What is Range Anxiety with Electric Vehicles?

Range anxiety is what an electric vehicle (EV) driver feels when the battery charge is low, and the usual sources of electricity are unavailable. It sparks a fear of getting stranded somewhere, which adds time, inconvenience, and stress to a journey. Studies show that driving range and a lack of charging infrastructure are the primary reasons people do not consider EVs when buying a new vehicle.

Electric SUV Recharging in Parking Garage

Typically, range anxiety results when life throws an EV owner an unexpected curveball and alters the daily routine. Here is an example. Someone asks you to go somewhere or do something at the last minute, but you didn’t fully charge your EV the night before. Now, depending on where you need to go and what you need to do, you might also need to find an open charging station, take the time to recharge your battery, and then tackle your task. If the task can’t wait, you’re left hoping that you’ll have enough charge to accomplish it and then find a charging station before you’re left stranded on the side of the road.

You can feel range anxiety while driving a gasoline-engine vehicle, too. It happens when you let your fuel level drop too low, and you can’t find a gas station. If you’ve ever run a car out of gas, you know the feeling of dread as the engine sputters to a stop and you coast to the shoulder of the road. Of course, the difference is that finding a gas station remains easier than finding a charging station.

A tsunami of electric vehicles (EVs) is coming soon, whether consumers want them or not. Most are priced high and aimed at luxury car buyers who are technologically savvy and own a home where they can install a convenient charging station. When they’re away from home, these EV owners are comfortable using smartphone apps to find open charging stations and payment apps to pay for electricity. And Tesla owners can use the automaker’s exclusive national Supercharger network, which provides fast, convenient charging from Westchester County to West Yellowstone, Montana. 

Still, even for the earliest of adopters and wealthiest of EV drivers, range anxiety can be a problem. If you’re interested in getting an electric car, but you’re worried about range anxiety or finding open public charging stations, consider these ways of reducing the perceived stress of owning an EV.

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Buy a plug-in hybrid 

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average American drives 31 miles per day. Any electric car can travel 31 miles on a full battery, even a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. But, when life throws you a curveball, you might need to travel farther than 31 miles in one day. Perhaps even 20 times that distance. What then?

If you buy a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), you’ll never suffer range anxiety. A PHEV operates solely on electricity for short distances, such as during your daily commute. When the battery reaches its minimum state of charge, a gasoline engine starts, and the vehicle operates like a traditional hybrid. After that, as long as you can recharge the PHEV or find a gas station when the fuel tank gets low, a PHEV won’t strand you somewhere.

Better yet, a PHEV recharges using a standard household electrical outlet, so you don’t need any special equipment aside from the charging cord that comes with the vehicle.

Install a home charging station

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says that over 80% of battery charging takes place at home, overnight. Make a habit of plugging in your EV every night before bed, and topping it off takes little time unless life threw you a curveball that day.

Installing a home charging station is easy, but it could be expensive. They cost hundreds of dollars, require professional installation by a licensed electrician, and older homes may require electrical system upgrades to accommodate them. But, in exchange, you’ll never need to stop at another gas station or oil change shop. Ever. 

Join a national charging station network 

Sometimes, you’ll need to recharge your EV when you’re away from home or work (if your employer offers charging stations at the office). Joining a national charging station network like Chargepoint or Electrify America can provide the convenient access to charging stations that Tesla owners enjoy through the company’s Supercharger network, but without the stylishly designed chargers and lots. 

Charging station networks offer smartphone apps that you can use to find an open station. Set up the smartphone app to automatically pay for charging, and you’ll pull in, connect, charge, and go without swiping a credit card or handing over cash to a clerk. 

Just remember that when you’re away from home, it’s a bad idea to wait until the battery is almost empty before seeking out a charging station. They’re not nearly as plentiful as gasoline pumps.

Rent a gasoline vehicle for road trips 

Taking an EV on a road trip requires careful planning and patience. Your route must include charging stations, and your itinerary must account for recharging time.

You can avoid this added hassle by choosing a PHEV instead of an EV. Or, you can rent a gasoline-fueled car or SUV for road trips. Better yet, by renting a traditional vehicle, you put fewer miles and less wear-and-tear on your car.

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Going electric is easy if you get a PHEV. It’s the equivalent of sticking your toes into a pool to see how cold or warm the water is and whether or not you’ll be comfortable once you’re in the water. And when you can’t plug in a PHEV for recharging, simply use gasoline. You can drive a PHEV from Boston to Los Angeles, right now, without any extra planning or using a charging station.

If you’re going to dive into the deep end of the electric vehicle pool, know that while EVs can occasionally prove aggravating when it comes to recharging, the majority of the time, they are not. Furthermore, charging station networks are expanding significantly and finding one is getting easier every day.

Now, if we could just find a way to get recharging times down, you’ll have few reasons for skipping an EV in favor of a traditional gasoline-fueled vehicle with an internal combustion engine.