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Electric Car Convenience vs Range Anxiety Anxiety

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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