CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech news & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today!The future is now.


Uncategorized

Published on November 5th, 2014 | by Rocky Mountain Institute

58

Electric Car Range Anxiety Should Be A Non-Issue For Millions Of Americans

November 5th, 2014 by  


Originally published on Rocky Mountain Institute.
By Peter Bronski

range-anxietyI have to admit a growing frustration: I’m tired of hearing about range anxiety with electric vehicles (EVs). I’m increasingly convinced that we’re verging on an unhealthy fixation. Read too much about it and soon you’ll start to think it’s the latest national epidemic (maybe the APA will even add it to the DSM VI). Article after article covers the issue. Many, including this blog, offer tips for overcoming it. Consumer surveys, such as an oft-cited one from the Consumer Electronics Association, note its importance as a factor in EV buying decisions.

I’m here to say, “Enough is enough.” Ever since I became a very happy Nissan LEAF driver earlier this year, I’ve become acutely aware of this: all this talk about range anxiety being a big issue seems to come largely from and/or survey those who don’t actually drive an EV. This is an important nuance.

Surveys of EV drivers, on the other hand, show impressively high degrees of satisfaction. For example, a May 2013 survey of battery electric vehicle drivers found overall satisfaction rates of 92 percent. The story is much the same with customer satisfaction surveys at Consumer Reports and by the automakers themselves, who are reporting record levels of customer satisfaction among EV drivers.

I have a simple but I think logical theory for why there exists this yawning gap between the incredibly high satisfaction of EV drivers and the range anxiety that supposedly plagues the EV market: like any consumer making a major purchasing decision, EV drivers do their research and thus know if an EV—and its range—is a good fit for them. You don’t see a construction foreman with a need for a work truck buy a two-door Honda Fit and then complain about its extremely limited payload capacity. You get the vehicle that matches your needs and wants, whatever the overriding criteria of importance are—cool factor, upfront cost, safety, clearance and 4WD, fuel economy, etc.

And as it turns out, a battery electric vehicle can meet the needs of plenty of potential drivers. I’m not saying every American should put their gasoline-powered car up on blocks and run to the nearest EV dealer. And I’m not saying customers on the margins of the EV sweet spot don’t have to overcome some legitimate concerns about range anxiety. But I am saying we should stop making range anxiety an issue for the millions—yes, millions—of Americans for whom an EV would be a great choice.

Consider some basic criteria: The average American drives less than 40 miles per day, less than half the range of EVs like the LEAF. Meanwhile, a majority of U.S. households have two or more vehicles, so having an EV would still leave a gas-powered alternative for longer-range needs. That overlapping sweet spot—modest daily miles plus a second, gas-powered car—represents a robust customer segment for whom range anxiety shouldn’t be an issue in the first place, rather than something which must be overcome.

I’m a textbook case in point. Up until the fall of 2010, my wife and I had two vehicles: a Jeep Cherokee Sport for weekends in the mountains and a Honda Accord sedan for urban driving. We sold the Jeep and went down to one car when I took a job that allowed me to walk to work. Two years later, when I joined RMI in the fall of 2012, we kept to one car and I rode the bus. After 3.5 years as a one-car family, though, we finally decided it was time to bump back up to two vehicles. With two of our three kids now in elementary school, two cars made juggling our increasingly complex family logistics and schedules infinitely easier.

Making that second car an EV was a relatively easy choice for us, especially knowing that we sit in the overlapping sweet spot. We have a gas-powered vehicle that we use for long-distance trips. My day-to-day driving, meanwhile, doesn’t come close to flirting with our LEAF’s range. Our home, RMI’s Boulder office, our kids’ elementary school, the trailheads where we hike, our grocery store, bank, and favorite sushi restaurant are all within a 15-mile corridor.

The only times I’ve experienced range anxiety directly are the few times I’ve deliberately inflicted it upon myself, such as when I’ve played range games, like seeing how low I’m personally willing to let the battery go or driving extra conservatively to see if I can squeak in an extra round trip between charges. In practice, though, I’ve settled into a very comfortable routine where range anxiety is never on the table. I top off my battery at RMI’s on-site charger, typically recharge two days later when I’ve depleted my battery to about 30 percent, then repeat.

And so I haven’t so much overcome my range anxiety that it rather wasn’t an issue in the first place. Range anxiety is a subjective thing; it’s an emotional, often irrational response to a fear that may or may not be founded. Like many other fears in our daily lives, we’re afraid of one thing that actually proves a far smaller risk than we think it is, while we ignore a bigger risk we should be worrying about.

We need to stop talking about helping consumers overcome range anxiety, and starting talking about—and to—the millions of consumers in the EV sweet spot for whom range anxiety should be a non-issue. I’m one of them. Are you?

Image: Shutterstock.

Reprinted with permission.






Complete our 2017 CleanTechnica Reader Survey — have your opinions, preferences, and deepest wishes heard.

Check out our 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , ,


About the Author

Since 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit http://www.rmi.org for more information.



  • Barry

    Range anxiety – solution…should have bought a Volt….not much thought needed for that.

  • Barry

    How could you people betray your own country by buying a hideous looking Leaf, you should have bought the superior in every way – Chevy Volt…you must really hate America and have no concern for our fragile struggling economy.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You mean a Tennessee built Leaf?

      Did the South finally manage to break away and create its own country.

      (Troll not, least ye be laughed at….)

  • mds

    I agree with GCO, why are you perpetuating the discussion of RA? I understand the range limit and lack of chargers can be an issue, but anxiety? …really? If it bothers you that much, then buy an EREV like the Volt. You’ll still be driving all-electric for most trips, which for most people are very short, and you won’t have any anxiety. You’ll still be contributing to the market drive toward better batteries, improved electronics, lighter weight, and maybe even better aero-dynamics. You’ll stiil be contributing to the day when EVs rule the waste-land …er sorry …rule the world.

    EV zealots of the world please understand that EVs do not yet compete with ICEVs on (1) Range and (2) Convenience of Refueling on long trips. They will get there, but are not there yet. …ssssooooo don’t be a denialist, just point out there are EV or EREV solutions that meet the needs of most, not all, people. Point out battery costs are dropping and longer Range EVs and lower cost EVs are coming, making them the better choice for even more people. That is more constructive imo.

    Nobody should have RA. RA is just poor matching of transport requirements to transport solution choice. EVs and EREVs can be used by the vast majority of people with no RA. You just have to make intelligent choices and maybe some intelligent trip planning. Can’t handle the later? Take long trips that result in occasional RA? Buy an EREV! Same result in the long run: EVs will rule the market. That is where current cost and technology trends are taking us.

    No more RA in article titles please.

  • Dwain Deets

    I’m not ready to say “range anxiety” is a non-factor. I’ve had a battery electric (Ford Focus Electric) for nearly two years. We have the strategy of owning just this one car. When we have a need for a longer trip, we rent a vehicle to meet the needs of the trip.

    For most days, an overnight charge from the wall plug in our garage meets our needs. However, once in awhile, maybe a couple of days per month on average, a need for more than 70 or so miles for that day comes along. A visit to a 240 volt charging station is necessary. We get about 25 miles of range per hour of charge. The range anxiety comes about when the charging station I plan to use isn’t available when I need it. It can be in use by another vehicle, or it can be mechanically out of order. I have had more then enough tight situations where I suddenly didn’t have any viable options to get myself out of the jam.

    • mds

      Buy an EREV. Problem solved and you’re still driving all-electric most of the time.

  • Bruce Moore

    Why would you “squeak in an extra round trip between charges” or “top off my battery at RMI’s on-site charger, typically recharge two days later when I’ve depleted my battery to about 30 percent, then repeat”? The concept with EVs is the ability to leave any location with full range or add to your range by plugging in when you are parked. How do you know that something won’t come up that requires you to drive more miles that you have left. Or that the weather and extra passengers won’t cause you to get less miles per kilowatt.
    The way you charge might work for you, however that comfort level if acquired over time. Not something I would promote to people thinking about their first EV.
    I have had two new Nissan LEAFs in the last two years. Over time my charging away from home has been reduced. But the reason for the reduction of charging away from is due to several factors: Quick errands, faster charger in the Leaf, Using. DC Fast Charging, and better miles per kilowatt.
    I am glad you like your LEAF.

  • I’m on a mobile phone right now, so a bit limited. Forgive me if someone else has said what I’m about to say.

    But, I have to strongly disagree with your idea that range anxiety over-done. In fact, I think we need more useful and thoughtful discourse on this topic. Your article leaves out some important things that are ALSO a part of range issues.

    1. The car’s range appears too mystical to most people. Given the vast difference in hwy and local road driving on a Leaf – it’s no wonder people fear what they don’t completely understand. People shoulbe talking about this

    2. Access to chargers is a topic that I think get’s less attention than # of chargers. Where I am, there are lots of places, and many of them unusable (for whatever reason). Lack of access to chargers means leas range, more anxious driving.

    3. Charging times also factor into this too.. I feel people approach the idea of EVs as if they need to be charged in one sitting (for maybe 4 hours).. Charging times and how that refects on a drive’s overall length can be a great source of anxieity. We need more strategies and better tech to overcome these issues.

    If EV cars are to break out of the “Grama who drives 40miles to work once a day” mold, I think we should all accept the reality and discuss ways to overcome it. That doesn’t take away from a persons enjoyment of the car – it might actually improve it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Most people can’t afford an EV other than the ones “Grama drives 40 miles to work once a day”. That’s simply where the technology is right now.

      For probably 50% of all drivers that’s good enough. Just consider the multiple car households where there would be another vehicle for the longer drives.

      When we have more 150 – 200+ mile range EVs the charging infrastructure will largely change. There will be more Tesla type superchargers. And non EV drivers who block them will get towed.

      It’s like the development of digital cameras. The early affordable ones weren’t capable of making large, high detail prints. (One could stitch frames together for a large print. That was similar to driving 300+ miles in a Leaf. Can be done, but it’s not simple.)

      Over not that much time pixel counts rose and costs fell. We’re on track to see the same thing with EVs. If a Leaf would work for me I’d buy a used one or lease one just like I bought and used 2 and 6 meg digitals until higher resolution digitals became available and affordable.

      • I agree with you Bob.

        Except on the affordability. With government incentives the way they are, and EV cars coming down in price – this is less of an issue. And, heck, I have one (that’s saying something).

        My own use of an EV is way outside the typical driver for this kind of car. If they’re going to push into more of a mass appeal – who’s out there trying to take it there? Not grama driving 40 miles to and from work, that’s for sure.

        With all the different strategies I use when driving my Leaf upwards of 300km in a day, what I’ve learned (and others) should be going into a discussion. It’ll show non-EV drivers that, hey, maybe this is possible.

        That’s good for all of us.

        • Bob_Wallace

          The only long distance EV is the Tesla S. It’s priced out of reach for most drivers.

          I expect that to change before the end of 2016. GM is rumored to be bringing out a <$30k 200 mile EV. Tesla is supposed to bring one for $35k but if GM drops under $30k then I would expect Tesla to do the same.

          Other car companies should jump into the market shortly after.

    • mds

      Grandma “who drives 40 miles to work once a day”? Nonsense. A distorted view.
      78% of North American drivers travel an average of less then 40 miles per day. 50% travel less than 26 miles a day. Want the web reference for that?

      Anyone who can afford to purchase a new car can afford to own a smart phone. I’m sure there are smart phone apps that can analyze trip plans for EV owners. Just punch in your destination and it will show you recommended routes and available charge points. Welcome to the 21st century boys!

      Most people drive such short distances each day that they don’t need such an app. They charge at home at night and don’t have to stop at the gas station …or charge pt …ever.

      Most US families have more than one car. It’s usually pretty easy for them to cut their fuel costs, i.e. cut their transport costs, by sharing one as a EV.

      You do raise a good point about blocked chargers, but…
      1. Many do not need those chargers for daily use, as already stated.
      2. Then get and Extended-Range EV (EREV) like the GM Volt, Ford C-Max, Ford Fusion, Toyota Prius PHEV. Depending on your typical daily driving range you could be traveling fully electric most of the time, and still be able to drive any distance at the drop of a hat in gasoline powered hybrid mode. What’s the problem.

      As Bob Wallace aptly points out, EVs will take more market share as their range increases and their cost continues to come down. RA? Buffalo chips!

      • Bob_Wallace

        Let’s throw in some US driving data. I don’t think some people realize how seldom most people drive long distances.

      • Fair enough, statistically. But I’m not talking about statistics. If I was, I’d include the massive amount of urban sprawl that has occurred over recent decades increasing the need for longer commutes. I suppose I could use that data to say “Hey EV’s are not good because the range sucks”. This is not my frame of reference. This is for some other conversation.

        I simply speak of experience and what I’ve learned so far as a driver (and from the other drivers I’ve interacted with). Perhaps I’m not a large enough population sample for you, but it’s still valid.

        My drive to “the office” is roughly 90km there and back. That’s great because I charge at home (I do) and my EV car can easily handle the distance (it does). What’s the problem? Right? Wrong.

        What people don’t seem to get is that with an EV car, the increased need to plan a trip and actually stop to charge is a CHANGE in behaviour from “get gas when you need it”. For any of us who might have forgotten their wallet somewhere (and had to go back) but the battery is low, life is not always going to run on predictable lines (with a gas station on every corner). The time to charge a battery causes a significant change in behaviour. I wouldn’t do this kind of trip – but I roughly calculated the charging time I’d need to get to Montreal with my car (without fast charging), and that might be as high as 16 hours of 240v plug-in along the way. Impossible no. That’s not my point. It’s the change in behaviour required to make it MORE possible. That’s hard. Change can be hard. This is not the time to say “I’ll sit on my hands until range expands”. This is the time to try. I’m not the “typical” customer for an EV car, which is exactly why I have one.

        My intention when buying this EV car was to rent a gas vehicle for the rare long trip. No problems. Did that make my EV use magically easier? No.

        Smartphones do greatly help. Apps like plugshare are awesome. I’m a regular contributor to the map data also. I am doing my best to improve on what’s available.

        I don’t live in California (which is what I assume to be a charging nirvana), so when there are places to charge they’re a one spot 240v charger in a mall. A f*cking mall with a bazzilon spots for cars and busy shoppers and for miles, this is the one place I have to charge here? What was the next spot? A f*cking Chevrolet dealership who seemed to have an aversion to letting Nissan cars charge there. Then, nothing for miles. This seems to be such a delicate topic for EV apologists because why? I dont know. But for those of us trying to make it work, it can be hard because.. it’s DIFFERENT. It takes some getting used to, that’s for sure.

        This will change in time. I hope anyway. But, let’s not use statistics to hide the simple reality. EV driving can be (and is) more difficult than a gas car right now. Because of that, range anxiety is at least valid (though maybe not statistically significant – because this car hasn’t been sold outside of it’s current frame of use). In fact, the dealer tried to convince me not to buy this car. I wanted to explore the outer edges of EV ownership. If we don’t learn how to overcome the challenges with using these cars, how can they possibly enjoy a larger appeal?

        All your talk about “most people” is, well, of little use when talking about specific problems of EV use that I’m trying to point out. In fact, I’m told MOST OWNERS love the Nissan Leaf. Does that mean there aren’t any problems with the car? I’m just trying to contextually point out issues.

        As far as your other point: I have an EV car because I’m committed to trying it and working through any difficulties I’ll encounter. That’s a choice. I’m interested in the possibilities regardless other options; regardless of the pain I’ll face. What’s the problem with my choice? Nothing.

        Your tone unnerves me to no end. I think what’s needed more people committed to pushing limits and exploring, and less to say (oh well, it’s hard, get an extended range or a gas car). The real world doesn’t operate in tidy way.

        • mds

          Congratulations grumpy gus, you’re creating your own problems and fighting your own cause. I’m not an EV apologist and I totally get your point. Sell your EV and buy an EREV like the GM Volt. Then maybe you can smile and enjoy life a little more.

          One more year and the range of the Nissan Leaf increases significantly. Maybe then you won’t be stressing yourself out so much.

          You were the one who coined a phrase that made it sound like EVs don’t work for people unless they are old grandmas. I object. You are wrong. You are, as you say yourself, at the edges of being able to use an EV. For many other people an EV works just fine and fills their daily needs with no range anxiety. Several commenters here are telling you that. I want others to know that. I agree that EVs have some limitations still relative ICEVs, range and charging. They can still satisfy the needs of the majority and that is very important …and RA is for the foolish.

          My tone unnerves you? Wow, take a chill pill. Push the limits if you want, but don’t use that as a platform for complaining about the short comings of EVs. We all know the short comings and we can all tune in Faux news to hear more about that. Both short comings, cost and range, are improving rapidly. EVs are going to win.

          It’s great you’re driving an EV, but you are a poor ambassador. Get over yourself and fix that …or just buy an EREV instead 😉

          • I have no reason to dump on EVs – I drive one. I. Actually. Spent. Money. On. An. Electric. Car. Maybe that makes me an Eddie Electric.

            If no one can improve on the negative appreciate the positive – none of this progresses. Nothing is guaranteed to “win”. This is obviously not the place for dissent.

          • mds

            “I have no reason to dump on EVs” …and yet you did. I’m sure you mean well, but I ain’t no Grandma and I’m trying to figure out whether to get an EV + used ICEV for longer trips …or get an EREV I can use for both. One thing I won’t do is make a bad choice and then blame EVs/EREVs for not being good enough yet. They’re fine for many now, and will be better for more later.

            EVs/EREVs are absolutely guaranteed to “win”. I don’t how the ratios will play out, but I know they will win. ICEVs and HEVs are doomed. The technical and economic (cost) trends are very clear. It always amazes me that so many people cannot see that.

          • If trying to work through negative things (in order to create a more positive outcome), then – you’re correct. I’m dumping on EVs. Let me the first to hope you get a more vanilla, sanitized environment going forward. I know it’s tough, so no more negativity for you! Ohhh, look at the pretty flowers.

            Also, since you can see the future (heck, you guarantee EVs/EREVs will win), do play the lottery. You’ll get rich.

          • mds

            I see the problems. I see the solutions. I see the trends. I try to emphasize the later two. I have not denied the problems you’ve brought up, just roughly put forth solutions. Some people are not happy unless they are in conflict …with others …with life …with their vehicle.

            I debate my views here and a couple of other places to test how realistic they are. You don’t take criticism well.

            Yes, I guarantee EVs/EREVs will win. In the long run probably just EVs, I’m not completely sure. If I could read cards that well I would bet on them. Wish I could figure out which companies will win in this transition. I can’t.
            1. Oil is limited and we’re past peak for “easy oil”
            2. Battery technology and high power electronics used for EVs/EREVs is now at the cusp of economic parity. (In many cases EVs are now the better choice economically, compared to ICEVs or even HEVs. This is due to the lower cost of electricity, compared to gasoline/diesel, and the much lower maintenance cost.)
            3. The cost of EV/EREV Batteries and high-power electronics is still going down at a significant rate.
            4. EVs/EREVs are still scaling up in production, which means additional economies of scale are going to be realized.
            5. New tech improvements in batteries are still being discovered. I think at a faster rate, but I’m not completely sure about that one. More money is being spent as the market size increases. The computer chemistry simulation tools and atomic scale visualization tools they now have are amazing.

            Do take the scales off your eyes, those pretty flowers are worth enjoying ;D

            Sorry to have pestered you with my optimism.
            You are driving an EV and trying to push the edges. Your heart is in the right place. Just trying to get you to see that life is short, worth enjoying, and you’re going to win you EV battles. …guaranteed!

          • mds

            Costain,

            I’m being too nice here and you don’t deserve it. It is “Range Reality”, not RA, as astutely renamed by Offgridman elsewhere.

            If you read the rest of my comments here, you’ll see I’m realistic about the range limitations of reasonably priced EVs. I just think it’s stupid to make it into a psychological illness. It is a problem like lack of gasoline stations and poor road conditions was a problem for ICEVs at the turn of the last century …only it’s changing much faster, for the better, in the EV case. If you are going to grump about the faults of EVs, which you saddled yourself with, then it is worth mentioning where they DO WORK in many situations, when RR is applied! The cup is more than half full! If you cannot see that, then you are deficient in your understanding, not me.

            Get over yourself. Get some humility. Grow a brain. Be a better rep for EVs. Don’t deny the short range and lack of charge stations. Help guide people to the solutions. I have done this with you and you are dense. I admit I’m combative in my approach here. Quit being grumpy and defensive. None of us are correct all the time. Yield to a few of my points …or not. It’s just a debate for me. EVs/EREVs are winning …guaranteed. ciao

            mike

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m thinking back to when Interstate 5 opened between LA and SF. Through the inland valley area it ran though farmlands, away from town, and there were very few gas stations. In fact, there was a station every 35 miles which was subsidized by the government up the point at which it was supported by its own sales.

            One had to plan their stops in a gasmobile. The same is true in parts of the US today (I almost ran out of fuel between Salt Lake City and Elko, Nevada in February).

            For a while it will be like that with EVs for a while. But not forever.

        • mds

          In a few words: EVs are a good thing. EVs/EREVs can meet most peoples needs and reduce their fuel use. Keep it more positive please.

  • rockyredneck

    It is usually much easier to give the consumer what he/she percieve they want, or need, than to change thier attitude. I am guessing you will see longer range EVs long before you convince people that they don’t need them

    • Bob_Wallace

      And I’m betting you see some “convincing” before we see affordable 300, 400 mile range EVs.

      Every satisfied < 100 mile range EV owner is likely to change a few minds. You may not know the person who lives down the street or works on another floor and drives an Leaf/whatever. But over time you'll see them commuting in their limited range EV and you'll hear more tales of satisfied drivers.

      At some point people will take a few moments to consider if a shorter range EV would work for them. A used Leaf for your college student commuter? Might make sense to spend $10k on a used EV than $8k on a used gasmobile that might not be as reliable and would cost them more to drive.
      There's likely to be an ongoing shift of attitude from outright dismissal to thoughtful consideration.

      • rockyredneck

        That may be awhile but I am betting that 200 to 300 mile EVs are not far away. Affordability is relevant. I see lots of 65K plus vehicles on the road.

    • mds

      I’m betting with Bob. It’s surprising how astute people can be when their wallet/purse is involved. Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline/diesel. Battery costs are dropping and it’s clear they will be much lower in the next 5 to 10 years. The cost of EVs and EREVs (= Extended-Range EVs = freeway speed in all-electric PHEVs, eg. GM Volt) are still dropping. These are already more economic for some and that advantage will be growing.

      • rockyredneck

        How is that not giving the consumer what they want. Longer range at a lower price

        • mds

          Not giving them the range they think they want, just giving them the cost savings. They’ll figure it out then.

  • svein friborg

    17. month and 65000km with my Leaf. Range Anxiety is not my problem, but missing/Broken DC Charger around Oslo in wintertime could be a problem for me.
    7 DC chargers on 10-15000 cars around Oslo is not enough. Last month 1800 EV,s was registered in Norway, the gap between DC chargers and EV´s increase……

    • mds

      Sounds like a business opportunity for shop owners and stores in Oslo to me. Let’s see have to stop and charge my car for half an hour. Christmas is coming up. What could I possibly do while waiting for my car to charge? …and I wouldn’t mind paying a reasonable rate for the electricity either.

      • svein friborg

        Kiwi (food chain) is already on it, 50-75 DC-charger stations will be installed

  • JamesWimberley

    Do Google Maps tell you where the nearest ev recharger is, and its type? Looking forward, it should be possible to link up recharging networks and intelligent cars so that the car tells you when and where to charge up.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There are more than one mapping systems that identify the locations of chargers. At least one tells you whether the charger is available or in use.

      I would expect we’re a short time away from an integrated system in EVs that inform the driver when and where they need to charge while on a long drive. And not far from the ability to have your car reserve a charger for a specific time.

      I would guess one would get in and set their destination then let the car take over and guide you to an available charger along your route when needed. You’d arrive to find the charger waiting for you (it wouldn’t operate for a car that didn’t have an “appointment”).

    • Karl Bloss
  • Edwardian

    My take on range anxiety starts with
    the observation that people are used to their gas cars, which have
    ranges around 300 to 400 miles. The big advantage of the internal
    combustion engine, and probably the main reason that technology won
    out over electric vehicles at the beginning of the 20th century, is that added range cost close to nothing. All you need to do is make it with a bigger gas tank. A 30 gallon tank costs very little more than a twenty gallon one. When a valuable good, such as range cost nothing or close to nothing, people will demand a lot of it. They’ll demand all they can imagine needing and then double it- or more. As
    consumers and manufactures of gas cars have settled on a range of about 400 miles with the cost of added range near zero, we can assume that 400 miles is somewhere between twice and 10 times what people really need.

    Batteries will always be a big expense in electric vehicles even when the price comes down substantially. So consumers will get used to balancing range against
    purchase price. And I suspect that once they get used to that, and a more widespread and rapid charging infrastructure is installed, that most will happily settle on a range considerably shorter than they now imagine they need.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Agreed. Enough range to drive half a day, then recharge while eating lunch.

      Stopping for two 20 – 30 minute charges will likely be acceptable to many people.

      Having one group of drivers who charge mid-morning and mid-afternoon and another group that charges midday would reduce the number of charge stations needed. Lower purchase prices and better charging rates will appeal to some buyers. Others will pay extra to cut their charges down to one per all day drive.

      I can see “charging appointments” in our futures when we take long trips. People with the most limited budgets getting underway as the birds start to greet the dawn….

  • John Ryan

    i drive a leaf and love it more every week i would like more range for my wife that is coming every day there is some new battery break through that will increase the range i have one more year on my lease i think by the time my lease is up range anxiety will be a thing of the past

  • EV owners have very high user satisfaction with their vehicles. The “range confidence” after a couple of weeks of ownership is also high.

    What is this “range anxiety” the article speaks? Suspect it’s an issue related to EVSE infrastructure rather than EVs or the owners. The two most frustrating issues for EV drivers is “access” to EVSE recharging points and “reliability” of the EVSE recharging points.

    Quite often EVSE are located in high use parking spaces so get occupied by non-EVs (ICE-Vs occupying space), or the EVSE are only available during business hours. (a problem should EV driver need to extend range on way home from an evening meeting). In some areas, or certain network providers, the quality of EVSE (EV Support Equipment) is not of high standard, so failures are common, or repairs are slow. Consistent signage and markings of EVSE spaces can explain some spots being blocked. Having multiple EVSE per recharging location makes it less likely that no charging is available at a location.

    Issues with EVSE are more critical with DCFC (DC Fast Charging) stations as a failure means finding an alternative slow speed Level 2 charging station which will require 5-10x charging time. This is a major issue when only a single DCFC is deployed per location as it’s the weakest link. High speed recharging with DCFC near major travel routes provides the greatest flexibility to extending an EVs range.

    While 90-95% of an EV driving needs can be meet by charging at home, there is a need to extend the range by using public recharging points (5-10% of EV miles driven). Driving an EV within home-range s rarely an issue … anxiety may enter an EV drivers mind when concerns needing to rely on public charging. The feeling is similar to when a road gets washed out, or a bridge fails … travel plans suddenly change!

  • Larmion

    Range anxiety is irrational for the vast majority of trips one takes, but we all take a few trips a month/year where range does become an issue. Relatives that live far away, children in college, a holiday,…

    The writer of the article admits still having a gasoline powered car for that. Great, but a large number of people cannot afford a second car and the associated insurance, taxes and so on. Oh, and having a second car when it’s not absolutely essential is a considerable burden to environment and infrastructure in itself (doing most of your driving with an EV is still going to outweigh that, but it reduces the benefit a bit).

    Perhaps you could make a few of those trips by airplane, but that’s an environmental disaster of and by itself. Rent a car? Expensive. Ride sharing? Not exactly ideal for bringing hundreds of pounds of stuff to your son in college.

    Range anxiety is a non-issue for the significant number of two-car households in this country. But if you have only one car, be it due to financial constraints, principled opposition to overconsumption or a lack of space, range anxiety is very real indeed. That’s why hybrid vehicles still do well for example.

    • GCO

      Do you have seating capacity anxiety? Cargo space anxiety?
      Unless you’ve never seen a car, I’m sure you don’t.

      Same thing with range. It is known, consistent, predictable.
      Just like you don’t see anyone buying a 2-seater as only family vehicle and then anxiously wonder how many passengers will fit, drivers getting e.g. an 84-mile EV won’t expect to drive more than that without stopping for a quick-charge. Basic common sense.

      • Larmion

        You can easily find cars with any number of seats between two and seven (and more in certain locations). You can find cars with any cargo capacity between none and the trunk of a massive pick up truck. And all that in a wide range of prices.

        However, electric vehicles don’t display such a wide a spectrum in range (yet). The only vehicle that begins to approach the range of gasoline cars is the Tesla Model S with the largest battery pack – and let’s be honest: if a second car puts an undue strain on your family finances, you’re not in the market for a Tesla. And of course, charging still takes half an hour or more. That’s fine if you’re taking a leisure trip, but that’s not always the way of things.

        Range anxiety is an ugly word, but it is real: the maximum range of a decently priced EV is still too low to make it a viable first and only family car. It’s great when you have a second car or when your driving range is limited (e.g. for residents of small island states). That still leaves millions of people for whom the hybrid is still the best thing they can aim for.

        Of course, progress in battery prices and to a lesser extent capacities is relentless. Given enough time, the EV will become a viable choice for everyone. But not yet.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Have you actually thought about the amount of time rapid charging adds to ones trip time on an all day drive?

          With the Tesla S drive highway speeds for 240 miles, stop 30 min, drive 170 miles, stop 30 min, drive 170. You’ve done 580 miles. Eat, pee, nap, walk your dog, check messages while charging.

          With a gasmobile you drive out your tank and refill which takes 10 minutes or so. If you don’t eat, pee, nap, walk your dog, or check messages then you arrive about 50 minutes sooner than the Tesla driver. If you do one or more of the listed things then the difference narrows. Not many people pack a sandwich and pee in a bottle when they take long trips.

          True that long range EVs are not affordable for most, yet. But if Tesla is really paying only $180/kWh for their batteries then long range EVs are not that far in the future for the rest of us.

          • Pat Campbell

            In the Leaf, our long distance driving takes about twice as long as in our ICE vehicle. This is where more kWh capacity would definitely help.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Leaf really isn’t a long distance EV. We’re probably no more than a couple of years away from <$35k 200 mile range EVs. About a 200 mile range makes a reasonable EV to drive all day long.

        • John Ryan

          one more year

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Rent a car? Expensive.”

      Depends on how often you need to rent. I can rent for $50 a day in SF.

    • Dan Hue

      How about a Chevy Volt then? Short range EV (~40 miles) and long range Hybrid (unlimited). The best of both worlds. Cuts anywhere from 2/3 to 90%+ gasoline use, and is a hoot to drive. Granted, it’s a 4 seater, but the concept can be applied to a wide range of vehicles.

    • Steve Grinwis

      DC charging infrastructure largely solves this issue for long trips, with only an EV.

  • GCO

    Completely agreed, and in particular the first paragraph… so why put RA the headline?! For many, this will only reinforces the myth.
    It should be more something like “EV range a complete non-issue” then explain that the concern people really have is just fear of the unknown, and the best remedy is to simply get familiar with those vehicles, e.g. by driving one for a while.

  • Michael G

    I don’t know of anyone who is a potential EV buyer being “scared away” by talk of range. They are smart enough to do the math and for them it doesn’t work out. The situation where an EV makes sense is adequately described here. Clearly not enough people are in that situation where it makes sense for them.

    Also, if you follow things as closely as most potential EV buyers are likely to, you know every year the range will get better, the cost lower, the charging stations more plentiful – waiting another year will kill you?

    I see this a lot – people are convinced “if only others knew how wonderful X is, they would all buy X”. No they wouldn’t. People buy cars for all sorts of reasons – headroom, hauling capacity, comfort, status, etc. If fuel economy and saving the environment were enough, everyone would drive a Prius.

    • Michael G

      And – sureying EV owners as is done here skews your data since by definition, they are self-selected as favoring EVs over comfort, status, hauling capacity, etc., etc.

    • Jan Veselý

      Europeans love turbodiesels (f.e. VW Passat) with real world fuel consumption around 50 mpg (4.5-5 l/100km).

  • Gavin Hutchison

    I am a very happy Leaf owner since July 2013. I have only once been into the last 1/4 of my battery and then just for a couple of miles. I saw a video introducing the 2014 leaf where the reviewer referred to bladder anxiety. At age 60 this is my concern too.

    • GCO

      Welcome to the club 🙂

      60’000 km, almost 40kmiles on mine, and I regularly go beyond the “low battery” warning. If I’m within a dozen miles from destination, I won’t even bother slowing down. Why? I already know I’ll make it.

      If you have time (and a friend to tow you if you’re worried), try, just once, to drive the car past all warnings and all the way down to “turtle”, the point at which speed gets limited to ~40 km/h or 25mph, about 1km or half mile before shut down. Only then is the battery truly depleted.

      You’ll be amazed at the distance you can still cover after the “very low battery” warning sounds and the remaining range display goes —, and this knowledge will allow you to confidently stretch your range should you ever need to.

      • Pat Campbell

        I agree. Once you get to know you have about 12 miles left at the Leaf’s Low Battery Warning those of us who like to travel longer distances occasionally are basically set free from range anxiety.
        In mountainous areas with possible regeneration in the mix, the Leaf is capable of some pretty interesting things. Still, I would like more battery capacity soon – along with some of the new features Leaf has added since our 2012 model.
        We are retired and tend to drive much longer distances at times than the worker bees.

        • GCO

          Yup. And 12 miles past “low battery” is at highway speeds; at 40 MPH or less, it’d go twice as far…

          • Pat Campbell

            Thanks for the info GCO.

Back to Top ↑