One of the issues related to driving an electric vehicle is referred to as range anxiety, which is when people are not fully familiar with the car and afraid it will not drive as far as they expect it to do, or that they will simply strand alongside the highway with an empty battery. It is true that the effective range an electric vehicle can drive is less than the range of a combustion engine vehicle on a full tank. It is also true that most people are quite familiar with how far they can go on a tank of fuel. The bottleneck is the lack of familiarity and the perception of ‘what do we really need’. This post will deal with the perception, a follow up will provide more details on the ‘what we really need’ part of the equation.
Range Anxiety - The fear of getting stranded with an empty battery
Let’s take a look at your cellphone, you probably have one. Every phone has some way to indicate how much charge is left in the battery, either as a percentage, or with 4 levels indicating 100%, 75%, etc. Having used your phone for some time, you also get a good idea of how much you can do with your phone, before you have to charge the battery again. In some cases with the popular smartphones for example, you can get one day of surfing the web, a few calls, emails, listening to music and taking a few pictures while getting GPS directions to a location. After that you have to plug in your phone again to recharge it. In this case, you are used to this system. In the early generations of phones, people went looking for the phones with the longest standby time and the longest time they could make calls with it. Nowadays people are generally near a wall socket a few times a day and are willing to charge their phone more regularly. They have grown accustomed to charging their phone more regularly and have come to realize that it makes no sense to have five full days of talk-time, as you frequently have an option to recharge your phone wherever you are.
Another example is when I was out on the road a lot for the first time in a car I did not really know well. It was running on diesel and I only had a guesstimate of how much fuel was in the tank and how far I could still drive with it. I did notice however that especially the first few days, I was constantly checking how much fuel I had left. Talk about range anxiety there! I simply was not used to driving and I had no feeling for the range of the car.
I think that if people get more used to electric vehicles, they grow more accustomed to what they are capable of and how far they can drive before they need a charge again. Once this process sets in, range anxiety will be perceived less of a problem.