‘Range Anxiety’ Is Becoming Less And Less A Barrier To Entry
Range Anxiety is the fear that a vehicle has insufficient range to reach its destination and would thus strand the vehicle’s occupants.
The term, which is primarily used in reference to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), is considered to be one of the major barriers to large scale adoption of all-electric cars. The term range anxiety was first reported in the press on September 1, 1997 in the San Diego Business Journal by Richard Acello referring to worries of GM EV1 electric car drivers.
On July 6, 2010, General Motors filed to trademark the term, stating it was for the purpose of ‘promoting public awareness of electric vehicle capabilities’. The Norwegian equivalent rekkeviddeangst was assigned second place in a list of Norwegian words of the year for 2013 by the Norwegian Language Council.
The main strategies to alleviate range anxiety among electric car drivers are the deployment of extensive charging infrastructure, the development of higher battery capacity at a cost-effective price, battery swapping technology, use of range extenders, accurate navigation and range prediction and availability of free loan vehicles for long trips.
Range anxiety may be exaggerated, as recent studies have concluded that most daily trips can be accomplished within the range of an inexpensive electric vehicle.
The concern that users of all-electric vehicles may become stranded has led to public calls for extensive public charging networks. As of December 2013, Estonia is the only country that had deployed an EV charging network with nationwide coverage, with fast chargers available along highways at a minimum distance of between 40 to 60 kms (25 to 37 miles), and a higher density in urban areas.
There is new research though that suggests our concern with Range Anxiety is overblown. By analyzing people’s driving habits across the country, Jessika Trancik at MIT and colleagues found that currently available electric cars could replace 87% of the personal vehicles on the road and still get us where we need to go (and back again). Assuming battery technology improves in keeping with government estimates, by 2020 up to 98% of vehicles could be replaced!
Getting electric cars widely adopted still presents challenges. The biggest is dealing with the remaining 13% of cars making trips that are too long for today’s electric vehicles.
Trancik further details that people need to have a convenient alternative on their high-energy days, or they will never purchase an electric vehicle. Sharing of gas-powered vehicles is one potential solution, and down the road, quick-charging stations or battery swapping may become more realistic options.