Worried about the range of your electric vehicle? Perhaps you’re suffering from “range anxiety”
Have you ever avoided using your electric vehicle because you were concerned about not reaching your destination? Always looking for charging points along the way? Can’t stop checking the battery indicator? Or have you even chosen a combustion-engine car in the end because of a fear of running out of battery? If so, you’re suffering from “range anxiety”. But don’t worry: it’s not as bad as you think.
The anxiety caused by a fear of being left by the side of the road because of a lack of juice is one of the main concerns of electric car drivers and a big hindrance to having more of these clean vehicles on the roads. According to a survey by the United States Consumer Technology Association, 71% of Americans are worried about running out of battery, and the range of electric vehicles is seen as one of their main disadvantages.
Yes, range anxiety is real. “The development of new technologies has affected different areas of knowledge. The field of psychology has also seen how using virtual reality, augmented reality and online psychotherapy has led to huge steps forward in diagnosing and treating a variety of mental conditions,” the International University of Valencia explains in its guide “Areas of psychology and the application of new technologies”.
Nomophobia (the fear of being without a mobile phone), <56addiction to the social networks and the internet, and “dead battery” syndrome (which is similar to range anxiety but concerns smartphones) are all now problems that are being discussed on psychologists’ couches around the world. In July 2015, a man was arrested for refusing to unplug his telephone from a socket on the London Underground because “he needed to be connected”. A week earlier, a teenager disturbed a Broadway show to look for a somewhere to charge his phone on stage; while in Hong Kong a woman started shouting for help and broke into tears because her phone had gone dead.
Electric vehicle drivers are also suffering from anxiety because of the chance of running out of battery. However, the reality is that in most cases, their fears are unwarranted and perhaps only exist in their heads.
An irrational fear
A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) showed that range anxiety is essentially an irrational fear and that most drivers could switch to an electric car without having to alter their driving habits or daily routines. “Eighty-seven percent of vehicles could be replaced by a vehicle with a battery, even if there’s no possibility of recharging it during the night”, researcher Jessika Trancik concludes in the report.
Electric cars on the market now boast ranges of over 100 km – more than enough for typical daily journeys (i.e., those lasting about 50 km) such as going to work, to the shops, or even going away for the weekend.
Drivers of combustion-engine cars also have concerns about running out of fuel, which tend to arise when their tank drops to below a third full. However, these fears are allayed because they are always within at least 25 km of a filling station.[/imagen]
In the case of electric vehicles however, drivers need 135 km left in the battery to feel comfortable, even though the average journey is less than 57 km. But don’t worry, research by the German psychologist Thomas Franke concludes that anxiety lessens the more we use our cars and become familiar with their true limits.
Franke recruited 79 volunteers to drive a full-electric car for three months to measure their anxiety levels. By the end of the experiment, the minimum range they wanted before leaving the house had dropped from 135 km to 123 km. Even when the power left in the battery wasn’t enough for the whole journey, experienced electric vehicle drivers were far less worried than new ones.
Quash your concerns
As the charging network expands, battery ranges increase and the population becomes more familiar with electric vehicles, range anxiety will fade until it becomes a thing of the past. In the meantime, here’s some advice to allay your worries:
- Install a charging point in your home or garage – Fully charging your vehicle at night will give you easily enough power to make all your regular journeys.
- Download an app showing the charging points in your town or city – Find a charging point you can use when you have two-thirds of your battery left. You probably won’t end up using it, but it’s good to know it’s there.
- Start your trip with three times the range you’ll need – Even if things go wrong, you’ll still have enough to get you to a charging point. Try to be prudent; ranges can vary according to your driving style, traffic conditions and the weather.
- Use the battery indicator rather than the range indicator – Some vehicles allow you to see the battery’s actual charge in kWh rather than giving an estimated range. Although it’s sometimes more convenient for the car to tell us how many kilometres we have left, this calculation can vary according to your speed and other factors. The kWh reading doesn’t lie.
- Get to know your vehicle… and learn how to drive it – Its range very much depends on you and the model specifications. Learn how to drive efficiently to get the best out of your battery. Familiarise yourself with your vehicle to know how far it can go, what its actual range is and how different traffic and weather conditions, etc. affect it. That way, you can discover how far you, and not your car, can go.