A study on the dependence of electron energy distribution function (EEDF) on discharge gap size in capacitive rf discharges was conducted. The evolution of the EEDF over a gap size range from 2.5 to 7 cm in 65 mTorr Ar discharges was investigated both experimentally and theoretically. The measured EEDFs exhibited typical bi-Maxwellian forms with low energy electron groups. A significant depletion in the low energy portion of the bi-Maxwellian was found with decreasing gap size. The results show that electron heating by bulk electric fields, which is the main heating process of the low-energy electrons, is greatly enhanced as the gap size decreases, resulting in the abrupt change of the EEDF. The calculated EEDFs based on nonlocal kinetic theory are in good agreement with the experiments. (C) 2007 American Institute of Physics.