Your take-home message:
Range anxiety is a small and manageable concern for most experienced Electric Vehicle owners.
This month’s poll:
Our ninth 1-click survey invited your response to the following statement: “Getting stranded by running my battery flat is a real worry for me” • The poll was sent on 9 July 2017 to 203 Electric vehicle owners who have enrolled in the Flip The Fleet project • 127 members responded by 17 July • 78 members provided reasons for their choice which we summarise below.
What makes you Click?
Most (72%) of the Flip the Fleet members experience little or no ‘range anxiety’ while driving their electric cars. They quickly gained confidence with experience and have learnt that the risk of being stranded with a flat battery is easily managed. It just needs simple forward planning, attention to the EV’s instrumentation, and driving within the range capacity of their model of car. EV owners enjoy the benefits of having their own private ‘energy station’ at home and mostly just plug-in as needed when reaching home base. More concentration is needed on occasional long trips from their home into unfamiliar terrain, or where there are few rapid chargers.
Although most EV drivers quickly overcome range anxiety, worry levels vary greatly between individuals. Around a quarter of drivers are anxious about running their battery flat, and 7% feel this quite intensely, at least at first. Risk of being stranded increases in winter when range drops, and when driving outside urban areas. Businesses that run a fleet of EVs have to train multiple drivers. Many families retain an old petrol car for long trips but transfer most of their short range travel to their electric vehicle. Others keep two electric vehicles, one more expensive one for longer trips and a smaller one for around home base. Roll-out of rapid chargers and arrival of less expensive long-range electric vehicles is quickly reducing this residual risk of running out of energy on long trips.
In general, electric vehicle owners consider ‘range anxiety’ to be a much exaggerated issue in the minds of others. It’s little different from making sure you don’t run out of petrol in a conventional car. So it’s more of a mind set and perception issue than a real problem. And if the worst does indeed happen, lots of help is available. One respondent urged us to avoid using the coined phrase ‘range anxiety’ altogether because it applies to conventional vehicles and PHEVs as much as to electric vehicles, and perhaps we should replace it with ‘basic trip planning’ instead?
So what’s the real worry?!
Flip the Fleet will give high priority to collecting data to show the relative risk of EVs being stranded with a flat battery, compared with conventional cars running out of fuel. We will also emphasise that managing range anxiety is easily done by most EV drivers through basic trip planning, and that “flat battery” events are actually very rare.
Your comments in detail:
Below is an edited summary of your comments. Please now add discussion to this blog to sharpen our collective strategy for accelerating electric vehicle uptake.
Running out is unlikely but does happen: “I’ve driven 50,000 electric only km without any problems.” • “It’s unlikely to happen” • “I’m usually well prepared. I’m pretty familiar with what’s required on my usual routes and my fears are usually unwarranted” • “I have a friend who is a tow truck driver and he has picked up a few EVs just short of town” • “In 51 years of driving an ICE, I have run out of gas 3 times – I bet I can score just as well in whatever number of years I have left driving a battery around”
Any new technology brings its worries: “When I first had my Leaf I did have considerable ‘range anxiety’ as comes with any new technology” • “It doesn’t take long to get know your car’s range and to allow for summer or winter temperature effects on range, and to plan the trips and distances”
You learn fast and confidence grows: “Getting to know the car helps determine the possible range elevating the need to worry” • “It’s something to worry about, but after the first month of EV ownership, I understood the car’s range. I am still always aware of the battery state of charge but not worried about it” • “I have become more confident in my judgement of the battery charge required for my planned trips” • “You only run out completely once – and learn from it!” • “In just a matter of weeks after buying our Leaf, my wife and I became very comfortable about driving within the car’s range. It quickly became second nature when we leave home to have a quick check of the range and on our length of trip, based on our familiarity with our regular destinations and our sense of distances around town to other destinations. Likewise when we park back at home we have a quick think about the range left and our next trips” • “I’m still a newbie, so learning”
It just needs a bit of planning and organisation: “Planning is essential……locating charging stations by using available apps, and understanding range/actual driving distance of your vehicle. The answer to range anxiety is organisation. So far so good” • “I’m sure situations may arise where a problem could occur but I feel you would be unlucky or very disorganised for this to eventuate” • “I can’t just pull into a Gas Station. I have to plan journeys and make sure I have enough juice to get there and back” • “It doesn’t take long with a Nissan Leaf to plan journeys over a 3-day timeframe – the usual time for me between charges” • “I think this issue of anxiety is more around the driver’s habits, rather than related to the vehicle” • [3 similar comments]
More of a challenge for businesses? “Our EV’s are shared for business, and there is still a lot of culture change to be taken on around how they perform compared to ICE vehicles” • “We run a business vehicle and it’s imperative that we have enough charge to get to all our deliveries and back to ‘home base’ (before next top-up charge). There is one Fast Charger in Wellington City at present (Z Vivian St) that we could use in an emergency, but would be great for this to increase over the next year for more flexibility in how we can utilise our vehicle”
It’s more of a worry in winter: “During the winter months, we have noticed we cannot travel as far as during the summer. There was a couple of times that we got worried about making it all the way home. so it would be super nice to see more rapid charging stations in the region to make sure that even during the winter months, we can confidently travel to locations as we would during the summer” • “I sailed close to empty a few in to my first winter when the range dropped far more than I expected, but this year as the Otago winter bites, I’m pretty relaxed and confident”
Adjustment for load is needed: “The slight concern is due to the effect on travel distance of having many people in the car (possibly with baggage) or the impact of lights at night time on the longer run to Dunedin from Hampden. However, its early days so I expect this will soon be known”
Unknown terrain up ahead can cause a heart flutter: “Yesterday I charged at HVS Motors in Gore. I knew I needed 14 kWh to get to Balclutha, but left Gore with only 13 kWh. The hills before Balclutha sucked my power and I reached turtle at Peggydale i.e. 0.5 kWh remaining and 4 km to go. Luckily it was all downhill to the rapid from there and I gained an extra 0.1 kWh and got to the charger with .6 kWh left. It was my own stupid fault. I should have stayed charging in Gore for 15 more minutes”
A few frights concentrate one’s mind! “I worried more at first, but then also got a bit cocky. A couple for frights concentrated my mind nicely until I learned the effects of having extra people on board, running the heaters and especially driving fast” • “Been pretty close to empty a few times (2-3 year) arriving at a rapid charger and it sure gives us a bit of anxiety.” • “I have now been very close to “running out” but never to turtle mode. In Whangarei, in my use zone, the nearest charger is only 2-3 km away, so I’ve always been able to make it to a charging point” • “One time, within the first weeks I left the kids in the car listening to the radio while I popped into the fish and chip shop for their tea. By the time I came out I had gone from 9% to a flashing. I had left the heater blowing which didn’t help. I had only 7km to get home but, with just 500yds from our drive, we slowed to a stop. My wife drove out and towed us home, but it was a lesson well learned. [There were 5 more comments along these lines]
The car gives you lots of warning: “The dashboards are much better now at signalling remaining charge and range (bars in a Gen 1 leaf are a bit too coarse for comfort)” • “Flashing lights and increasingly shrill Japanese tones are hard to miss” • “My car tells me when the battery is getting low. It doesn’t just stop cold with no warning” • “I have a car with a range of 400+ km and a computer that will advise me early of a possible shortfall in range. It will also tell me to slow down 15KPH to make it home”
Reducing risk is easy: “Actively monitor remaining range and calculate trip distance and battery demand (driving conditions, terrain, load, wind, etc)” • “Carry a 10 amp charge cable and anticipate charge opportunity” • “Use the Plugshare app on your smart phone – it shows all your options in the vicinity” • “On the odd occasion when I wonder if I’m going to have enough to get all my running around done, I drive slower, grab an hour or 2 on slow charge somewhere or just wing it” • “Just make sure you’re tracking OK. If the range is falling faster than the distance still to go, we ease up until they’re back in sync. On those trips we still arrived with about 20km of range left”
Exaggerated concern in the minds of others! “I think these are obstacles that non EV drivers worry about more than we do” • “I notice when friends who don’t own an EV are passengers, they are forever watching the dashboard and commenting on the remaining charge – fear of running out is blown out of all proportion by most non-EV owners” • “Some people just want to magnify the ‘range anxiety’ problem as another reason for driving a carbon guzzler – business as usual” • “Giving “range anxiety” a name like that didn’t help because it makes it sound more important than it really is, and because it’s the same issue for ICVs, PHEVs and EVs. Flip the Fleet should put it out there that it’s easily managed and doesn’t mean you can’t take you EV places”
Don’t be stupid! “We are not idiots. We can see how much we have in the tank before we start out” • “Having owned my Leaf for 20 months I know exactly how far it will go on X number of kWhs. If I run out of power in the middle of nowhere then it’s my own stupid fault. But I can see that as a barrier to the general populous. At this point in time, affordable EVs are not designed for stupid people. :-)”
Not that different from running an ICE dry? “But I’ve done the same with my ICE, with the trip computer estimating 2km left “in the tank” when pulling up to a petrol station.” • “It’s no more of a worry than running out of petrol in an ICE. Once you know the cars limits, it’s fine” • “EVs don’t drain the battery much when stuck in a traffic jam – anyone low on petrol in an ICE is much more likely to be worried” • “It’s like filing your car with petrol. It shows how far you have to go. Running out of charge is no different to running out of fuel” • “Running out of battery is no more of an issue than running out of fuel (petrol/diesel) is. You keep your eye on how much you have left, and make sure you have enough to get to somewhere to re-fuel” • “It’s the same as running out of petrol – I make sure I have enough before I set out on my journey, or enough to reach the next filling station. Same with EV. There are many public charging stations throughout the country. And if desperate can always stop at a café or a motel for the night. So no need for concern”
… well maybe it is a bit different from running an ICE dry after all? “If you run out on the open road it is not as easy to put electricity into the car as it is to pour petrol into a tank” • “I can’t just walk down the road with a jerry-can to a local petrol stop and then get going is a minus for EVs, so it takes a bit more forward planning”
Adjustment your mind-set: “It is no more worrying to me than running out of petrol and being stranded in an ICE car. A little bit of planning and a different mind-set enables me not to worry about it” • “Range anxiety can be overcome with good planning and to the number of charging stations around. You just have to adjust your expectations for travel distances” •”It’s just a mind set – more an issue of perception than a real worry”
Our convenience home energy station: “99% of the time both our EVs are charged at home, so we always leave home on a full battery.” • “Every evening we recharge the car at home. If we have a busy day with more trips and longer distances than usual we might give it a top up during the day” • “Almost always, I simply charge overnight from home when I estimate I don’t have enough charge for the next day’s travel” • “We would charge at home 95% of the time and generally have 100-150 km of range available” • “We also use solar to trickle charge the cars during the day where possible”
No worry in local travel routines: “All my travel is local and so I just plug it in at night if it’s getting a bit low on charge” • “typical runs are well within the car’s capacity” • “I’m not worried about the battery because I use the car for around town running and getting the kids from school. If I’m home I plug in during the day to use our solar to top up the car and then do more running around later in the afternoon / evening” • “The range of my Leaf at 100km+, is easily more than I need for daily use”
No sweat around town: “As a city dweller we have transport alternatives at hand” • “We’ve never needed to use a rapid charger here in Auckland. We’ve never dropped below about 20km of range left” • “Not a worry because I’m only traveling around town” • “At this stage I don’t us my EV for out of town running, (I have a second vehicle), so if I did run out of power within Dunedin, I see it as an inconvenience, not a disaster. Tow trucks are not too far away, and home is within walking distance” • “I am mostly in the city limits so, worst case, I might need a tow. And I try to manage my battery so that I don’t run out in the first place! Always keep a 20km or so margin” • “Within the city there are quite a few locations for a charge and even a fast charge if needed urgently – latter often at no cost” [3 more comments like this]
Only an issue on long trips to new country: “This is not a worry for my daily journeys – it only concerns me now when I go on a long trip” • “For the I3 which is used around town, a full charge is 4 times an average days driving” • “I have yet to use my leaf for anything other than commuting, for which it has more than adequate range. I am sure there will always be this concern for longer trips until the infrastructure improves” [2 more comments like this]
Reduced range prevents longer trips, not increased risk of being stranded: “I have a Gen 1 Leaf with less than 80 km range if on open roads. There are insufficient fast chargers within range of Christchurch to venture much outside the city”
Choice of EV matches the range needed: “Bought the car for local running / home charging only. Range is not, and never will be an issue” • “My driving usually well within car range” • “I specifically bought the KIA Soul as it has a battery large enough to do my daily commute of 120km (round trip) in a single charge with about 25% remaining on returning home. If I need to do a bit of extra running around, there is a good choice of DCFC locations to enable a top up to ensure I get home with plenty of charge to spare” • “Because I have purchased a vehicle that has the range to travel to my regular destinations and home again – where I recharge on a regular basis.”
PHEVs owners are chilled, but also learn to maximise use of the battery: “I’m never worried because I have a REX!” • “I have a PHEV so it’s not an issue” • “I drive a Volt. No range anxiety” • “I’ve got a hybrid, so it isn’t a worry, but the battery usually does all I need in my local driving around, what I have found though, is that I tend to drive far more conservatively to keep the “eco” level going, and the cruise control is a godsend too” [3 more comments like this]
Varying worry levels: “I’m relaxed, but it does worry my wife enough that she won’t drive the Leaf” • “Being stranded means dependence on rescue by flatbed truck, or imposing on friends for power infusion. Same situation as an ICE “breakdown”, as running out of fuel is now almost unheard of for ICE vehicles. It’s a major inconvenience!” • “I think ‘range anxiety’ is a term that is invented by auto manufacturers to discredit the EVs”
More fast chargers are needed in some places: “Not enough fast chargers about yet” • “The network of public fast chargers is still not dense enough, so journeys have to be carefully planned and may even involve slow charging which probably entails an overnight stay”
Enough fast chargers are available to reduce range anxiety in some places: “We have plenty of High Speed chargers in our area” • “As I see it, fast chargers should be “insurance” to be able to charge up, and ideally be located all over the city / country. And not be free. I use whatever fast charger is available (typically ChargeNet or Vector), and do not mind paying. So, I am learning to plan ahead a bit more now, including taking ‘slow charge’ gear with me, so if I am out of town I can charge at my client’s during the day / motel at night. There is going to be a golden equation of how much charge a car can receive overnight in domestic circumstances (i.e. current limited) compared to vehicle battery size and average trip distance during a week. Access to fast chargers is an essential part of this equation” • “the concern will continual to flare as EV numbers grow and if Charging facilities lag – as then queueing to charge will be the discomfort” [2 more comments like this]
The situation has rapidly improved, and will get even better: “There are now plenty of chargers around me” • ““Increasing fast chargers at 50km intervals have overcome my initial worries”
Back-up of an ICE in the garage: “I tend to let my charge get quite low because I feel it helps extend battery life, but we have a petrol car as a back-up” • “Most EV owners actually have a virtual hybrid as a home fleet because they keep an old ICE for towing and occasional long-distance trips, but transfer 95% of their normal vehicle use to the EV for local routines”
Long-range cars are already here, but we need cheaper ones: “For the Tesla which we use on long road trips, a full charge is 500km and there are already plenty of fast charging stations throughout the country” • “Really looking forward to EV’s with greater range though!!” • [1 extra] • “I would enjoy my car being able to drive further but that’s another question” • “The money you save on day to day use of an EV can be used to hire for the holiday anyway”
Big Toot and Little toot: “We have a Tesla with 400+ km range and a Nissan Leaf that has a range of 120km which my wife uses as a shopping basket. We swap cars if she needs to go further”
The small battery that drives the car’s accessories is also important: “I took the Leaf work in Oamaru last week and I had the radio on and the door open for a while. When I went to go home the small battery had discharged and the car would not start. I called the AA and they were able jump start it and off home I went. I know you are referring to the main battery in your question but the effect of running out of main battery power is the same. You have to have a plan to make sure that you can make it home or are able to get to a recharging station”
Don’t panic, help is at hand: “I do have another vehicle (sorry it is diesel) for longer trips, say Wanaka to Dunedin, and that certainly alleviates any “range anxiety” • “The AA will tow me to the nearest place I can charge. So all I lose is time” • “State Roadside Assist will transport my car up to 10km to the nearest fast charger” • “I’ve run out a couple of times and it’s not different to a petrol car – you need to ring the AA and get towed to the nearest charger. There’s a cost but no stranding” • “I have purchased Annual AA Recovery service. If my battery goes flat, I will need a static tow to the nearest fast charger” • “I live in West Auckland where there are no fast chargers. If I run out, I thought AA breakdown service might have power packs – but no they are still in the steam era” • “Hyundai Support would take you to the nearest charger or home” [4 more comments like this]
The unexpected is a residual worry: “Power may not be available after a major natural disaster” • “I commute 85 Km to work, through the countryside, no charger along the way. What worries me are things like long detours after a road accident or unusual weather like heavy snow or very strong head winds” • “if the fast charger I have targeted to charge from 6% up to 80% was non-operational, I would definitely have an issue and have had to use some other way to charge”
Get smart about spreading the word: “Us EV owners have to get smart in how we communicate and overcome the perception that “range anxiety” is a big problem. We can’t just wait till there are more chargers or car’s with bigger batteries – for the next crucial decade we have to have people buy the cheaper and entry-level second-hand EVs like the a Leaf, iMiEV or Zoe. And we need to work hard to head off the unnecessary step of people going for PHEVs (rather than pure EVs right away), which in the end are double trouble and half the transformation we need”
A change in national policy needed to build the infrastructure: “Policy around EVolution in NZ needs to rapidly develop as in just the last few months the realization of the need for EVs to provide some of New Zealand’s emission reduction (required by our Paris commitments) has firmed. Much more co-ordination and drive needs to come from central government to drive local government and network providers to work alongside “the market”. It is also the case that government investment is required with much of the enabling charging infrastructure provision likely to prove uncommercial … a la provision of street lights. It’s time to move beyond the “photo op” level funding we currently see” • “While we find the EV is good for almost all our car trips, the lack of appropriate charging infrastructure has meant we’ve changed habits and still use an ICE for longer trips. We want that to change and for it to change we need faster roll-out of fast charging infrastructure. The government needs to stop floating around for photo ops with ChargeNet and start investing more in fast-tracking fast charging, making all our highways electric highways”
What should we ask the members next? This poll was suggested by Dan Capper and Morgan Knoesen, both of whom have enrolled their EVs in Flip the Fleet. Please suggest questions to ask of your fellow EV owners in future 1-click surveys – email your requests to email@example.com.
Dima Ivanov & Henrik Moller
21 July 2017