Electric Car Convenience vs Range Anxiety Anxiety

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Originally published on Google+.
By Albert Bodenhamer

Nissan Leafs Barcelona SpainI spend a fair bit of time following press on electric vehicles (EVs). I see stuff that’s pro-EV, anti-EV, and neutral. I see some good stuff, but a lot of poorly researched crap from every angle as well*.

One thing that really bugs me is stories talking about the “huge disadvantage” EVs have in charging time and that “People don’t want to wait hours and hours for their cars to charge.”

Stories like that create what I call “range anxiety anxiety”. Range anxiety is an infrequent thing, but people unfamiliar with electric cars read articles hyping short range and long charge times and they develop anxiety that they’d have range anxiety if they owned an EV.

The problem isn’t in the statement itself, but in the underlying assumption. People are used to how gasmobiles work. You drive for a week or two on a tank, running it down close to empty (often inducing range anxiety). Then you stop at a gas station for a few minutes, drop 50+ bucks and then repeat the cycle. If you apply that model to an EV, it’s horrifying. Imagine getting up to go to work and your EV battery is empty! A Model S takes 10 hours to charge at a level 2 charger! I’d miss a whole day of work!!!

What people don’t see is how idiotic that model is. They’ve trained themselves to put up with the nonsense gasmobiles create and they just assume it applies everywhere. If you offer to get rid of a major annoyance people experience all the time and are used to, but the cost is a new less-frequent annoyance that gets hyped by the press every 2 seconds, people will often pass on getting rid of the major annoyance.

Think about the last time you had to put gas in your car. If you’re like me, you noticed the gas gauge getting low on your way home from work, but you were tired after a long day and decided to wait til morning. Morning always comes. It’s always the morning when everything is going wrong and you’re running late and you climb in the car, and “CRAP!” you’ve gotta get gas on the way to work.

Imagine instead that a magic energy fairy showed up every night and refueled your car. All the fairy asks in return is that you pay about ¼ of what you used to pay in gas, and that you spend a bit more time and planning on long trips. That’s it.

I took a look at my gas patterns before I bought the Model S and since. I used to buy gas about every 2 weeks. Each stop always added at least 10 minutes to my trip to or from work (I timed it). In the year and a half I’ve owned my Model S I would have made 40 gas stops**. That’s 6.5 hours I would have blown going out of my way when what I really wanted to be doing is getting on with life.

EVs use a different pattern than gasmobiles do. They work like the magic energy fairy. I spend far less time recharging than I did buying gas. I just take two seconds to plug in at home and by morning I have a full battery again.

There’s only once where I haven’t woken up to a full battery. I’d done a ton of driving the day before, down to downtown San Jose, up to El Sobrante and back, then back and forth to Mountain View. I pulled in at 10:30 that night with only 25 miles of range left on my car. It started charging at 12:30 and I had to leave again at 8 the next morning. I went out to leave and saw that the car was still charging. Oh no! I only had 190 miles of range to cover the 40 miles of driving I needed to do that day! I unplugged, went about my day, and the next day I woke to a full charge.

The only time I wait for my car is if I’m on a road trip. Those are the exception and, for me at least, the convenience of not having to get gas the other 99% of the time easily outweighs the bit of extra time and planning I have to do on a long trip. For me, a road trip is when I’m explicitly NOT rushing. I just take my time and enjoy the drive. Most of my road trip charge stops are 20-45 minutes and I spend the time hitting the restroom, grabbing a quick bite, talking to other drivers, or just stretching my legs.

There ARE some things that don’t really work yet due to lack of infrastructure, but those are getting better. They’re the reason I still wouldn’t have an EV as an ONLY car. In 2-3 years I expect those problems to be solved and I’ll dump gas for good.

* The hyperbole-infested pro-EV/pro-Tesla stuff bothers me quite a bit. There are plenty of good reasons to own an EV. Spinning a bunch of BS doesn’t help anyone. I might write something on that later.
** Actually, more than that. That’s just based on the driving I used to do in my old car. We now drive my wife’s car about half as much as we used to, and she buys gas much less often now too.

About the Author: Albert is a science and tech geek, occasional gadfly, armchair philosopher, and avid hobby collector. He works for Google, where he tries not to break things in Chrome OS. Lately, he spends a lot of time thinking about electric cars, social justice, cooking, and improvisational comedy. You can follow his writing on Google +.

Related Stories:

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

The Other #1 Reason Why Electric Cars Will Dominate The Car Market

Image Credit: Zachary Shahan | CleanTechnica | EV Obsession (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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74 thoughts on “Electric Car Convenience vs Range Anxiety Anxiety

  • This is about the Tesla Model S! Of COURSE there’s no range anxiety!!

    Most people are looking at a Leaf as an EV. In that case there is a serious problem. If I go to San Francisco or the beach for an afternoon I won’t make it home unless I recharge. If the recharging station is out of order (that happens!) I am stranded. Even if it works but someone is using it or someone has parked illegally in front of it, I am stranded. In the best case I can’t leave the immediate vicinity of home without recharging. I want to go to the beach, not a recharging station while my kids wait around for half an hour asking “when are we going to the beach?” every 5 minutes.

    When will early adopters realize they are EARLY adopters. People who might buy an EV are not mindless idiots swayed by a stray post in a Sunday supplement.

    And BTW, I know people who consistently miss morning meetings or need to take a taxi in because they didn’t notice the connection wasn’t solid, or they just forgot. People are people, they burn toast and don’t always recharge and they want a car designed to accomodate their failings, not sanctimonious lectures on how it’s their own fault – they know that.

    Can you guys quit with this nonsense – it is so frustrating to see this same stuff rehashed every 4 days. When every EV has a range of 200+ miles we can talk about how RA is not a concern.

    • @Michael G, that’s a fair counterpoint.

      I guess my reaction is more to the implication I get from the mainstream press that range anxiety is inherent in EV tech and that EV owners will spend hours waiting for their cars all the time.

      I was thinking of this as more forward looking. I should have made that more clear.

      EVs today are largely inadequate to most people’s needs or too expensive for most people to afford. That wont always be the case.

      • There’s another bias: the assumption of opportunities to charge at a dedicated location. Many people do not have off-street parking and their municipality may have failed to provide any curbside charging options. If they can’t rely on charging at work (which isn’t even a guarantee at Google) then owning an EV can be quite problematic.

        • Wait for it. When EVs become ubiquitous, it places will complete to offer it, like WiFi. Most cars are parked at work or at shopping. Sounds like the places where charging will become common. Most things grow quickly where profit is involved.

        • Yeah. There are lots of reasons why an EV might not be the right fit for a particular person today. It’s getting better, but lack of off-street parking will be a tough one to crack.

        • That’s a short term problem, as installing outlets will get done over the next decade or two, and it’s greatly muted by the fact that new car buyers are generally higher income (and well over half have a house with a garage/carport). They’re the ones whose needs matter most for getting EVs on the road.

          • It depends on whether the objective is to sell as many high-priced EVs and charging stations as possible or to displace the maximum amount of vehicle emissions as practicable. The people who need help are those least able to fund more expensive vehicles. I’m glad California has taken a step in this direction with their recent laws which help people with lower-incomes to become EV drivers.

          • I’d say the objective is to sell as many high-priced EVs as possible so that the higher profits can be used to further battery cost drops and rapid charging infrastructure.

            Lower priced cars generally have low margins. One has to sell several in order to generate as much profit as can be had by selling a single high priced model.

            Get battery prices down close to $100/kWh. Build a charging system that will allow people to drive coast to coast efficiently. Then people will snatch up your lower priced EVs by the handful and oil consumption will start to drop.

          • It would be nice if it were possible to have a CHAdeMO to Supercharger adapter. They’d be spaced too far out for my i-MiEV and I’m sure the Tesla drivers would chafe waiting for my little car to charge up..

          • Were you a ‘player’ in the film -> digital transition?

            If so, you’ll remember storing images on floppies, micro-discs, SmartMedia, Memory Sticks. CF cards, xD cards, SD cards, mini-SD cards, and probably other media that I’ve forgotten. Over a decade things pretty much settled down to SD cards.

            EVs are just coming out of the start gate. The first Supercharger was installed only two years ago. I suspect it will take a few years to settle in on the best charging solution and all EVs will be chargeable on all public chargers.

      • Thank You ! I and MANY others look forward to the day when we can get an EV with good range and charging stations everywhere.

        No one – really NO ONE – *LIKES* enriching BP, Shell, Iran, the Koch Bros. etc. ad nauseum while destroying the environment. This site does a good job keeping my spirits up as I watch Big Oil, Big Coal, and their legislative flunkies fight progress. They won’t win but they can sure make things difficult. EVs and their early adopters that make possible the better future for all of us are to be thanked.

        • We’ll get there Michael. The tipping point is coming in the next few years.

          • 4-6 years for the tipping point in cars, the tipping point is here in solar PV

          • Two to six yeas. GM is talking about a <$30k 200 mile range EV in 2016.

            I wouldn't be surprised if Tesla beat them to market.

      • You are both wrong. For some who only do short-distance driving an EV like the Leaf is fine. Many families can two cars and use the Leaf only for short trips. They can use the Hybrid for longer trips. For still others, many others, they can purchase an EREV like the Volt and drive all-electric most of the time, but still drive in hybrid mode for longer trips.
        RA is for foolish people.

        @Michael G – Buy a Volt or other EREV if you are going to have RA when using an EV.

        Mr Bodenhamer – Really? You’re going to rail about Range Anxiety Anxiety and then completely backpedal at the first erroneous comment? Lame.

        Look people, do grow some brains on this. It ain’t that tough. If you are going to try and use your Leaf for longer trips, and push the limits, then you’re going to possibly run out of juice. Don’t do that. Sheesh. What next? Are you going to go hunting with your accordion and then complain it doesn’t shoot bullets? (Yes, a partial theft from Gen. Schwarzkopf.) Maybe hunting with a bow and complaining about the short range capability would be a more accurate example.

        If you have to take long trips all the time, then sell the EV and buy an EREV. Then smile and tell’em we don’t need to fight in the Middle East any more!!!

        Get an 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!!!

        • So far–dollars needed.

          • I agree for EREVs, more complicated than EVs => more expensive. Still the cost is close now and it still is coming down.

            A number of EVs are now cost competitive when you take into account lower cost of electricity compared to gasoline/diesel and much lower cost of maintenance. …for individuals that only have short driving range needs …or for two car families who can share one EV and one HEV. …and the cost of EVs is also still coming down.

            2015 should be interesting the longer range Leaf coming out. Maybe they will cut the cost of the shorter range version yet again. We’ll see. …just a little more time …tipping…

          • Nah, just better accounting needed.

      • The other notable thing is that EV charging stations aren’t the eyesores that ubiquitous gas stations are–in fact, you can barely see them oftentimes even when they’re there. (A point which can be annoying.)

        I don’t think you can make a fair comparison between EVs and ICE cars without separating out the component that is wholly unrelated to the cars themselves. To say that ICE cars are superior because their users don’t have to utilize their human capacity for awareness is kind of weak in my view. That’s the equivalent of saying, “I won’t be able to find food unless I see golden arches.”

        Even today, most population centers already have ample charging stations to meet the existing demand. What is needed is more demand for these really great cars. You can’t have significantly more of one without having significantly more of the other.

        The best spots for stations will, for the foreseeable future, be at malls, restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, and places of business. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine why any business with a parking lot sufficient to maintain more than about 200 employees wouldn’t have a charging station. Is there any situation in ANY locality in ANY country in the world in which a business has that many employees and ALL of them live further than, say, 50 miles from work?

        Are we analyzing the equations of our behaviors based on a desire for optimal results or maximal options? If the latter, why don’t we all just drive HumVees? After all, you can haul things in them, you can tow with them, you can drive up steep grades and over trees, they can pass through water that’s a foot or so deep, and you can probably drive them for 100 miles on a flat tire if you really have to.

        When are we going to wise up that this fanciful dream of “being able to take a roadtrip whenever I want” is just that, a dream?

        Why don’t we just get ruthlessly fair about the economics of it, and use part of the ridiculous pile of money we save yearly by owning an EV and just plain RENT a gas car when the blue moon rises and we can’t go without it?

        The bottom line is that people who have only ever driven/owned ICE vehicles cannot and will not see what electrics can do until they own one. Until that time, any and all “comparisons” they make must unfortunately be taken with a liberal grain of salt.

    • The Leaf is a short range work and shopping commute for now. There are many people that only do that. There are others, that just drive too much for that vehicle. Until something more affordable with 150 mile range comes along…. What gripes me is that highway range is much less and that coefficient of drag, the biggest contributor, is ignored. The first Leafs had a Cd barely below 0.30. Still not even as low as a Prius. That kills range. What do auto makers have against lower aero drag?

      • Does a car designed for low drag just cost more to build? It’s a very interesting question.

        • IMO, no. Its just not a priority. For the Prius it was, because it has a reputation for high mileage. The other manufacturers ceded the market to Toyota, at least up until now with the Ford hybrids. Every other manufacturer that attempted to match that mileage has failed so far.

        • It adds another constraint on the design process. Figuring out how to make a car roomy, aerodynamic, good looking, etc all at the same time is hard. Doing it well requires a bigger R&D investment.

          • Exactly. People don’t seem to like the looks of low Cd vehicles. I seem to have read comments to that effect a number of times.

          • OK, scratch my comment on Cd. They all look nice to me. Guess I was rationalizing that as the reason. I can’t figure out why Cd is not a high level consideration for EV/EREV builder either.

          • I don’ t understand why Ghosen hasn’t picked up a clue from the adoration given to the Model S’s looks and hired some talented designer and made the next version of the Leaf a stunner.

            Bending sheet metal a bit differently to make a car slippery and beautiful can’t be that much more expensive.

    • I own a Leaf, and I think the author is spot-on. The difference of course is in the range, so I don’t drive it to the beach. We use the Leaf for daily driving and use the gas minivan for family vacations.

      Just this past Saturday, we drove 134 miles total on 5 separate trips, charging at home between trips, and never had a concern about the ~70-80 mile maximum range.

      We’ve driven the Leaf 28k miles in just 1.5 yrs – around $5,700 we didn’t spend on gas. (Electricity here costs around 1/6 that)

      That said, folks who are single and have just one car, might be better off with a plug-in hybrid. Choose the right tool for the job. You can’t dig a hole with a rake, or rake leaves with a shovel – one isn’t better than the other.

      For me, a hybrid garage (one EV and one gas car) works much better than a hybrid car. I save massively on fuel, and only the gas car requires any significant maintenance. And the Leaf is just a blast to drive.

      • “a hybrid garage (one EV and one gas car)”
        Thank you. This is the exact term I need to explain the EV + gas win-win solution, to gasaholics.

      • I live in a rural area, which is why I got a Tesla Model S and although we have a pickup, we only use it when we need to haul large stuff, not because we need unlimited range.

      • Thank you! Better comment than mine!

      • “Hybrid Garage” is a brilliant way to describe how I use my Fiat 500e without regard to range or refueling time. People who complain about range anxiety are like people who complain that they can’t hammer in nails with a screw driver. I experience range anxiety when driving my diesel BMW. I get worried that I won’t be able to drive 600 miles without stopping for food or toilet. LOL.

    • I constant supply of Tesla Trivia.

    • Well, apparently people are swayed by repeated posts about RA, yes, unfortunately, as you demonstrate by thinking it’s a problem, going as far as making up stories about people consistently failing to charge their cars.
      [Meanwhile, over a billion people manage to keep their smartphone running…]

      I own a Leaf. I’ve sold my other car 37kmiles ago. I agree with @albertbodenhamer:disqus entirely: there is no RA (not any more than another vehicle, that is), only some unsubstantiated concern from people unfamiliar with EVs.
      Combination of fear of the unknown and fear of change, I guess.

      Even you seem to agree actually: the only worries you describe are with recharging (and not having enough juice if it can’t be done), not with range itself.
      “Charging anxiety”, yes, that’s real IMHO, but also effectively mitigated with measures such as station reservation, like currently offered on some Chargepoint EVSEs.

    • To the point of not-solid connections, I imagine that most EV designs will converge on having a light that comes on around or near the plug when a solid connection is made, perhaps having different colours or intensities for different charging rates. Possibly this light flashes for a few seconds when the battery is low and you’re leaving the vehicle, as a reminder.
      As internet-connected devices become more popular, it’s likely that your car will be able to communicate fuel status to your smart phone or wearable device when it’s low, whether the fuel is gas or electricity. In the case of an EV, you may become able to set it to send you an alert if it doesn’t have enough juice for a typical day’s driving and it’s after, say, 10PM.

      • I call bs on Michael “not-solid connection” comment. It’s just too damn hard to unknowingly not plug in the vehicle correctly, especially after you’ve done it dozen times.

        – The J1772 connector (which all modern EVs use in the US for AC charging) has a locking clip that goes CLICK when it engages.
        – Its release button also then springs back up.
        – At that time, at least the Leaf emits a beep too. Furthermore, several blue LEDs illuminate at the base of the windshield (where they’re visible from both inside and outside the vehicle), in a pattern confirming whether the vehicle is either charging, set for delayed charging, or already full.
        – I have yet to see a charging station that doesn’t also have at a minimum an LED showing it’s operating.
        – The charging station’s contactor is usually quite audible as well, giving yet one more indication that power has been made available to the car.

        Re connectivity:
        – Most EVs already have that and can report charging status, including “charging reminder” functionality (email/SMS) and/or apps.
        – Some EVSEs are also connected, so the same could be done there I suppose.

    • I disagree with you here, Michael. I read the above article and I was saying “right on” the whole way through, finishing up with a “couldn’t have said it better myself.”

      And I own a very plebian 2013 Nissan Leaf S (the base model.)

      I spend far less time refueling my car than you do, and so do most EV drivers. The “energy fairy” analogy is an excellent one, though unlike Albert I’ve not only timed what had been my stops for gas–not quite ten minutes in my case–but also my charging “stops.” They amount to about eight seconds plugging in at night, and eight more unplugging in the morning.

      Less time, in total, than you’re supposed to take washing your hands–which, by the way, you ought to be doing more often if you’re frequently dealing with gas pump handles.

      The article is spot on, in every way. He even excised the annoying hyperbole from it by admitting that for him, for now, having an EV as his only car is still not an option.

      For me, it is. And I drive, as I said, a Leaf. An EPA estimated 84–which I’ve found ranges from 65 to 130.

      I drove my 1999 Honda Civic to 208,000 miles from 11,000 in the 14 years I owned it. With the Leaf I’m averaging 14.2% more miles per year than I did when I was driving the 37-38 mpg Civic as much as I wanted and could afford.

      What changed?
      1. I pay less for fuel.
      2. I spend less time fueling unless I’m on a trip.

      But that’s exactly what Albert tried to politely explain. The lion’s share of Americans do exactly what he said: they fill up once or twice a week.

      And they spend *at least* five minutes doing it.

      How much time do I spend weekly at most?
      Plugging in at night and unplugging in the morning takes me a total of about sixteen seconds, and if I do it every single day, that amounts to 7*16=112 seconds. Any way you slice it, 112 < 300.

      It's a paradigm shift, sure. But until you actually drive an EV more than a hundred miles, stop projecting your "range anxiety anxiety" onto EV drivers–myself included–and say that it's real when it's a figment of an imagination fueled by breathing in gas fumes for far too long.

      200 miles. Meh.

      • Filling up needs to be measured from the time one diverts from their route and until they are back on route.

        Five minutes of actual filling + time driving to the station + getting out, swiping card, opening tank and inserting nozzle + removing nozzle, replacing cap and nozzle, getting back in + belting in, starting up, and driving back to route.

        Maybe more like 15 minutes if one doesn’t have to wait long for a free pump. 15 min * 52 weeks = 13 hours.

  • Perhaps this needs to be renamed, rather than ‘range anxiety’ it needs to be ‘range reality’
    Granted for people like yourself that can afford the Model S this is basically a non issue. But for people that live in rural areas where commutes and regular driving often exceed a hundred miles a day, with no charging infrastructure available, the S is way beyond their economic means, and the other city cars just don’t cut it yet.
    When EV’s get to be under forty grand and can go 150-200 miles, then this situation will have changed dramatically. As you say this is a future situation, and when vehicles like this are available, then home charging will be sufficient even without the infrastructure. But for right now ‘range reality’ is a big issue for widespread adoption.

    • Thanks, love the “Range Reality” name replacement. Waaaayyy better!

      “But for people that live in rural areas where commutes and regular driving often exceed a hundred miles a day’
      Not many people drive 100 miles a day regularly. I’m sure there’s some, but they are in the minority.

      • I can’t deny that the people who travel 100+ miles in a day are definitely a minority. It is just fairly common out here because the commute to the closest city is 45+, and to the big city of Atlanta 90+.I did 106 miles today just going to my monthly Dr’s appointment, not including the other errands when I got back.
        What I did say though is for EV’s to reach widespread adoption, in other words elimination of all ICE vehicles.
        For that to happen some of the EV’s, even if a small minority, are going to need to be of a longer range.

    • I totally agree! What people don’t understand is that the “distance to empty” gauge on an electric car is more accurate than on a gas car. You don’t get on the road and start worrying about whether you’ll make it or not–you can tell in advance if you need to charge. Sometimes you worry about how long you’ll need to stop, or if your battery is the right temperature to charge quickly. But it’s almost never a question of whether you’ll get home or not, just a question of when.

      Now that evGo has installed Chademo stations around the DC area, I make a 100-mile circuit of the region about once a week without any worry at all. The rest of the time, my 10 to 60 miles/day is easily handled by 6kw charging at home.

  • Has anybody thought of using a trailer with extra battery and or a generator for extra range?
    That system could be a rental as well.

  • Why buy a Model T when a horse can give you loyalty and affection? But people did.

    • Most people will never buy a Model T because they cannot travel on the muddy roads and trails used throughout much of the nation. Also, there are no gasoline stations in remote areas.

      That was then.

    • The changeover from horses to internal combustion engine vehicles took time, and in certain applications such as milk delivery, horses persisted for decades, perhaps because their fuel consumption is low at idle while the delivery man walks back and forth to each house.

      • Yes, it will take a few decades, but the transition has begun. The cost of EVs/EREVs is still going down. Newer, better, and lower-cost batteries are coming. Economies of scale in production are developing.

        • From earlier articles on this site, the expectation is that the transition from mostly gas vehicles to mostly EV’s will look like an S curve comprised of the current period of exponential growth with small numbers, followed by exponential growth with large numbers, then exponential slowing as EV’s approach 100% market penetration.
          From the point of view of reducing climate change and transitioning from oil to renewables, the important question is how soon we can get to the happy “exponential growth with large numbers” zone, and whether that will be soon enough that the first car for most Indians and Chinese is an EV and not a gas burner.

          • Another chance to post one of my favorite graphs.

            EVs are still creeping along the bottom….

          • Do you have one projecting the total number of cars into the future, including new drivers in emerging markets? The S-curve graph is indeed illuminating, but “100%” is a moving target.

          • No, but I’ll bet the total number of cars in the future is much higher than today. EVs are likely to have a much longer lifespan than ICEVs. Keeping them on the road will be much simpler.

            Even with batteries with only 60% capacity left a 200 mile range EV would have a 120 mile range which would be more than adequate for someone with shallow pockets. Just spend a little money on tires/brakes/suspension parts and keep the body in decent shape and cars should be good for 30 years or more. A cheap paint job and new seats/carpets and the car would look decent.

            I expect gasmobiles to be clearly on the way out 5 years post the introduction of an affordable 200 mile range EV.

            Sales should be down around 50% and at ten years post and a number of manufacturers will have stopped or just about stopped making ICEVs. Fifteen years after that ICEVs will have pretty much ceased production and there will be few left on roads. (I’m leaving a minimal number, say 5% to 10%, that may be very sticky for a long time. Specialized vehicles and old fart purchasers.)

            Less developed countries are likely to drop ICEVs first. Why pay for imported fuel when you can gen your own with wind and solar? Why pay 3x as much per mile out of your limited funds?

            Imagine someone comes up with a “carbon fiber”/whatever very long lasting frame. Then we could see some companies making ‘bolt together’ cars like the VW Bugs. A 50+ year frame and the ability to replace body and interior parts under a shade tree. A new set of batteries every 20 years or so. Perhaps rewind the motor at 25 years. We might reach a point at which we’d need to purchase only one car in our lifetimes, pretty much like houses.

          • That’s awesome graph, and I’ve been wanting one like it for a long time. Where did you find it?
            The key thing to notice here is how many of these curves went from zero to essentially ubiquitous in just a decade or two. Even the automobile, which shows a slower curve overall, was probably not that unusual. The first Ford Model T rolled out in 1908, and by 1928 the penetration was already 60%, where it flattened out for a couple of decades, certainly due to the depression and war years. But it did take off again at a more relaxed pace after that. And remember that the gasmobile had the same, and in some cases, worse issues with infrastructure than EV’s do now.

            It’s this kind of chart that leads me to chuckle at all the nay-sayers who think it will take ages to switch over to a renewable infrastructure. Most people just don’t understand how fast a new technology can take over once its time has come.

          • I’ve forgotten where I stole it. There’s a note on the bottom that says “Victorian Government”. No source turns up with a web site.

            RE: cars. I spent some time looking at pictures of city streets in the 1930s. By then it was hard to find a horse unless it was in a parade. IIRC when cars first appeared Chicago had 30,000 horses doing ‘taxi’ service alone.

            I suspect that ten years from now the renewable energy naysayers will be looked at about like the guys who said “Man will never fly” as the Wright brothers were soaring over the beach.

          • Google image search doesn’t turn up any matches for it either. Pity. I would’ve liked to seen the context in which it was presented.

            I was actually thinking about similar images of 1930’s city streets myself when I posted, and with exactly the same impression as you. I was also thinking about how I’ve personally, in my lifetime, gone from living in a world with no home computers, no internet, and no portable electronic devices to speak of, to one where I can’t imagine how I ever lived without them.

          • I found a site that credited it to the New York Times 2008 last night but I didn’t follow up on it. I did make a copy of it.

            If you google “technology adoption curves” and then click on “images” you’ll find several versions. And I think that was the route

            I’m pushed for times this morning – you might start here and work to the article.


            If you find anything, please share.

        • Here’s an interesting graphic. I added the red part based on the report that Tesla is currently paying Panasonic $180/kWh for batteries.

          If that report is correct then hybrids, PHEVs and gasmobiles are fatality wounded. From here on it’s just the process of dying.

          • The details of the process of dying are important. Car manufacturers’ frantic efforts to push hydrogen and hybrids demonstrate their fear of EV’s lower up-front price and much lower maintenance costs. Once economies of scale kick in, it should be possible to build an EV much more cheaply than a gas burner.
            I suspect all the major manufacturers, even Toyota, have at least one EV in the works, awaiting for the day when market forces make gas vehicles difficult to sell. The transition from seeing EV’s as a tree-hugging alternative to their being mainstream will likely be sudden, perhaps less than a year.

            In a previous discussion it was suggested that car buyers will spend the same amount per car as they did before, using the cheapness of the underlying EV platform to afford more features like collision avoidance, self-driving, etc. My suspicion is that cars will actually become cheaper, but that new market segments will open up: even today’s cash-strapped 25-year-olds will become able to afford cars, and more families will buy a second vehicle.

          • Were they objective I can’t see the manufacturers having a problem with EVs. They will still be able to manufacture and sell cars. They’ll sell more as markets expand into developing countries.

            I can see dealers having massive butt aches. Their sweet maintenance and repair money is going away. And their sales money could go away with more internet sales. Who needs a third party in the middle of the transaction these days? Cut them out and split their costs between buyer and seller.

            I think the resistance is more in terms of people not liking change. Having to figure out a new type vehicle and figuring out how to phase out their engine lines is likely a chore they don’t want.

            The smart companies will bring in management who ‘gets it’.

          • A stumbling block slowing change at the large manufacturers is the commitments they’ve made to site factories in various locations in exchange for tax breaks and labour concessions. Here in Ontario, our politicians vie to offer the most concessions bringing in or keeping car plants.

            A successful EV is going to have to be designed anew from the wheels up (if it’s going to compete with Tesla’s future affordable models) which means a new factory and a clean sheet of paper designing the assembly line, which means A) lots and lots of robots and less jobs to go around, and B) closing the factories that made gas cars. 2018 could be as disruptive for auto workers as 2008.

            Increasing automation makes society richer as a whole. Better and cheaper cars are worth a few lost factory jobs, but there’s going to be a lot of screaming from those who lose in the short term.

          • Thanks, yes.

            I think 2015 and 2016 are going to be most interesting years.

          • Makes one wonder whether the drop in oil prices has a more sinister driver than simply supply and demand. Notice that the new price of gasoline makes ICE the cost effective choice.

  • The one thing missing from this discussion is the Chevy Volt, the 90-90 solution. One where 90% of Volt owners that charge nightly drive 90% of the time without assistance from the on-board range extending gas engine. The extended range EV that the Volt represents is a perfect balance and bridge to higher density, longer range capacity, battery technology – which is on the way. For the next five years, however, EREV will continue to address the questions of range anxiety, a need for a convenient plug-in infrastructure beyond your garage, and balance cost with performance – a challenge that Tesla has yet to meet. Tesla and GM (Volt) have shown the marketplace that EV’s don’t have to look like golf carts and can be fun to drive. Buying a future fossil fuel relic instead of a plug-in is for the uninformed.

    • Couldn’t agree more- Wife’s (realtor) car is a Volt. Last year used 15 gal of gas, mostly on long trips. 95% of the time on electric, cost- about 2 cents/mile. Absolutely splendid driving machine- she loves it and NO range anxiety.

    • Yep, plug in hybrids should be the biggest sellers in the hinterlands. If GM had had a half decent marketing program for the Volt, they would have flown off the lots.

  • Thanks, Albert. I enjoyed your article. Reading about real life experiences is helpful.

  • Thanks Albert.. We just picked up our BMW i3 BEV..and in the first month of driving have saved a couple hundred dollars..that seems to put range anxiety to rest for us! We’re in AZ, retired and with solar panels generating 13.000 kWh annually. we also don’t worry about range anxiety. We make it work!

    The 100 mile range we get with a fully charged battery in the i3 (or 85 if we drive the highways) works for our driving needs. Every night it goes on our LEVEL 1 charger (yes even level 1 works for us) and by morning the i3 is topped off..because we seldom use more than half the charge in our driving day. Oh did I mention that this car is the greatest to drive..excellent performance, innovative and so carefully designed. Would we ever have seen a car produced by an established manufacturer if we all worried about range anxiety. We needed to get started and Tesla got the ball rolling.

    Of course these number will not work for every one, but like us there are hundreds of thousand of drivers who drive less that a 100 miles a day and we now have a range of EVs to meet our needs..and this was not possible even just 5 years ago!

    Thanks again for a great post!

  • Another term then, in the realm of “Range Anxiety”, could be “Geo-compatible”. Here in Palm Springs, driving a Spark EV with a 90 to 100 mile range, is too logical. (90% of residents fail to grasp it apparently, so it must be ‘too’ something)
    Why bother with anything else? But other places I’ve lived would not support anything but a regular driving schedule, mostly charging at home. I never charge at home, the City chargers are free and there is rarely a line-up. My wife takes it to work where they have a private (ChargePoint) machine, but has some difficulty there, with other traffic.
    Driving the Spark around here doesn’t provoke any anxiety, just a mini-euphoria.

  • 1) People hate change, training new habits is miserable. Trust me, no way my parents would have ever learned to plug in a car.

    2) People are trained to the status quo.

    the good part is once 10% of the market shifts everyone normalizes.

  • t leave the immed

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