It wasn’t long ago that range anxiety was the talk of the town when it came to electric vehicles. Consumers dreaded the idea of being stranded in a vehicle with no way a gas station could help. Well, maybe the concept (and locations) of EV charging stations began making the rounds. A recent survey by Navigant Research showed the biggest stumbling block for potential plug-in consumers was charging station infrastructure, which seems like a death knell for range anxiety.
Navigant’s survey had the majority of respondents citing “availability and inconvenience of charging” a plug-in car as the reasons they would stick to gasoline cars for now. Over one third (36%) said limited infrastructure was keeping them from taking the EV segment seriously, while the few respondents who actually owned an electric vehicle completely ignored the issue of range.
While the results of this survey are surprising on some level, the data we have about EVs and plug-in hybrids should assure us that range anxiety had already lost much of its grip on the green car consumer. The original Chevy Volt offered a perfect example: Equipped with a maximum of 38 miles in electric mode, Chevy reported that Volt drivers were doing 80% of their traveling without gasoline. With the new Chevy Volt’s 53 miles of range, the number is expected to top 90%. There are numerous pure EVs that top 80 miles of range.
The GM data assures us that short-range trips make up the bulk of traveling for U.S. drivers. Access to a home charger makes the equation simple for a driver with, say, a 20-mile commute to work. In such a case, the average EV’s range is more than adequate for everyday needs, and there is no reason to get anxious. On the other hand, trying to drive electric without access to a private garage would make the situation impossible.
Many electric car advocates have pointed to the need for better signage in the past as well. Speaking about the U.K. plug-in market, Ecotricity founder Dave Vance referenced the importance of “increasing public awareness that the infrastructure is ready for [consumers] to make the move to an electric car.” In Vance’s eyes, they have already built it; now you only need to tell potential EV drivers it’s all right to come and charge.
Respondents to the Navigant survey cited the inconvenience of charging an EV in listing potential drawbacks as well, and the time factor applies here along with charger availability. As the number of plug-in cars on the road increases, space is becoming limited at fast chargers and even at Level 2 chargers in popular locations. Drivers who grew up expecting a fill-up in less than 10 minutes tend to find charging beyond 20 minutes unacceptable.
Once the fast-charging network grows, this stumbling block to EV development will fall off the list with range anxiety and general access to a charger. However, large-scale deployment could take years. With the Chevy Bolt EV coming to market in 2016 and GM having no plans invest in charging infrastructure, the inconvenience of public charging may get worse in hot spots before it gets better. Fortunately, 200 miles of range will at least take anxiety off the table for commuters.
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