There’s something you’ll notice around the discussion of Battery Electric Vehicles: range anxiety. This dreaded term seems like a marketing or PR person’s dream, instilling a sense of dread and ennui whenever a potential EV buyer considers how their use of a car might have to change.
In my six thousand electric miles, I have to say that the fear is somewhat overblown. We’ve felt some anxiety around using our car more so than our previous gasoline-powered vehicles, for sure. Especially on a road trip from the Bay Area to LA, changing weather and terrain had me watching our Chevy Bolt EV’s range estimates like a hawk. It didn’t help that every once in a while, the gauge would re-calibrate and diminish our range down just enough to make us feel a pang of discomfort.
But here’s the thing: most EVs you can buy new can travel more than 100 miles on a single charge. That’s not bad at all for everyday tasks. In reality, few drivers really go more than 50 miles at a time. Think about your routine errands and commute and do the math– there’s a good chance you can probably do without a super long-range EV over 200 miles, and simply rent an internal combustion vehicle if you need to travel further distances occasionally.
Think about the middle of the 20th century and how poorly designed and terrible internal combustion cars were. A popular American sedan in the 1960s was the Chevrolet Impala, which was rated for around 12 MPG, if the research I turned up is accurate. With its 20-gallon tank you’d be lucky to squeeze out around 240 miles from this beast, which is about the best possible range you’d get from its electrified relative, our Chevrolet Bolt EV. People weren’t feeling anxious about having to pull over every 200 miles with these antiquated metal monsters, so why are we?
So, range really isn’t the issue here.
What is the psychological barrier keeping some from trading up to the EV lifestyle? I’d like to propose a new term: Charging Anxiety.
I’d argue that the locations of charging stations and the speed at which you’ll gain range are really the culprits here. Currently, the non-Tesla standard fast charge networks are wimpy at best. Not only have we had issues with DC Fast Chargers from companies like EVGo, but we’ve also run into waiting times–sometimes there’s no way around camping out by a DCFC station for someone to finish their session. And other times, the chargers in our vicinity might simply be non-functional, like a pair of Level 2 ChargePoints at a nearby shopping center that have been broken for months on end with no repair in sight.
Then there’s the effectiveness of these fast chargers: our nearby EVGo stations were supposedly rated up to 80kW, but we’ve never seen rates higher than around 55kW, even though our car can handle the max. Contrast that to the standard Tesla Supercharger should give at a bare, bare minimum rating of 72kW. That means you’ll be waiting significantly longer to juice up if on a road trip compared to the non-standard Tesla network.
Here’s the good news: with range mostly sorted out, charging technology is catching up quickly and I think within the next two years, Charging Anxiety will also be a thing of the past. With the adoption of the CCS Combo standard connector on the rise, and advanced batteries with temperature control more commonplace, charge anxiety will soon be a thing of the past. The upcoming CCS 2.0 standard should support charging rates all the way up to 350kW, and it sounds like manufacturers like VW and Porsche are seriously looking into eliminating the extra hassle related to pumping all that extra power into your battery cells. The upcoming Porsche Taycan performance sedan is rated for chargers up to 250kW (with a future upgrade to 350kW in the future). The more affordable VW ID models have been designed to take in 125kW, all through the CCS Combo port–a huge upgrade over other affordable EVs on the market today.
Reliable, ubiquitous, DC superfast charging will be a boon not just for long-range EVs like our Bolt, but it’ll also make short-range EV ownership possible for urban dwellers without a charger at home. I think this development could also drive down the price of the average EV purchase by making smaller batteries more flexible for more peoples’ lifestyles. After all, if you can get a full battery in only 15 or 20 minutes at reliable, conveniently located stations, with inexpensive renewable energy, why would anyone want to drive a gas car ever again?