car is practical for you is likely to depend heavily on its range. Can the car make it to your work and back home on a single charge? Would it be able to reach your favorite weekend destination? If it can, it may be worth further consideration.

One way to answer these questions and to see what else is within reach of your typical charging location is by mapping the driving range in arcgis.com. It’s simple to do—in fact, it’s not much different than generating driving directions—and this article shows you how to do it.

Map of 35 mile, round trip driving range

The purple area in this driving range map shows the areas that can be reached on a single charge.

Log in

  1. First, log into your ArcGIS Online organizational account.
  2. Click Map.

Click Map

Add charging location to the map

The point you will place on the map will represent where you would typically charge the vehicle, such as at home or work.

  1. Click the Add button and choose Add Map Notes.
  2. In the Add Map Notes dialog box, type an appropriate name, such as Home or Office, and click Create.
  3. Click Create

  4. Zoom into the location on the map where you would charge your vehicle.
    To automatically zoom, type the address or place name into the search box.
  5. Search textbox

  6. In the Add Features pane on the left, choose a point symbol, such as Stickpin.
  7. Choosing symbol for point

  8. Click the location on the map where you will charge your vehicle.
  9. Adding stickpin to map

  10. In the Points dialog box that appears, click Close.
  11. Click Close

Perform the Create Drive-Time Areas analysis

  1. Click Details.
  2. Details button

  3. Click Content.
  4. Content button

  5. Click the arrow next to new map notes layer—Office in this example—and choose Perform Analysis.
  6. Click Perform Analysis

  7. Click Use Proximity > Create Drive-Time Areas.
  8. Choosing Create Drive-Time Areas

  9. Under Measure, click Driving Distance and type half the range of the vehicle you want to consider. (By using half, you are planning to be able to return to your typical charging location.) The following list provides ranges of some popular electric vehicles; it was assembled from information on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website:
    • Tesla Model S (2013, 60 kWh) – 208 miles/334 kilometers
    • Nissan Leaf (2013) – 75 miles/120 kilometers
    • Ford Focus (2013) – 76 miles/122 kilometers
    • Honda Fit (2014) – 82 miles/131 kilometers
  10. Measure options

  11. Optionally, type a different name for your result layer and specify another folder.
  12. Result layer information

  13. Click Show credits to see how many credits will be deducted from your account when you run the analysis, and then click Run Analysis.
    Run Analysis button
    The result layer name appears with an icon next to it to indicate the result is being generated.
  14. Result layer in Contents pane

  15. Zoom out to view the entire polygon and explore the area it covers. This is the approximate area you could reach in the electric car.

The only way to reach the perimeter of the polygon and return without running out of energy is by taking the shortest path from and back to the charging location. You can use the Directions tool to help figure out shortest routes.

Directions Button

Multiple ranges

You can rerun the analysis with multiple ranges to view the difference between cold- and hot-weather ranges. To do that, open the Create Drive-Time Areas tool again, but rather than typing a single range, type the cold-weather range, a space, and the warm-weather range.

Adding multiple ranges in analysis

The result is a two-part polygon, which you can symbolize with appropriate colors.

Map of hot and cold weather ranges

The following map uses the multiple-range capabilities to show a driving range that is categorized by ¼, ½, ¾, and full charges.

Multiple areas for varying charge levels

Multiple charging stations

Creating driving-range maps on multiple points at once is useful to see where you could travel using public charging stations.

The U.S. Department of Energy offers a data-download webpage that gives the location of alternative fueling stations. You can download a CSV and drag and drop it into a map to create points for each station. (If the CSV contains more than 1,000 points, you can go to My Content, click Add Item, and import the locations while being sure to choose Address as the location method and Address as a location field for the Street_Address field.)

Add Item dialog box

Once the data is added as a feature service, you can add it to a map and perform an analysis on it.

Straight-line vs. road distance

When mapping automobile ranges, it’s important to make travel time or distance measurements along roads. If you use straight-line distance instead, the map will overstate the range. The following map compares the two measurement types. Click here to view the interactive map.

Map of straight-line and road distance measurements

The circular areas were generated by measuring straight-line distances from charging stations (using the Create Buffers analysis tool). The other polygons were formed from measurements along roads and highways and provide a more accurate estimate of driving ranges.

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  1. shootme002 says:

    For the section perform the Create Drive-Time Areas analysis, step #3 the Perform Analysis tool is not present in the drop down list when I click the arrow next to my map note layer thus preventing me from completing the rest of the exercise. Any assistance would be very welcomed as I would like to be able to employ this tool. Thank you.

  2. Robert Garrity says:

    If the Perform Analysis item is appearing in the drop-down list, it’s a sign that you are using an ArcGIS Public Account instead of an organizational account. I should have specified that the public account limits capabilities, such as performing analysis. So, when you sign in (https://www.arcgis.com/home/signin.html), use an organizational account, and if you don’t have one, you can click the button to set up a 30-day free trial. Best, Robert.