“Range anxiety” is one of the most commonly cited reasons for not making the switch to an electric car. But are concerns about range misguided? Read on to find out!
Photo credit: InsideEVs
You want to go electric, but you’re worried – worried about where to charge, when to charge, how much it will cost, and if your car will have enough range to meet your needs. That’s because you’ve got “range anxiety,” a condition that keeps swaths of American drivers away from EVs. But we want you to know that driving an EV is easier, cheaper and less hassle than a gas-burning car, even if range anxiety has got you down. Here are five things to soothe those range-induced jitters.
If you’ll allow me to adopt my best Sigmund Freud affect, I sink vee kan get to zee root off your troublez, ja? When we say “range anxiety,” what I think folks are afraid of is (quite reasonably) the car suddenly being dead in the fast lane of some distant interstate miles from home, with semi-trucks blasting their air horns on three sides. The car turns into a brick, and even if you do get to the shoulder safely, there are no charge stations for miles and it would take hours and hours to recharge your battery even if you could find one.
The reality is this: your car’s range-remaining estimator is very accurate, so you’ll have plenty of advance notice on when your range will run low. If it does, your car is engineered to give you ample and continuous warnings when it’s low on charge and can go much further on zero percent than you think.
Additionally, there are very few densely-populated areas in North America or Europe that are more than 10 or 20 miles from either a level-2 station (which can add 20-30 miles of range per hour) or a DC fast charger (also known as DCFC, which can add 200 or more miles in an hour). If you’re in a Tesla, you’ve got the Tesla Supercharger network, which will add 150 miles or more to a Model 3 or Y in less than 20 minutes.
Not only do all modern EVs have navigation that shows you where the stations are, there are many smartphone apps that also give charging station locations as well as info on whether they’re working, what payment they accept and if they’re compatible with your vehicle.
Remember, too, that you don’t have to wait the full amount of time to completely charge your battery in the event that your battery is running low. In fact, most manufacturers don’t want you to fast-charge the battery past 80 percent; the charging software will slow down the rate of charge as the battery gets full to prevent overheating. It’s more efficient to fast-charge a mostly empty battery; below 20 percent is ideal. So if you need a 50 percent charge to get home and your car is at 15 percent, you only need to add a 35 percent charge, which even in the slower-charging Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf shouldn’t take more than 25 or 30 minutes. In a Tesla Model 3, it will take less than 15.
The next time you’re asked how long it takes to charge an EV, you can say “about five seconds.” That’s because almost 90 percent of the time EV owners charge at home, according to a 2019 study. Since about 63 percent of Americans have a reserved place to park and charge at their homes, most of the time the charging process is to pull into a driveway or garage, get out of the car, open the charge port, grab the handle on a level-2 charger and plug it in. You then go to bed, and in the morning, like magic, your car is fully charged. It’s like living in a gas station that sells $1-a-gallon gas, but without the gasoline smell and with cleaner bathrooms (hopefully).
Sure, it’s fast to fill up with gas, but is it really that convenient? Gas is pricey now, with a nationwide average of $4 a gallon; in California we pay well over that, so shopping around can save you significantly. But the cheapest stations aren’t the most conveniently located, are they?
Even though the filling process is less than five minutes, if you’re late to get somewhere or need to get home and your car is out of gas, you can’t just go home and let the magic fairies fill it up for next to nothing. No, you have to start the whole where-is-the-cheapest-gas scavenger hunt, drive to the station, wait in line, fuss with the card reader (or, horror-of-horrors, go inside to pay, where there is always a guy in front of you yelling at the poor clerk about lotto tickets) and spill gas on your shoes. If you have to worry about having enough battery to get home once or twice a year, I’d say that’s a small price to pay to dispense with the daily anxiety of buying and burning gasoline.
Many knock EVs off their list because they believe there isn’t enough range – but most are using fringe cases to explain why that range doesn’t meet their needs. Manufacturers could build cars with so much range only a driver with a bladder the size of a child’s wading pool could drain the battery in a single trip. But they don’t (with a few exceptions), because most EV drivers truly don’t need it. How many 300-mile or longer road trips do you really go on every year? According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics (because it’s a thing), the median long-distance car trip Americans take is 194 miles, well within the range of almost all the current-generation EVs. Be realistic about your expected travel patterns and plan from there, not on what might happen.
We get that a car is a serious purchase, especially an electric vehicle. When faced with a big financial decision they only make every decade or so, folks want to make sure it’s the right one, so they want a car that will do it all. They want third-row seats in case they have kids, leather in case they have dogs, and all-wheel drive in case said kids or dogs decide they want to learn how to ski. They want great fuel economy, of course, but it also has to fit in their garage, have a dealer nearby, have the right finance terms, and of course be the perfect color. Do they ever get all those things in one car? Of course they don’t—that car doesn’t exist.
EVs can’t deliver gasoline-car range and refueling times (yet). But what they can do is provide smooth, clean and reliable transportation at very low cost, and lessen the environmental impact of driving. If you should be anxious about anything, it’s the 20 pounds of CO2 a gas-powered engine pours into the environment with every gallon of gas burned.
Driving an EV requires a little more thought and planning than a gas-burner (again, for now), but it’s hardly a lifestyle disrupter, and 90 percent of the time it’s more convenient as well; how many hours a year do you spend finding the cheapest gas, waiting in line at the cashier behind the guy who wants the one brand of smokes they don’t carry and then inhaling gas fumes as your tank fills? It’s only 10 or 20 minutes out of your week, but it adds up!
We promise the anxiety will melt away like magic as you get familiar with the benefits of electric mobility. No need to call Dr. Freud.
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