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EV Owners Address Range Anxiety

What do you answer people who ask you questions about range anxiety? Here is what electric vehicle owners say.

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Those who are not fans of electric vehicles attack 100% EVs because of what is known as range anxiety, which is the fear that an EV may have an insufficient range to reach its destination. The question I wanted to ask is this. How much is this anxiety really justified? What do the EV owners think about it?

Therefore, I went ahead and asked what electric car owners think about the range anxiety and how they address it. These are people who drive their plug-in cars daily. Here is what they said. Below are some of the insightful comments I received under my question, which I asked at Electric Cars Facebook group here.

Ryland Erdman comments. Keep track of your driving habits and look at your real life needs. Electric cars work well for most people, but not everyone. Gasoline car owners' manuals tend to say that anything under 15 miles per trip is a short trip and is therefor severe service, same with stop and go driving. This type of driving they say requires servicing to be performed twice as often. Electric cars don't suffer from severe service conditions. It's about picking the right kind of vehicle for your needs and sometimes an EV is not the right choice, but most of the time it is.

Charlie Pluckhahn replies. I had a conversation exactly like this one just last week. People don't ask about range anxiety. They ask about range. I give them the maximum range -- 80 in summer, 60 in winter, noting that the heater runs off the battery that turns the wheels.

Then I point out that no one drives any car, gas or electric, all the way to empty, and tell them that I typically drive about 40 or 45 miles in winter and 60 in summer before recharging. I portray my EV as an in-city runabout, and then point at the big diesel rig as the road trip vehicle and heavy duty hauler.

People understand that EVs are limited purpose city vehicles. If the conversation lasts a while we'll get around to Tesla, and I'll tell 'em that the practical range (point at which you'd want to refill) of the big, expensive Model S with the biggest battery is 160 in winter and maybe 210 in summer, and that absolute maximum on that car would be about 195 in winter and 275 in summer.

If the conversation lasts that long, I'll liken the battery to a gas tank, and tell them that my battery is the equivalent of a gas tank that holds 7/10ths of a gallon, and that the big Tesla's battery is like a 2-1/2 gallon tank. Electric cars get great "gas mileage," about 100 or so per equivalent gallon average throughout the year, but the gas tanks are so expensive and heavy, so that's why they're so small and the range is limited.

I agree with Charlie, replies back Ryland Erdman. I've never gotten a question about range anxiety, that is a term used by auto magazine writers, not real people.
Real people want to know if it will fit their needs or not, that is it.

Range anxiety is easier to deal with than climate change, war, terrorism and economic recession. And, it usually goes away after learning to plan trips. Talk to EV owners to get real world feedback, adds Gary Krysztopik.

David Laur approaches to the topic with a positive attitude. Anxiety is a necessary part of any rewarding lifestyle. It allows us to plan, to analyze and evaluate what we are doing and this is the mechanism that kicks us in the butt to create the energy that forces us out of our cozy little cubby hole out into the World to initiate the change we need to thrive.

Bo Bennett replies. Be sympathetic to the concern. It is a real concern of real drivers. For me, living on the East Coast, EREV is the solution. I owned my Fisker for over 2 years now and I would estimate that 95% of the miles on the car are all electric, but I desperately needed those 5% gas.

Ryland Erdman comments. I've only gotten anxiety while driving a gasoline car because I have to brake my pattern, go out of my way and waste time out of my day to fuel it, that is why you often see people stranded on the side of the road in their gasoline cars that have run out of gasoline. With electric vehicles you get in with a full charge every time you leave home or work.

Charlie Pluckhahn adds to the conversation. There have been a couple range anxiety moments in the electric. Drove to a place that's about 30 miles away, but got turned around on the way there and it wound up being 35 miles there and 30 back. But it was a long, steady drive, and I wound up getting 3.4 miles/kWh, which meant that I still had 20% left.

But I wasn't sure that it'd go that well until I was most of the way home. There have been a couple other times when I drove the big-ass pickup in the city instead of the EV because I hadn't recharged the EV and I wasn't sure I'd make it all the way.

(Aside: This is one benefit of recording every charge on a spreadsheet, using an appliance meter. You know exactly what happened, and over time what the vehicle's true capability is. It works even better if you insist on not bullshitting yourself about the numbers. The longer I have the car, the more comfortable I am on range issues because I've got a very good all-season record showing just what it'll do.)

Leslie Nielsen Barton: I would explain that it does take time to learn "your" driving pattern and the car's pattern. Once you learn your pattern and how the car works then you will be able to gauge how many "miles" you use per mile. I do believe everyone will at some point have a little range anxiety. I thought I knew my pattern and my family had to go about 25 miles from home and back. We had 64 miles so I thought I knew it would take 30 "miles" there and back. I thought I was safe. I was wrong. It took us 35 "miles" there. I was going to be 7 short. We found a charging station and charged 15 "miles". Still not good enough. I coasted the last 2 miles home with -- as my range. That caused a little anxiety

Charlie Pluckhahn: One thing I suggest is not to rely on the car "guess-o-meters" without having done repeated checks through an appliance meter. I can look at my car's meter as it gets toward empty, and along with the trip odometer reading and the season, have a very good idea of how far I can go.

This kicked in just yesterday. Because of how well I know the car, how to interpret the meter, and its performance, I was able to be confident about a trip downtown and back that started with the meter showing a 30% state of charge.

Doug Martoccia: I never get asked about range anxiety, only range.

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Alex (not verified)    February 16, 2014 - 10:50AM

I have a Fiat 500e with a range of 65-85 miles. My work is 30.8 miles from my home, most of which is 60-70mph driving. I always keep an eye on my projected range and keep the cruise control at or slightly less than the speed limit. I wouldn't say I had any anxiety, but I like to make sure I have 15-20% charge when I get home. That is mostly because I do not have a fast charger yet, and the recharge time is too long if I have less than 15% left. The school district I work for recently installed solar panels and there is talk of installing EV charging stations. That will take away any remaining issues with charge times and range. I bought the car as a commuter, and it works perfectly for its purpose. I still have my Tundra as a family hauler and for long trips. The Fiat saves me enough gas money each month to pay for itself and then some. Say what you want about range anxiety, but I no longer feel any anxiety when I notice that gas prices have went up....again.

JRP (not verified)    February 19, 2014 - 2:15PM

If range anxiety is a real concern for a driver....then a plug-in hybrid is the solution. I do 98% of my driving in electric mode with a 21 mile EV range up-front and the added security of hybriid drive to allay any fears when I just can't afford to stop and charge. Best of both worlds.

Dan North (not verified)    February 28, 2014 - 1:37PM

I have owned my Nissan Leaf for over a year now and range anxiety is not a problem. That is because my wife's Honda Fit can take us anywhere over 80 miles round trip. But we now use the Leaf for every trip less than 80 miles due to the less than a third fuel and other operating costs of the Leaf. This also means that the Fit is driven less and will need less maintenance as well. If your family owns 2 or more cars, keeping one stuck with gasoline and the rest electric makes a lot of sense and saves a lot of money.

Rich Jacobs (not verified)    March 12, 2014 - 11:26AM

My schedule and commute vary. I tackle this by by using the correct tool approach. If my day requires significant driving I take my ICE car. If I am only going to the office and home, I take the Leaf. I realize this takes the ability to park and insure several cars, but the right one for the right purpose. If I used a Volt or other hybrid- my gas use would end up being substantial.

Leon Rosen (not verified)    March 12, 2014 - 1:28PM

We were one of the first to get a Leaf in the Orange County area, i.e. "early adapter". Had a 3 year lease deal that Nissan was offering. After 18 months, because of range anxiety, had to turn back the car. As other people have said, you really need to know your driving habits and distances. The first time you actually run out of juice, you begin to second guess yourself and what the car is telling you.

What we learned the hard way is: 1. what Nissan told you about the range of the car is BS. It would never go 110 miles when fully charged. You would be lucky to get 60 miles. 2. The integration of charging stations as reported by Nissan did not materialize as promised. We paid extra for the rapid charge connection and could never use it because the "soon to be operational stations" never happened. And, to my knowledge, even today, 2 years after the Leaf was turned back to the dealer, no rapid charge stations are operational.

Looking back at the experience with a more actual user experience, the current offering of EV's (with the exception of Tesla) are great local, in town forms of transportation. If you only need to go 30 miles or less in a day and you return home with a charging station, it works great. You have to consider the EV a second vehicle and must have another gas powered car in the garage or readily available to go further from the base location of the EV. If it weren't for the generous Fed & State tax incentives which brought down the cost of the car, it would be hard to justify the purchase and/or lease cost of the EV.

At first, we felt like we were doing something to help the environment and felt pretty smug when driving around town and other drivers would look over at the Leaf. Now when I see other Leaf drivers on the road, I just hope they know how far their electric cord can take them before they have to turn back. Until battery technology and infrastructure improves, our next car will either be a plug in hybrid or the new i3BMW with the small gas powered engine that can recharge the battery when you run out of juice.

Range Anxiety is a real issue at this point in the world of EV development. If you don't believe me, just check out the used car prices for a 2011 Leaf. Nissan is going to take a big financial hit when the leases start coming back and the residual values compared to the used car prices don't even come close.

Robert Barnett (not verified)    March 19, 2014 - 3:23AM

I would say that range anxiety is a given. For example, how many non-Tesla EV owners do not have a gasoline-powered vehicle and do not feel they must continue to have one (or more) - the reason being the range. Another example, my son had a soccer tournament 42 miles from home, but I did not have the guts to use the Leaf. Also, why am I always looking at the estimated remaining miles AND percent charge remaining?

That said, I feel that I have come out way ahead. First, as I knew going in, I had tons of 30-50 mile round trips. The Leaf was going to get plenty of work. Second, the dealership was close to where I lived (3 miles) and on the way to work. I bicycle to work most days and was also willing to do the 20 minute round-trip by bicycle to the dealership. I had about 2000 free miles out of 2200 miles driven. Then I moved. No problem, there is a charging station at work and one 2 miles from home (at a McDonalds). Now I am paying, but it is dirt cheap.

For the five months that I have had the Leaf, I have been using my mind and body to optimize the economics of my usage. I cannot do that with a gasoline-powered car. Again, though, range is an issue and, unlike with a gasoline car, an EV will not suit everyone for this reason. However, for those with lots of sub-60-mile trips and one or more gas cars, an EV will be great for you. Even better if you get on the internet and find the locations of charging stations. Maybe even better if you are willing to incorporate a little exercise. Finally, you can always charge at home - overnight will get you 30-40 miles.

Good luck and best wishes.

CeeG (not verified)    April 5, 2014 - 2:38AM

Range Anxiety? I own TWO electric cars ONLY - a Leaf and a Fiat. Have a blast, save lots of $$$ on nasty-ass gas and stupid ICE maintenance, and have NEVER run out of charge. People are the ones always whining about running out of charge. I ask them, "what do you think is more plentiful and accessible, underground storage tanks of noxious toxic liquid requiring pumps to distribute... or electrical outlets?" Hell, I can plug my car into a freakin' light pole with an outlet on it if I have to. BUT.... those measures are NOT even close to necessary! It's called PlugShare, ChargePoint, ReCargo apps you marks! Not to mention I usually get a full charge overnight AT HOME without even thinking about it. You shouldn't run out of charge, in fact, I have yet to meet another EV driver that has "run out" and been stranded. The other lame thing I often hear is "what if I want to drive to LA, Tahoe, xxxx spot 200+ miles away?" Simple - with the money I save every month (net $200/mo on gas alone) just on not having to bend over for the oil companies - I can just buy a plane ticket or rent a gas car for that trip that happens like, what? Once or twice a year? Sheesh... non EV driving people are such a bunch unresourceful, wimpy-ass cowards. According to DoT, avg American only drives about 40 miles/day. My Leaf gets about 70-80 miles and Fiat close to 100. So what, exactly, is the problem here?

What "range anxiety"?? What a bunch of hand-wringing excuses for nothing. Cowards! Go a pair and Go.Electric.Now.