Electric Car Range Anxiety Fact or Fiction?

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Range Anxiety: Fact or

No matter what you’re says one electric car owner, you’re nearing empty, anxiety.’

Josie Garthwaite

March 10, 2011

This is part of a special series explores energy issues. For visit The Great Energy .

One spring day in 2009, software Bill Arnett slid the wheel of his new electric Tesla and set off toward Yosemite National a journey of about 200 miles his home in Redwood City,

Far from urban centers and up the Sierra Nevada foothills, is the sort of road trip supposed to strike fear in the of an electric car driver. Range is the name for angst over stranded with a dead miles from a plug.

Yet made the Yosemite trip fear. He was driving his Signature One series Roadster —a high-end car said to travel up to 244 miles on a charge. A year later, he did it in a convoy with four Tesla owners, stopping to top off at an RV about 35 miles outside of

Range anxiety, Arnett in an email, doesn’t exist for me.

But anxiety does exist, at level, among the general A survey conducted last by the Consumer Electronics Association 71 percent of respondents feared out of charge on the road—placing range among the most common disadvantages of electric vehicles, to the study.

A number of strategies for range anxiety to rest emerged in recent years, and the is poised to pick up as more cars roll out. from the United States to to Ireland are investing millions of to install charging infrastructure so needn’t stray too far from a Software developers are building for smartphones and in-car telematics that make it easy to charge points on a map.

The startup Better Place. in Palo Alto, California, to set up large networks of charge and stations where batteries can be out in five minutes or less—theoretically the convenience and ubiquity of gas stations. The has just opened its first location where consumers can up for Better Place service and order a Renault Fluence vehicle, designed to be compatible Better Place’s automated system. General Motors, has opted to equip its plug-in Chevy Volt with a gas engine to power the car for about 250 beyond the battery pack’s 25-50-mile range.

It’s a notion that a car with range creates anxiety, Marc Geller, a longtime vehicle advocate and co-founder of In America. Automakers and critics long suggested that it was a flaw, he said. As a hurdle for vehicle adoption, however, believes the issue has been Whether you are driving a Hummer or a or a Leaf, he reasoned, When nearing empty, there’s

So the important question, he said, is not this anxiety exists, but it increases or decreases when drive an electric vehicle.

The for Electric Vehicle Owners

People who are new to electric cars come to the experience with level of apprehension about said Geller, If only they’ve been told to. But for people, it drops off over The number of people who actually run out of he said, is very small.

On a day, said Geller, who a RAV4 EV and a Nissan Leaf, absolutely no concern about On a day when he expects to drive 100 miles (the distance says some drivers can on a full charge, although the EPA the Leaf’s range at 70 miles), range anxiety in the bud requires a strategy: I plan. That can building in time for charging the way or at his destination, he said.

If he’s to travel from San Francisco to for example, Geller looks up points the day before, checking and ascertaining whether any stations are or unavailable.

Infrastructure for higher fast charging will be a addition to the toolset, especially for travel, said Geller. level 3 charging stations can an 80 percent charge in about 30 at 440V, compared to several for a full charge with a 240V (level 2) charger. If has to go 60 miles, and there’s a fast on that corridor, they be more likely to leave a gas car at he said.

For Arnett, the software who has put his Roadster to the test with trips to Yosemite, it’s for the charge level to drop even 50 percent. But he has experienced the EV of running on fumes, reaching with only a few miles of left. That was because I too many wrong turns home from a trip to he explained. Plus, he had been in a to get home so he didn’t wait for a 100 charge before leaving I charged just enough to get with a little extra he said.

I used all the margin.

Other outside of a driver’s control can depletion of the battery charge and set the stage for range anxiety. In conditions, the Chevy Volt runs its heater on electricity) only 23 to 28 miles of range on power in initial assessments by Consumer Reports last The Nissan Leaf has averaged 65 miles of range in the magazine’s tests. and its mileage gauge has unreliable.

In at least one instance the heater on, the gauge dropped to 19 miles from 36 miles, to Consumer Reports. For someone 25 from an outlet, anxiety be a reasonable response.

Hans a TV writer and producer living in Los who drove an EV1 during the 1990s and now a Nissan Leaf, has also into the abyss of a dwindling charge. With the EV1, said, he ran out of juice about a year. Upon realizing he wasn’t going to make it, he pull up to a friend’s house and plug in for a couple hours an emergency charger.

With the said Tobeason, I wouldn’t be if I goof up once a year, and to make an unplanned stop for As more charging stations are and opened to the public, however, it may not be to prevail upon friends for an

Making It Easier to Find a

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Instead, if infrastructure programs go to plan, drivers will be to top off at shopping centers, parking and other locations throughout and along major highways. In the States, the stimulus-backed EV Project is to deploy 6,350 240V 2) chargers in commercial and public by 2012, plus 8,300 chargers and 310 fast chargers interstate highways and major Market research firm Research anticipates as many as 4.7 charge point installations between 2010 and 2015, China accounting for more a third of the market by the end of that

Charging stations can help worries about EV range, only if drivers know to find them. A new, iPhone app released on Monday by Alto startup Xatori, PlugShare. promises to keep an list of public charge and to connect electric vehicle with individuals willing to an electrical outlet. It’s an that excites Geller. is everywhere, he said.

All you need to do is it available.

The fact that new generation of electric vehicles is out in an era of smartphones and mobile access to the web range anxiety easier to A decade ago, in the days of the Geller said, he carried lists of charge point Today smartphones allow him to up stations on the go; both Tobeason and said they rely on iPhone apps for charge information.

In theory these stations can be found using in-car systems. Nissan displays a map of stations in the vehicle using provided by Navteq. but it is updated quarterly. According to Nissan Katherine Zachary, the system be updated by the end of March.

In the meantime, said, the Nissan system zero stations in his area.

cars still have skeptics, of course. John B. chairman and chief executive of Corporation, speaking Tuesday at IHS a huge annual energy in Houston, Texas, predicted battery cars will urban, short-distance driving, but not play a major role the next 20 years. Battery today are too big and heavy, they too long to charge, and range is too he said.

In fact, the range of plug-in vehicles is greatly in of what most people most days, Geller According to a Pike Research 73 percent of people driving gas use their vehicles for 30 miles or each day—well within the of most upcoming electric

It’s true that cars deliver less per fill-up, said Geller. might seem like a down, not progress, when to gas cars that eke out 300 to 400 miles on a tank. But it does seem progress when you fill up in garage.

You wake up with a every day.

For Tobeason and his wife, Marie, the meets about 90 percent of driving needs. They use a Ranger pickup for the rest. But on his own experience and his friends’ transportation Tobeason believes an EV will inadequate for any household of two or more that cannot afford at two cars, including one longer-range

Geller expects electric to become the first car for many It’s the right tool for the task, he said, while gas or cars are better suited to the task. After all, he the times when we really to drive hundreds of miles at the of a hat (It’s 3 a.m. and I’ve got to go to Las right now!), are quite

Even in the event that you to take an unplanned trip to the in the middle of the night, Geller How far is the hospital going to be? Having the leap to go electric, range simply does not dominate or his experience. As Tobeason put it, Anxiety is too for me.

I’m range aware.


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