The end of electric vehicle range anxiety | RenewEconomy

The end of electric vehicle range anxiety

Drivers, power utilities and socially-conscious businesses are making it easier to own an electric car.

A Tesla charging station. Source: Pixabay



Doug Hines, CEO of a software company in Decatur, GA, has logged hundreds of miles in his Tesla. In addition to the obvious perks of owning an all-electric car—little maintenance, no exhaust, and fun to drive — there was one he hadn’t expected: the unfailing generosity of people willing to offer up their home chargers to a stranger, often for free.

“It amazes me how people are so open to have anybody come to their home, drive into their garage, and plug in their car,” says Hines, 55, who lives in Lithonia, GA. “I’ve probably been to about six or seven homes on long trips. People have been so gracious. Some have even invited me to spend the night.

Doug and Sheryl Hines. Source: Doug Hines
Doug and Sheryl Hines. Source: Doug Hines

In a Dayton, Ohio suburb, Hines took one family out to dinner as a thank you for giving him a charge. In Battle Creek, Michigan, he left a Panera gift card for a man who was away from his home when Hines arrived, but who “left his garage door up for me,” he says.

“We plan our trips around charging,” says Hines, father of six, who drove an SUV — “the only car that has 8 seats” — for 20 years, until the last of his children left for college. “I’ve had to depend on the kindness of strangers. I grew up in Detroit, where nobody trusted anybody outside your neighborhood. I love the idea that people are generous enough to make their chargers available.”

The PlugShare network, where Hines found places to charge his car along his route, is one example of the countless incentives created by proponents of all-electric vehicles to encourage people to own and drive them, and to ease consumers’ “range anxiety,” worry that the battery will run out before getting to its destination or a charging station. Hines himself is a member of PlugShare, providing the charger located outside his Decatur office building to anyone who needs it.

In addition to nationwide volunteer peer-to-peer sharing, cities, states, utilities and private companies are setting up charging stations for the public. Some states, like Massachusetts and New York, are providing grants to municipalities and businesses to help them reduce the costs of installing EV charging stations, or are adding electric vehicles to their fleets.

Many utilities, like Kansas City inPower & Light, are installing public EV charging stations and offering cheaper electricity rates for those who charge their vehicles during off-peak hours. Utility companies see electric cars as a new and growing segment of the electricity market, especially as people can plug in at night when demand is at its lowest.

Public charging stations in the Boston area. Source: PlugShare
Public charging stations in the Boston area. Source: PlugShare

Several states, including New York, California, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, now offer rebates of up to $3,000 to defray the price of all-electric vehicles. This is in addition to the federal tax credit of $7,500 for buying an electric vehicle.

“These types of incentives that make EVs less expensive and more convenient are starting to pay off,” says Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of the Sierra Club’s electric vehicles initiative. “Last year, U.S. EV sales jumped 37 percent over 2015 sales, despite low gasoline prices. Many people have figured out that — with cheaper fueling and maintenance costs, and with state incentives — EVs are actually cheaper than many conventional vehicles, in addition to being much lower in emissions.”

Moreover, she adds, “EVs are cleaner today than conventional vehicles, even factoring in the emissions from the electricity used to charge them. EVs will become even cleaner over time as we switch to more renewable sources of power.”

Currently, there is a paucity of easily accessible public charging stations, but that is likely to change.

A Tesla charging station. Source: Pixabay
A Tesla charging station. Source: Pixabay

“As we get more electric cars on the road — and we’re starting to get more on the road — the public infrastructure is going to follow,” says Dave Reichmuth, senior engineer in the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Reichmuth says he recently bought a Chevy Bolt, a new affordable EV that gets an estimated 238 miles with a single charge.

Kansas City Power & Light, for example, recently invested $20 million to install 1,000 public charging stations throughout its service area, which hugs the Kansas-Missouri border. These include chargers at workplaces, in apartment garages, at grocery stores, in city parking lots and malls, and near its baseball and football stadiums. The project has helped turn this Midwestern metropolis into a fast-growing EV hub.

“Drivers love what we’ve done to eliminate range anxiety and have become some of our greatest advocates,” says Kristin Riggins, the utility’s sustainability products manager, pointing out that “the Kansas City metro was ranked number 2 nationally” in new electric car sales between the third quarter of 2015 through the third quarter of 2016. “There has been a positive effect on EV sales,” as a result of the utility’s efforts, she says.

Companies also have begun to recognize that supporting electric vehicles is good for business because it makes their workers happy. MilliporeSigma, for example, the life science component of the Germany-based Merck KGaA, is expanding its charging stations at its sites around the world and sponsors a number of incentives to encourage its employees to purchase EVs and hybrids.

In the United States, it has installed charging stations in its parking lots at its facilities in Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and Wisconsin. The company will add them to its forthcoming facility in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Charging stations sold by LilyPad EV. Source: LilyPad EV
Charging stations sold by LilyPad EV. Source: LilyPad EV

“This program supports the work that we do to increase our environmental sustainability in all aspects of our business,” says Jeffrey Whitford, the company’s head of corporate responsibility. “Our employees are one of the driving forces behind these investments… it gives [them] options, and supports their desire to work for a socially and environmentally responsible company.”

Larry Kinder, the CEO of LilyPad EV, a company that markets charging stations, believes the future of EVs is secure. “The old days of cars not having the range are gone, and they are becoming more affordable,” Kinder says. “What else can you drive that becomes cleaner all the time?”

To be sure, there also are disincentives to EVs, particularly at a time when sentiment at the federal level is hostile. The new administration opposes renewable energy, and has not proposed anything to support electric cars in its energy plan.

Moreover, a number of states have imposed fees for owning an electric car, or have introduced legislation that would charge fees, some as high as $300 a year. Others, like Georgia, have repealed their tax credit and replaced it with a fee, causing EV sales to drop there.

States argue that the fees are necessary to replace lost revenue for road upkeep, since EV owners no longer pay gasoline tax. Some EV advocates, however, believe the fees are part of a campaign by the oil and gas industry, specifically the Koch brothers, to discourage EV ownership. Regardless, advocates don’t believe these actions will have a lasting impact on the clean car movement.

“It’s an unnecessary headwind, though not likely to derail EVs,” says the UCS’s Reichmuth. “It makes sense to have a mechanism to make sure that all drivers contribute to road maintenance, but some of the fees are much higher than what the driver of an efficient gasoline car would pay. Some states, Oregon for example, are looking at a per mile fee to replace per gallon fees, which would tie revenue directly to driving, rather than fuel consumption.”

At the national level, Reichmuth acknowledges “these are trying times,” but adds, “I am still really excited about what’s happening in transportation right now.”

For his part, Hines would agree. He loves his car and is happy doing something positive for the environment. “This whole global warming thing is scary,” he says. “Every time I pull up behind some truck spewing out exhaust, I hope the driver will see the light — or at least my car.”

Source: NexusMedia. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. GregS 4 years ago

    He has a Model S with great range and access to Superchargers and he still has to beg people to let him charge? So either he’s not very good at planning his day, or it speaks volumes about the challenges that people who don’t own a Tesla will face.

    • Antony Day 4 years ago

      Almost certainly he is using routes that do not have Superchargers – or destination ( Tesla HPWC ) chargers – yet. As a non-Tesla owner, we do face challenges in finding spots off the beaten track to charge but, as he has found, there are people who are open to let you use their power and ( as is obvious on ) more charging stations will come. There are several people who have, in Tesla and non-Tesla electric vehicles ( nissan Leaf and converted cars ) , travelled around Australia, or from Perth to Sydney, it’s not impossible with some planning. At one stage in the distant past, ICE cars also had to battle to find fuel – but with demand comes supply.

      • Antony Day 4 years ago

        and you don’t have to beg – people make their charge points available – on plugshare, and welcome you – as quoted above – to charge there.

        • GregS 4 years ago

          Whether he’s asking or begging, belies the point that he needs their service in the first place. This is not a good reflection on the current infrastructure when one of the longest range cars is having trouble making it through the day without having to rely on private charging points.

    • Chris Sanderson 4 years ago

      Unless they have solar and mostly charge it themselves – for free!

    • Chris Sanderson 4 years ago

      Unless they have solar and mostly charge it themselves – for free!

    • Chris Sanderson 4 years ago

      Unless they have solar and mostly charge it themselves – for free!

  2. JET Charge 4 years ago

    Stories like this are great, but give a mistaken impression of what owning an EV is actually like. The reality is, 90% of your charging is done at home or at work, and use of public charging stations simply isn’t necessary the majority of the time. They are, of course, still critical for the adoption of EVs as they provide charging for long distance travel, interstate visitors and those without off street parking, but focusing on public charging exclusively means people don’t realise you don’t need a massive network of charging stations before you can buy an EV.

    • Rod 4 years ago

      Agreed, the whole range anxiety thing is overblown.
      Most people will use their EV to commute
      In overcoming the range anxiety a battery pack is oversized IMO making the vehicle bigger and heavier than most people need for a commute.

    • Robert Comerford 4 years ago

      90% of YOUR charging might be done at home or work but how about opening your eyes to the vast numbers who may never be able to charge at home or at work. To make an electric car viable it needs to cater to the masses not the elite few.
      If convenient fast charging is not made available they will be very hard to convince to stop driving polluting cars. Their car might well be used to drive a 30k run to work each day but it also serves to drive to nearby towns and across the continent.
      Currently no battery car can do that in Australia. Now before someone pipes up and mentions Telsa, where is the supercharger in Marble Bar, Cunnamulla or Lake Cargelligo for example?
      Can I drive my car around the corner from a carpark serving a high rise apartment block in a city and plug it into a supercharger or have I got to drive miles across the city to find my nearest supercharger in some cases?
      Pick another country of comparable size and you will find the same number of holes in the fast charging network.

      • JET Charge 4 years ago

        Hi Robert actually our comment was not based only on our own experience but the experience of more established markets in the EU and US. The vast majority of charging there, across a pool of drivers, happens at home or work. Depending on the jurisdiction, it could be 70 to 90%.

        We completely agree that a back bone of DC fast charging infrastructure is required for mass EV adoption, but it’s not as many stations as you think.

        We also don’t think your average Australian drives across the continent, or drives to nearby towns, or cities, on a regular basis. Sure, some do, and for these people, we’d recommend holding off on battery electric vehicles or perhaps consider a Plug in Hybrid. There have been a few studies done but the average Australian drives 50km a day. If you’d like to drive across the continent once a year, we would suggest that you hire a car. If you drive across the continent every day, we’d recommend not buying an EV just yet. The energy savings you make from using electricity to fuel your car would more than pay for car hire a few times a year, should you feel the need.

        If you live in an apartment block you can charge your car with minimal fuss. Our clients do so on a regular basis, in their own car space. They don’t need to go to a Supercharger.

        Guess there are two things here:

        1. We don’t need to cater to 100% of the car buying population for EVs to see mass market penetration. Just look at sales of the Hilux. Most people probably wouldn’t drive a ute as their daily vehicle, and yet it’s regularly one of the top selling cars in Australia.

        2. Focusing on having rapid chargers on every street corner ignores one of the fundamental benefits of having EVs, which is that you don’t need to be there while it’s being charged, which is why most people charge them at home or at work. It’s similar to why you wouldn’t take your mobile phone to a “rapid charging station” to charge up. You charge it at home or while you’re at work.

        But hey, maybe we’re just biased because we work on this every day 🙂

  3. Brunel 4 years ago

    Tesla developing its own HVDC plug was always an extremely silly idea.

    They should have developed a global 250-500 kilowatt plug in collaboration with BMW, VW, Ford, GM.

    • GregS 4 years ago

      I believe they have adapters to use the others.

  4. Ian 4 years ago

    This would be a great initiative to take on here in au.
    I am happy for any ev driver to charge at my place on the Central Coast NSW. …. though I only have a normal power point at this stage…. till we can buy an ev!

  5. Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

    The future is millions of people owning electric vehicles. Yes they will mainly be charging in the garage overnight, but millions will also need to be charged at charging stations. Charging time at these stations is going to be a significant issue – anything more than five minutes is going to grate with consumers. Electric vehicles need to be made with 6 or up to even 12 charging ports – to plug multiple chargers into their vehicle to charge its modularised battery array. Quicker.

  6. Radbug 4 years ago

    You can lose your hearing with ICE motorscooters/motorbikes. I’m really looking forward to buying a Li-S powered Vespa!

  7. Rob 4 years ago

    There are a hell of a lot of people who don’t have off street parking and cannot recharge at work. It is crazy to exclude these people from owning an EV for this reason.That is, no access to convenient public fast-chargers.

  8. Robert Comerford 4 years ago

    This is a nice feel good story about some people generous enough to help this driver but it has nothing to do with ending range anxiety.
    Until electric cars can be fast charged and those chargers are everywhere like petrol stations then the reality of cars with very limited range and slow charge capability will be a problem for many.

    • Rob 4 years ago

      Absolutely agree! Service stations need to start installing fast chargers so that people who can’t charge at home or work know there is a convenient alternative. How you persuade service stations to do this is the question. Maybe the Greens could come up with a policy on this. Maybe some money from the Infrastructure Fund could be devoted towards this. Then when EVs are price competitive with ICE vehicles there will be no reason for anyone not to trade in their ICE vehicle on an EV.

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