Range Anxiety: What It Will Take to Expand EV Charging Stations
From saving money on gas to reducing one’s carbon footprint, an electric vehicle offers a myriad of benefits to consumers over a traditional gas-powered vehicle. But many consumers still retain a skepticism towards EV technology, and one of the most common reasons expressed by those hesitant to make the switch to electric is a fear known as ‘range anxiety’.
‘Range anxiety’ is the fear that your electric vehicle’s battery will run out of charge and leave you stranded before you’re able to reach your destination or an EV charging station. But both the private and public sectors are now working to combat ‘range anxiety’, efforts which could result in more extensive charging networks and, therefore, encourage more drivers to choose electric.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which the number of EV charging stations are starting to expand.
The Importance of Partnerships
In June of 2019, one of the largest electric charging companies in the United States, Electrify America, announced a partnership which allows customers to use either network with a single account and no fees. This essentially expands access to more than 30,000 DC Fast Chargers and Level 2 charging stations throughout the country.
In addition to this latest alliance, Electrify America has also partnered with other EV charging companies like EV Connect to develop innovative charging solutions that address the unique challenges of expanding the EV network in the United States.
Going forward, these partnerships will prove critical to expanding and improving the EV infrastructure in the United States and the rest of North America.
The Invisible Hand Gets to Work
While Tesla is still the leader in electric vehicle production and sales in much of the world, they are no longer the only option for consumers. Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, and Jaguar are just a few of the automakers who now offer fully electric vehicles. These vehicles range in price, style, quality, and features, but the overall increase in competition is helping to drive down the median cost of electric vehicles.
This, of course, makes electric vehicles a more viable option for a larger slice of the market. With the total number of electric vehicles increasing rapidly – The Edison Electric Institute projects that there will be over 7 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2025 – and the private sector must respond accordingly. This means not only a broader availability of electric vehicle charging stations in urban centers and populous states, such as California and New York, but along the long stretches of interstate that connect the US and the vast rural regions that define the country’s unique geography.
Some startup companies who recognize the potential upside of being among the first in this market have already started to take on this enormous challenge. But it will likely take another sort of partnership – a public-private partnership – to effectively expand EV charging station access throughout the entire country.
Similarly, more businesses are recognizing the benefits to their bottom lines by installing charging stations that enable drivers to charge while they shop.
A Push with Public Policy
The private sector is already recognizing the potential upside to investing in the EV industry, whether that’s providing a more efficient or lower-cost electric vehicle battery or offering a better EV charging solution. But that’s not to say that public policy is not critically important to ensuring the continued expansion of EV charging stations. For example, in California, a state that (not surprisingly) is leading the electric vehicle revolution, recently implemented state regulations that require new and retrofitted construction to abide by certain minimal requirements for EV charging solutions. Similarly, apartment management companies and landlords must be willing to work with tenants who drive electric vehicles to retrofit their properties to include EV charging stations.
As electric vehicles hit more roads in the United States, there will be more pressure on lawmakers to provide the necessary support for those citizens who have made the switch to electric.
Facing the Fear
In addition to expanding the EV charging station network across the United States, another way to combat ‘range anxiety’ is by addressing the fear head-on. Automakers have already done this from a practical standpoint by incorporating technology into EVs that is meant to resolve ‘range anxiety’ for drivers.
For example, Tesla and other popular electric vehicles already include a feature known as turtle mode. This is a low-power mode that is triggered automatically when the battery begins to run low. Aside from a clear alert that the battery is low, the vehicle will conserve power where possible and limit top speed so the driver has time to reach a charging station.
Marketing efforts by top automakers and EV charging network companies that aim to educate consumers could also contribute to alleviating ‘range anxiety’, but so far, such efforts have been limited.
More Work To Do
According to The Drive, Americans cite ‘range anxiety’ and cost as the top two prohibitive factors when considering an electric vehicle. The latter factor, the cost of an electric vehicle, is already well on its way to being addressed. This is thanks to the number of options for electric vehicles expanding each year – including the launch of the more affordable Tesla Model 3 – and the economies of scale which are driving down production costs associated with materials and manufacturing.
There is more work to be done to relieve ‘range anxiety’, with both the public and private sectors playing important roles. Ultimately, however, the expansion of EV charging station networks required to eliminate ‘range anxiety’ for good may depend on consumers and their willingness to steer the country towards widespread electric vehicle usage.