Is Range Anxiety Here to Stay? Three Approaches to Solving the Problem.

 In Electric Vehicle News

The Nissan Leaf Dashboard

Imagine pushing the start button on your new electric vehicle (EV) up for the first time. Now imagine cruising across town, over hills and through busy city streets. As your trip nears an end you look to the battery’s state-of-charge (SOC) gauge to see how many miles are left to get you home – ah there’s enough. You accelerate up a hill on your way home and your nifty new vehicle slows to a stop. You have just experienced what many electric vehicle drivers dread happening to them. This worry is called ‘range anxiety’.

Range anxiety is the stress an EV owner feels as they watch their battery’s SOC gauge slowly diminish while contemplating if they have sufficient energy to make it to their destination. Consumers detailing their stories of being stranded at the side of the road after running out of juice are beginning to surface. In order to ease the minds of EV drivers, three approaches to solving the problem have been initiated.

When you’re running out of charge: Help you find the closest charging station

In an attempt to remedy range anxiety, Coulomb Technologies – “a leader in electric vehicle charging systems and application services” – and GPS giant TomTom are entering a partnership to develop an in-car navigation system to allow consumers to locate nearby charging stations and their prices, as well as the ability to reserve a charging spot. This technology is based off of Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint Network, which boasts the largest open network of charging stations in the world. The U.S. Department of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Google are also working together to help. While NREL supplies Google with information on the charging stations throughout the country, Google Maps provides a platform for the consumer to plan a trip without pushing their vehicle’s range capabilities to dangerous levels.

The Nissan Leaf , Nissan’s first pure electric vehicle, is also attempting to combat range anxiety with their new CARWINGS™ system. This new application determines if the driver will reach their destination based on the battery’s current SOC and locates nearby charging stations if the range exceeds the battery’s capabilities. However, the Nissan Leaf is struggling to make accurate estimations of the battery’s SOC leading Leaf drivers to play it safe by planning trips 25-50% shorter than the advertised range.

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 If you have run out of charge: Help you get a quick boost

The number of stranded EV drivers, not exclusive to the Leaf, has caught the eye of a major automotive assistance service provider AAA. AAA recently announced a pilot program to commence in August where roadside assistance will be offered to customers stranded with electric vehicles. The fleet of trucks offering typical roadside assistance will now be equipped with a 4.5 kWh lithium ion battery and a powerful charging system. This mobile charger could provide the customer with 3 to 15 miles of extended range after only 10 to 15 minutes of charging time. And although the pilot program is only located in six cities – Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL; Knoxville, TN; Seattle, WA; the Bay Area and Los Angeles, CA; and Portland, OR – demand for these new mobile charging trucks is high from AAA locations across the U.S.

Continuing to extend total vehicle range (Improving Battery Technology)

Since the introduction of lithium-ion batteries in 1991, researchers from around the world have been working diligently to reduce technological limitations on battery capacity. From an automotive standpoint, increasing battery capacity means furthering your EVs driving range between charges. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers from the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment have published a review on the progression of lithium-ion technology. Starting in 1991 there has been a consistent increase in capacity of approximately seven percent per year until the study ended in 2001 with a specific energy just over 160 Wh/kg. Current lithium-ion batteries can reach up to 250 Wh/kg, which compounded over 10 years would be an average increase of five percent per year. If researchers sustain this rate of development, lithium-ion batteries will surely play a primary role in future vehicle technology.

It’s nice to see so many companies taking measures to combat range anxiety for new EV drivers. The combination of products, services, and technological developments cast a broad net over range anxiety. The ability to plan a trip that includes convenient places to rest and recharge your EV’s batteries is a large step in reducing range anxiety. But for those drivers who don’t like to plan ahead, products are available that allow you to search for charging stations on the go. And if you push your EV’s range capabilities too far, roadside assistance will soon be able to give you enough miles to reach the next charging station. At the root of it all, research is always pushing the frontiers of battery technology in hopes of one day making it economically feasible to switch over to electric vehicles. With that said, there are many aspects which still need development such as SOC estimation, preventing battery degradation, and tools for teaching new EV drivers how to maximize their range. But for now, we’re off to a great start.

The team of us at FleetCarma would love to hear your opinions on this blog post! Do you think the listed developments will help with range anxiety? Are you aware of any useful tips or tools to help reduce range anxiety for new EV drivers? Do you have any tales of being stranded after being reassured that you had miles left on your battery? All comments are welcome.

For more information on these topics, follow the links below:

  1. Nissan CARWINGS™ Information: http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/tags/show/range#/leaf-electric-car/tags/show/range
  2. AAA Press Release on Roadside Assistance for EV Customers: http://www.aaanewsroom.net/Main/Default.asp?CategoryID=4&ArticleID=864
  3. MIT Publication on Electric Powertrains: Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Light-Duty Vehicle Fleet: http://web.mit.edu/sloan-auto-lab/research/beforeh2/files/kromer_electric_powertrains.pdf

 

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