More drivers are warming up to the idea of purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) every year. Yet, a few major barriers continue to hold many buyers back. Although EV cost is still a major concern, it’s not the top issue. For most drivers, another barrier still looms larger: range anxiety.
What is range anxiety?
Range anxiety is the concern people have that an electric vehicle won’t have enough charge to get them from their starting point to their destination. Because charging stations aren’t as plentiful as gas stations, and many battery-powered cars can’t travel as far on one charge as traditional vehicles can on one tank of gas, range anxiety is a significant reason many people don’t buy electric vehicles.
According to a 2022 Consumer Reports survey, 61% of U.S. drivers cite worries about where and when they can charge their vehicle as the biggest reason they’re not ready to go electric. Another 55% said they’re concerned about how far EVs can go before they need to be charged. Both of these reasons — the top two among all drivers surveyed — are key aspects of range anxiety.
For society to truly become less reliant on gas-powered vehicles, range anxiety is a serious issue that must be overcome and getting past this problem requires some thoughtful planning on the part of drivers, businesses and government agencies big and small.
Here’s a look at what causes range anxiety and how everyone can do their part to make it a worry of the past.
What causes range anxiety?
Addressing range anxiety requires a multifaceted approach, as several issues contribute to the problem. For most drivers, it comes down to one or all of the following three issues: battery capacity, charging infrastructure and network roaming ability.
EV battery capacity
At one time, this was probably the top concern for most drivers. However, EV batteries have come a long way. Although the original EV models of the 1970s needed a recharge after only 40 miles or so, today’s models can easily cover the daily driving needs of most people. According to fleet management and vehicle tracking software developer Geotab, many battery-powered electric vehicles can now last for 200–300 miles on a full charge.
That said, a day of driving or a weekend adventure could easily take you farther than a single charge allows, so it’s no surprise this was still the number two concern on the Consumer Reports survey. Not only that, but many factors can diminish battery life, thus shortening your driving range.
Weather, for instance, can significantly affect battery capacity. A drive in cold temperatures can reduce your range by 25% compared to the same drive in mild weather conditions. The age of your vehicle’s battery can also affect range — Geotab reports that EV batteries typically lose about 2.3% of their charging capacity each year. This loss can increase depending on your typical driving conditions and how well you maintain your vehicle and battery.
Poor EV charging infrastructure
Although there are more charging stations in the U.S. than ever before, charging access and availability is still the top concern keeping drivers from switching to an electric vehicle.
As of late 2022, the U.S. boasts more than 56,000 EV charging stations and roughly 148,000 ports. This is roughly enough to cover the current EVs on the road, but these stations aren’t evenly distributed throughout cities and communities across the country. Plus, although the number of stations has doubled since 2018, the U.S. must triple its charging station installation rates over the next eight years if it’s going to meet the expected charging demand in 2030.
To achieve this goal, the federal government is currently making significant investments in the nation’s charging infrastructure. In September 2022, the Biden Administration announced that it had approved Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plans for all 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. That means every state can now tap into the $5 billion in funding made available under the program. Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, extended the tax credit for residential and commercial EV charging stations until 2032.
Lack of EV charging station compatibility
Charging station interoperability is another important, though perhaps lesser known, issue that can contribute to range anxiety. Without the right software and hardware for EV charging, you may find yourself unable to charge your car even if there is a charger available.
Existing charging stations and networks have been developed over decades by a variety of players, creating a patchwork of hardware and software that, in many cases, doesn’t communicate or interface well. Different automakers use different types of charging ports, and some networks don’t use an open standard for software communication. This can leave drivers in a lurch when they need to charge. Enel X Way’s JuicePump DC fast chargers address these issues by charging all electric vehicles, including Tesla with an adapter, up to 80% in 20 - 30 minutes.
3 ways drivers can reduce range anxiety
At a societal level, changes to technology, legislation and charging infrastructure take time. That doesn’t mean you have to wait to make the switch to an EV, though. There are three things you can do to reduce range anxiety so you can be at ease on the road, even with the current limitations.
1. Evaluate your driving needs
EV battery range can vary, and newer, higher-range models tend to be more expensive. When choosing an electric vehicle, your driving habits should be a major consideration so you can find a car that fits your lifestyle and budget.
Before you begin shopping, consider your typical daily driving distance. How long is your commute? How frequently do you travel more than 150 miles? Your answers to these questions can help you find the right EV fit.
2. Plan for charging
Having an EV is a commitment to a different kind of driving — one that’s not as dependent on fossil fuels. It also represents a change in how you manage your driving and refueling habits. Instead of waiting until the gas tank is nearly empty to refuel, you should get used to recharging regularly.
The best way to ensure you can recharge every day is to install a charging station at home. The federal tax credit can shave up to $1,000 off the cost of installation, making it relatively affordable to ensure you have a full charge to start every day. There are also a wide range of incentives available from state governments and local utilities, and these can reduce your charging station costs even further. California PG&E, for instance, offers rebates of up to $2,500 per charger.
If you can’t set up your own station at home, look into charging station options at work or at stops along your regular daily routine. Many retail stores and restaurants include charging stations in their parking lots, so you can look for opportunities to top off whenever you stop to shop or enjoy a meal.
3. Use EV charging apps
Many charging station providers and networks now make it easy to find stations near you or along your travel route. With the Enel X Way App, for instance, you can quickly locate nearby charging stations, check to ensure they’re online and plan your route accordingly. If you plan ahead in this way, you’ll find there’s always a charging station within reach.
What organizations can do to beat range anxiety
The nation’s charging infrastructure is growing, and batteries are improving all the time — some new models boast ranges of 500 miles or more. But businesses and government agencies don’t have to wait around for these new models to become the norm.
Local businesses and government agencies can act now to reduce range anxiety for many by expanding infrastructure. With all 50 states approved for funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, state and local agencies can begin working together to build and maintain more charging stations along key corridors.
Businesses, meanwhile, can again take advantage of the renewed EV charging station tax credits. The credit is good for 6% of charging station costs and up to $100,000 per unit, and equipment must be placed in low-income or non-urban areas. By reducing costs and charging fees for charging station usage, many companies can make a smart business choice — and increase charging accessibility while also making a smart business move. Like residents, businesses can also take advantage of commercial incentives from state agencies and local utilities. The Arizona Salt River Project, for example, offers up to $15,000 in rebates for commercial charger installations.
Leave range anxiety in the dust
Range anxiety is still a major concern for many drivers, one that must be overcome to see EV adoption gain more momentum. The good news is that there’s already a lot you can do to ensure you’ll have plenty of charge to get where you’re going.
By planning for your driving and charging needs, using EV charging apps, and looking to utility or government programs to help you afford your own EV charging station, you can overcome range anxiety and make the jump to an EV today.
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