Today in the EV Connect Blog we’re talking about how to cure electric car range anxiety. This is an important issue for most charging station operators and local governments:
- Municipal governments and power authorities who want to encourage public EV use need to confront range anxiety as a barrier to adoption. The same is true for private companies who want to incentivize their employees to use electric vehicles.
- Fleet managers need to deal with employees, contractors, and clients who may not be comfortable with the comparatively shorter range of an EV.
- For-profit EV charging station operators have a clear incentive to dispel the notion of range anxiety as a common criticism of EVs.
The way to overcome this problem begins with understanding where it comes from.
Range Anxiety Isn’t Really a Range Problem
The popular understanding of EV range anxiety is that it’s a natural consequence of the fact that EVs have a much shorter operating range—typically 50 to 80 percent shorter—than traditional combustion-driven vehicles. The implication is that this shorter range isn’t enough for people’s needs, and that a motorist therefore might find themselves stranded.
But there’s an error in this view: The overwhelming majority of vehicle trips are much shorter than the range of even the worst-performing electric vehicles. As long as you’re diligent about plugging in your car each night, there’s no chance of running out of battery during the day unless something goes seriously wrong with your car or the roads. And for errand days or long road trips, where range does become an issue, you know in advance that you’re going to have to plan stopovers to recharge.
So EV range anxiety persists even though most electric vehicles (and virtually all new EVs coming off the line today) have a high enough range that the vast majority of trips can be completed on a single charge with plenty to spare. Why is this?
Range Anxiety Is Mainly an Infrastructure Scarcity Problem
A large part of the answer is that people are worried they’ll suddenly get into a low battery situation and there won’t be any charging stations nearby. It’s an infrastructure scarcity problem.
With gasoline, there’s no fear of scarcity because everybody knows that gas stations are everywhere. Wherever people live, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities, you’re never more than a few minutes from a gas station. And on long-distance routes through remote regions, freeway signs indicate the distance to the next gas station. To an attentive driver, there’s no chance of being stranded.
But with an electric car, range anxiety is not completely unreasonable: Charging stations are not ubiquitous yet, so it’s easy for a motorist to imagine getting stranded—even though, as we mentioned, it’s extremely unlikely.
There are a few other factors that contribute to range anxiety:
We’re Used to Longer Operating Ranges
The first problem is that we’re used to a world where one tank of gas takes us 300 miles or more. This has been the norm for generations and it is baked into our minds that this is the range of a vehicle.
In the context of a world where a range of 300+ miles is the norm, an EV that has a range of only 100 miles is basically always going to feel like you’re driving with a quarter of a tank of gas or less. And when you’re down to a quarter of a tank of gasoline you really do start to feel range anxiety, even if you absolutely don’t need those 100 miles of remaining range to get where you’re going.
It’s a Burden to Always Be Monitoring the Battery Gauge
With a traditional gasoline car, it’s basically impossible to accidentally drive 300+ miles. So if you start with a full tank, you don’t even have to look at the fuel gauge. You’re going to be fine.
But with an electric vehicle, it’s not out of the question that you might run out of battery if you don’t pay attention. A long day of running errands, or a couple of unplanned trips across town, and all of a sudden you’re getting a low battery alert and you’re not sure you can make it home.
This scenario isn’t so uncommon. Those little trips can add up, especially if you don’t plug in your car each night. And because it’s a plausible scenario, it can contribute to EV range anxiety.
Operating Close to the Full Range Decreases the Safety Margin
If you actually do need to come close to your vehicle’s full range on a regular basis, this can be another source of range anxiety. That’s because using up most of the range leaves you with a smaller safety margin. If you’re running late and need to drive faster than usual, that might take up more battery than you’re used to. If it’s an extremely cold day and you need to run the heater continuously, that eats power very fast. And if you find yourself dealing with a lot of unexpected uphill climbs, that also eats tremendous amounts of power.
If enough of these variables go against you, it’s not out of the question that a viable trip might become unviable on a single charge.
So, How Do We Cure EV Range Anxiety?
So now that we understand the problem, what’s the solution?
Battery Improvements Have Diminishing Returns
One solution that won’t get us all the way there is to increase EV ranges to that of traditional vehicle ranges. We’ve seen incredible improvements to battery technology over the years, and we’ll see more improvements in the years ahead, but these innovations are certain to taper off because the energy density of batteries puts a practical limit on how long of a range an electric car can feasibly have.
There may yet be game-changing technological breakthroughs ahead, but the technology as it stands today can’t hope to send an EV 300+ miles on a single charge without adding more batteries, which means enormous weight penalties and a loss of valuable storage space.
Building More Charging Infrastructure Will Reduce Range Anxiety
The better solution is to do for electric vehicles what gas stations did for traditional ones: Build enough charging infrastructure that people feel will never be more than a few minutes from a charging station.
To fight electric car range anxiety, we need more charging stations. We need them in big cities and small towns. We need them in the downtown cores and out in the suburbs. And we need enough capacity to meet demand. EVs are projected to continue their rapid growth in market share in the 2020s. Charging station installations have lagged behind EV adoption growth.
There is a tremendous opportunity for EV charging infrastructure installation as an ROI opportunity on parking lots you own or operate, as well as an equally important opportunity to promote public adoption of electric vehicles by supplying more infrastructure and cultivating a public mindset that charging stations are as readily available as gas stations.
We Also Need to Build Public Awareness of Existing Charging Infrastructure
Despite the shortages and the need for additional infrastructure, there is more EV charging infrastructure in operation today than most people realize. Charging stations often lack the prominence of gas stations. You can drive right by them without even realizing it. This lack of visibility contributes to electric car range anxiety, and represents low-hanging fruit in the effort to encourage EV adoption.
That’s why we’ve developed our Driver Charging App, which EV motorists can use to find nearby charging stations. If you are an employer, landlord, retail establishment, or municipal authority, we encourage you to let your employees / tenants / customers / citizens know about this app so that they can take better advantage of the existing infrastructure.
- If you are an EV charging station manufacturer, make sure you get your charging stations certified through the Electric Vehicle Charge Station (EVCS) certification program, so that they can be added to the network.
Cure EV Range Anxiety with EV Connect
At EV Connect, our main business is the charging solutions we offer our customers:
- The EV Connect Network integrates your charging stations through our open source network so that you have maximum ease of control, maintenance, and monetization, while also allowing EV drivers to find your stations more easily.
- The EV Cloud Platform offers powerful cloud-based solutions for branding and customizing your EV charging business.
To the extent that EV range anxiety can be overcome by adding more charging infrastructure and making existing infrastructure easier to find, these solutions are well worth your consideration. We serve most categories of customers, including:
- Municipalities seeking to bring EV infrastructure to their communities
- Commercial fleets seeking to switch over to EVs
- Employers looking to attract EV motorists as employees
- Higher education and healthcare providers who seek to serve everyone
- Landlords who want to appeal to EV motorists (who tend to be wealthier)
- Retail and hospitality seeking to earn more EV motorists as customers
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you confront electric car range anxiety as part of your larger strategy to take advantage of EV charging infrastructure opportunities on your parking lots.