People have been talking about range anxiety for some time now. The idea that limited range is a major concern for people considering purchase of an electric vehicle for the first time is quite common. But, is range anxiety a real problem for electric vehicle owners?

There is so much talk about range anxiety that it is easy for people to say that they like electric cars but range anxiety makes it hard to buy one. Range related questions are among the first things I get asked when I say that I like electric vehicles (EVs) and I’m thinking of buying an electric car.

In this context, it seems appropriate for me to ask, whether people who own electric vehicles (EVs) actually suffer from range anxiety or is it a misperception of prospective buyers? In this post, I would like to look at this from the perspective of someone who is intrigued by electric cars but is not sure whether one would work out for her lifestyle and would always allow her to reach her destination without be left stranded.

First of all, let’s look at what range anxiety is

In 2010, General Motors filed to trademark the term range anxiety, which was used to describe worries that electric cars have insufficient capabilities to allow drivers reach their destination without running out of energy. As General Motors explained, range anxiety was relevant to early adopters of electric vehicles that  were concerned about being stranded on the way home from work.

Relating this back to my question, I think there is an important point here that the electric vehicle market is still in its infancy, so it is normal for people beyond early adopters to be unfamiliar with EVs and how they can use them properly so they will get the most out of them.

Give me some facts please 

Let’s start thinking now about our everyday journeys and how range anxiety could affect them. We tend to believe that range anxiety is relevant to our daily commutes and that electric and plug-in-hybrid cars have too short a range. This means that we are concerned about not being able to travel from home to work on a full charge.

However, according to Transport Scotland, ninety-four per cent of journeys in Scotland are under 40km, with the average trip length in a car being only 12.1 km. Also, results from the Travel Survey Data in the United States show us that 95% of trips are under 30 miles and 99% of all trips are under 70 miles.

This is well under the range of most electric cars which can cover a minimum of 80 miles on a full charge.

With this in mind, the answer to my question appears to be that range anxiety is mostly related to prospective EV owners.

What’s all the fuss about then?

The focus now turns to why prospective electric car buyers think that range anxiety is a big constraint on their decision to buy one.Generally, when people are introduced to any form of new technology, it is expected to unintentionally feel some kind of distress and discomfort until they get completely familiar with it. This form of anxiety, seems then to be relevant to the electric vehicle market not being mature yet and most people have no experience of using an electric car.

Thus, people may feel insecure as they don’t know how to cope with this form of anxiety. In contrast, people don’t speak about anxiety for conventional cars as they are used to the simple act of getting to the nearest petrol station to reduce it.

The takeaway 

So, I believe what is most important is to understand that range anxiety is primarily a psychological constraint rather than the cars not actually having sufficient range. It’s also much more important to identify how we can cope with it and reduce one of the main barriers to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. To this end, I’ll consider some key things about reducing range anxiety in my next posts so watch this space.

In the meantime, why not you tell me what you think? You can follow me and Dukosi on Twitter or join the discussion on LinkedIn.