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ABRP range anxiety
Image credit: A Better Routeplanner

Clean Transport

How Preconceived Notions Affect EV Range Anxiety

Range anxiety is real, but new online tools like A Better Routeplanner can help EV drivers conquer their fears.

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you near as much as what you do know that t’ain’t true,” said Mark Twain. Range anxiety is a frequent concern for drivers of electric cars, but some of it is all in our heads. Recently I can across a thread on the reddit EV forum started by someone who has recently experienced an epiphany concerning range anxiety.

[Note: normally when referencing a forum thread, it is customary to link to the profile of each poster. I have chosen not to do that for the sake of easy reading and clarity. However, the link to the discussion is posted above so that any reader who wishes to can go to the forum and retrieve that information. Thank you for your indulgence.]

The person who started the thread — he goes by the screen name of MrMusAddict, but we will call him Poster A — said he had purchased a 2020 Kia eNiro 2 years ago, but always chose to drive his Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid on road trips because he was concerned about running out of battery charge with the Kia.

“I’ve been conditioned by my phone to see a low battery and think “I should stop using this and plug it in until I have a usable SOC.” And I’ve also been conditioned by my phone to always unplug at 100% when I wake up. The problem is, in terms of a phone, I consider 30% to be a low battery and 20% to be critically low battery.

“So in terms of using battery operated equipment, with my car I’ve was thinking I’d be uncomfortable dropping below 30%, and felt it necessary to charge up to 100% (which takes 4× as long since charging at high SOC slows down significantly). For this reason I’ve never attempted a road trip before. I’m thinking I’d need to drive with ~70 miles reduced range, and expecting to take well over an hour each time I need to recharge. In my defense I live at the bottom of a valley, so no matter which direction I go is like an hour’s worth of mountain driving which messes with range estimates, so I thought I’d need that much buffer.”

Up until this point, Poster A is like a lot of other people — concerned about running out of battery charge while away from home. That is perfectly normal and has probably happened to everyone who has ever driven a battery-powered car at one time or another.

So what changed his mind? A Better Routeplanner, popularly known as ABRP. It is an app-based service that is similar to the route planning Tesla offers its customers to plan their trips. Plug in where you are, tell the app where you are going, and the software tells you where to charge and for how long. Poster A was amazed to discover that with the ABRP app, he didn’t need to stop every hour and charge for 90 minutes. Instead, he could drive for 3 hours and then stop for only 30 minutes. Big difference!

“All of a sudden, a trip that normally takes me 9 hours in an ICE car including time to stop for food, is going to take me 9½ hours in an EV since I can line up charge stops with my stops for food. So ultimately I’m only killing about an extra 30 minutes when using my EV (mind you, I have a 2020 Kia eNiro, which peaks at only 70kW I believe).

“But most importantly using A Better Route Planner during my trip taught me that my fear of 30%, and my desire for 100%, are both absurd. I was able to finish my trip with only 30 min of killed time by pushing my battery down to an 8% target (20 mile buffer), and unplugging my car around 70% ±10%.

“After leaving home with 100%, I was able to drive for 3½ hours which drained me down to 5%. This was very uncomfortable and stressful, but it forced me past an important milestone. Now all of a sudden 8% was comfortable, and now if I target that and the estimate’s off, I can get back down to 5% and know I’ll still be fine.”

Thanks to ABRP, Poster A was able to complete a 10-hour drive in his electric Kia that would have taken him 9.5 hours in his Toyota. “In hindsight, I really don’t know what I was afraid of. A 10 hour driving day only required 2 charging stops, one of which was spent eating lunch.”

Information Is The Key To Reducing Range Anxiety

Some of you may quibble with Poster A’s driving habits. Not everyone would spent an hour eating lunch on a road trip. The gas and go crowd prides itself on visiting the restroom, pounding down a burger, and getting back behind the wheel like there is some sort of prize waiting for them if they get where they are going sooner rather than later. (I confess I was infected with this disease when I was young and stupid. I am no longer young, sadly.) But taking things a little more slowly isn’t so bad. You arrive relaxed and refreshed instead of tense and grouchy.

ABRP can’t resolve all range anxiety issues. Here are a few comments to the reddit thread you may find interesting:

  • I don’t have range anxiety I have bad infrastructure anxiety. And turtle mode anxiety.
  • When there’s only 1 charge site covering a gap, and especially if it isn’t heavily and recently reviewed on Plugshare, I get very nervous about becoming stranded.
  • Same here. After purchasing my Leaf, the very first stop on the long drive back was a nearby fast charger, which did not work. I drove 20km to a slow charger, but that was also busted. I finally found a supermarket with a level 2 charger and spent four hours there instead before heading home.

Then there is this comment that seems to fit the discussion perfectly;

“This is what people who haven’t made the switch don’t get (and will adamantly deny — even if you show them the numbers). You don’t really lose all that much time because you also gain time from not having to babysit your car while it’s gassing up….and you’re using time to charge that you would be spending anyways on food and restroom/coffee breaks. Whether you do a 9 or 9.5 hour trip also makes no difference regarding the rest of the day. The day is done in any case. It’s not like someone will do something ‘productive’ after a 9 hour trip that he couldn’t/wouldn’t do after a 9.5 hour trip.”

The Takeaway

We share this discussion with you because we think it is one that is happening everywhere today. From personal experience, my wife and I were a little freaked out when our Model Y dropped to 8% SOC on our first road trip. We wrote about our experience and were reassured by other Tesla owners that there was nothing to worry about. Sharing knowledge is the best way to obliterate myths and fears. (There are still some instances where people have gas anxiety, too!)

Electric cars are different, and different is often scary. It takes a while for people to get comfortable with new technology. Congratulations to ABRP for helping more of us find the comfort level we need to make the leap into the world of electric cars.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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