4 Electric Car Developments That Will End Range Anxiety

 In EV Charging, EV Industry

Ask people why they don’t drive an electric car and “not enough range” is a popular answer. Many consumers are unaware how far they drive on a daily basis and, considering many EVs travel fewer than 100 miles on a full charge, the concept is worrisome to the point where it becomes unthinkable to consider a plug-in vehicle.

That’s “range anxiety” in a nutshell. Yet a study released by MIT challenged many of the assumptions consumers have. After studying the daily driving habits of U.S. drivers across the country for several years, researchers concluded:

  • 87% of trips made by gasoline vehicles could be handled today by affordable electric cars
  • Drivers would not need to recharge during the day in order to handle daily driving
  • The formula works in sprawling metropolises like Houston as well as densely packed urban environments like New York City

The conclusion was that range anxiety is “overblown.” Using the original Nissan Leaf with 73 miles of range as the standard, researchers proved that the time may as well be now – not some distant point in the future – for electric vehicles.

Nonetheless, since perception is reality, there is work for stakeholders in the EV ecosystem to do. Here are four electric car developments that ought to end range anxiety in the near future.

1) More Public Charging Stations

public-charging-stationsPractically speaking, range anxiety is “charge anxiety.” It’s not necessarily how far your car can travel, but whether you’ll have the ability to refuel when battery power dwindles. So more public charging stations are a primary solution, and they need to be clearly marked and accessible.

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Finding the nearest gas station is incredibly easy, but attempts to plug in at a public charging station can prompt the following questions:

  • Is it open late (or early)?
  • Do you have to enter a garage (or a collective or a university) to access it?
  • Do you need a membership and/or pass card to use it?
  • Are the fees as described in the app or are there hidden parking fees that turn a few miles’ worth of charge into an expensive proposition?

These questions have been tough to answer for the current generation of EV drivers, especially in cities where parking space is limited (e.g., New York, Philadelphia). However, there is reason for hope.

Automakers, municipalities and charging station providers are increasing the number all the time. Recently, President Obama announced a sweeping initiative involving public and private interests that will add fast chargers along highways and other key transportation routes.

The idea is to make charging accessible and cheap instead of secretive and expensive. Tesla’s Supercharger network would be the high-end model to follow as the government and other stakeholders proceed.

We’ve also seen some ‘worst-case-scenario’ products come to market, such as Jerr.e’s portable generator (pictured in main image above) designed to add a few extra miles of charge.

2) The Next Generation of Electric Vehicles

Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet BoltThe most obvious way to end range anxiety is to give EVs the range to travel hundreds of miles without needing to charge. Then consumers can travel the usual 30 or 40 miles every day without worrying about plugging in to refuel.

After all, range anxiety is a product of habits acquired during the era of gasoline car domination, and changing those habits takes time. The next generation of electric cars should serve to ease drivers’ concerns. Cars that will help include:

  • Tesla Model S P100D: It may be expensive, but the latest rocket ship by Tesla can go up to 315 miles on a single charge. How many days does it take for the average person to travel 300+ miles? No one is really sure, and that is the point. As the fastest accelerating production car on the market, this car will grab headlines and simultaneously reassure drivers on the fence.
  • Chevrolet Bolt EV: Chevy will be the first automaker to get a 200-mile EV on the road at a reasonable ($37,500 before incentives) price point. In a 2016 Harris Poll commissioned by Ford, 67% of respondents said they didn’t know anyone who owned a hybrid or PHEV, let alone a pure electric car. Once the Bolt gets on the road in volume, owners will be able to talk about the technology with neighbors.
  • Tesla Model 3: This future release (expected 2017) has sparked the most interest among consumers, and it could be the best antidote to range anxiety yet. Offering a projected range of 215 miles at a quoted price of $35,000 before incentives, this very attractive car is creating buzz throughout the mainstream auto market. That buzz in turn will lead to more conversations about the technology, and range anxiety will suffer.

3) A Robust Used EV Market

Used Nissan LeafsEven with incentives cutting the cost of a Bolt or Model 3 by $10,000 or more, these cars will be out of the price range of many consumers. Fortunately, the used electric vehicle market is beginning to take off as first-generation models come off leases and early adopters who purchased EVs outright look to upgrade.

Prices for a first-gen Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Fiat 500e (available in California and Oregon), Smart Electric Drive, and Chevrolet Volt are often near or below $10,000, and hundreds of used options are available in areas with the highest concentration.

These very affordable EVs, which in effect served as a test fleet for the MIT study, will show a larger number of drivers that even short-range plug-ins can handle most of a household’s daily driving needs. Used models entering driveways as second cars will have a second life as evangelists for the technology.

4) The Spread of Facts and Study Results

Electric vehicle reportsThe results of the MIT study are great for challenging assumptions about the segment, but this information needs to reach the car-buying public in order to have an impact. Stakeholders will need to increase outreach efforts in order to inform consumers of the capabilities of electric vehicles in 2016.

As a recent survey made by Sierra Club showed, automakers and their dealership networks have a lot of work to do. Dealers frequently featured no plug-in models on the lot outside of California, while some had EVs without enough charge to even go for a test drive. Still others did not inform consumers of attractive incentives available.

Governments, automakers, environmental activists and business owners must partner together in order to spread the word about the technology’s capabilities, community benefits and affordability.

Without range anxiety, the auto market would look very different. Hopefully, these upcoming developments for EVs will finish the job.

*featured image from Jerr.e, taken by Gijs Speirings.

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  • Sherman

    I think #4 is too often overlooked; technology improvements aren’t the only thing that can accelerate EV adoption. It reminds me of Opower’s TED talk – https://www.ted.com/talks/alex_laskey_how_behavioral_science_can_lower_your_energy_bill?language=en

  • Réjean Drouin

    “The most obvious way to end range anxiety is to give EVs the range to travel hundreds of miles without needing to charge. Then consumers can travel the usual 30 or 40 miles every day without worrying about plugging in to refuel.”

    The most obvious way is a range extender ICE (internal combustion engine) like the Volt has. All the advantage of the EV with zero compromise and no need for a 50000$ battery.

  • Heather Hochrein

    Another new solution to alleviate range anxiety is a service called EVmatch (www.evmatch.com). It’s a peer-to-peer network for EV charging. Drivers with home charging stations rent out their private chargers to other drivers, dramatically increasing the number of available charging stations. Drivers reserve and pay in advance through the app. It’s currently operating in CA and the app is in the App Store.