Electric Cars And Range Anxiety: A Viewpoint

electric car range anxiety

Electric Cars: The Basics

For those of you new to zero-emission electric driving, we recommend a read of the following articles:

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Guy Turner
Guy Turner

Guest Contributor: A member of the e-zoomed EV Community

Guy Turner has spent 30 years in the energy and environmental sector, working in senior roles in consulting, commercial research and infrastructure project development, most recently as Strategy and Analysis Manager at EDF Renewables. He has an academic background in engineering, economics and corporate finance and has owned a Renault Zoe for 9 months.

Is Range Anxiety More Fiction Than Fact?

Range anxiety is said to be one of the main reasons potential customers are dissuaded from owning an electric vehicle (EV).  With charging points still relatively few and far between, would-be drivers are fearful of being stranded without sufficient charge to get them to their destination or having to hunt around for a charging point mid journey.  But is this fear really warranted?  How many journeys do we really take that would challenge the range of a new EV? 

renault zoe electric car
The All-Electric Renault Zoe

From a personal perspective I have been the (mostly) proud owner of a Renault Zoe for the last nine months. In this time, I have succumbed to being anxious about the range of the vehicle only once. This was during a family daytrip to Oxford, which was on the limits of a full charge for the car. We got home safely after a top-up stop and running on eco-mode, but this is the only occasion during nine months of regular use.  On every other day the vehicle rarely drops below 50% charge before being refilled overnight. Admittedly we still own an older diesel car for the very odd longer journey, but this car has now turned into a lichen-growing relic, it is used so rarely. 

I was intrigued whether my lack of range anxiety is shared with other car owners or whether I am outlier. So, I did some digging. We can get some insight into the importance of this issue through the UK government’s National Travel Survey, which periodically collects huge amounts of data on all aspects of how and why we travel. The last survey from 2018 included a specific question on journey length over the year 2015-2017, focussing on journeys in the South East of England.  This shows that 75% of journeys are under 10 miles and 98% of all domestic vehicle trips are under 50 miles. With nearly all EVs on the market offering more than 150 miles on a full charge, charging your EV over night at home will provide enough mileage for the vast majority of journeys. 

Cumulative proportion of journeys undertaken (%) by journey length (miles)

Electric car range
Source: National Travel Survey, 2018

The survey was undertaken in the South East England, and travel patterns may be different in other parts of the country.  Outside the congested South East and in more rural areas, journey lengths could be longer as the population density is lower, but it is still likely that the majority of journeys are relatively short.  Home charging is also not possible for everyone, especially those without off street parking.  But where the journeys are for commuting to work, employee charging points should be able to provide access to a charging point to provide the necessary top up. 

Range anxiety is also less of a concern for those who have access to more than one vehicle.  A petrol or diesel car can be used for the odd occasion when longer journeys are required but the majority of miles can still be covered in the EV. Access to a second car might seem like a luxury in the UK, but again the National Travel Survey provides an interesting perspective. In 2018 the survey data showed that nearly one in two households had access to two or more cars.

Meanwhile vehicle manufacturers have also been increasing the zero-emission range of new battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) coming to market. At the upper end of the ranger models such as the Jaguar I-PACE and Tesla Model 3 have ranges in excess of 290 miles, with Tesla offering option of up to 350 miles.  In the middle of the pack, the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Kia e-Niro, Mercedes EQC and Hyundai Kona Electric offer ranges of around 240 to 290 miles.  Even at the smaller, more compact end of the market, the Renault Zoe and BMW i3 have ranges of 150 to 190 miles.

all electric kia e Niro
The All-Electric Kia e-Niro (credit: Kia)

Finally, we are on the cusp of a major expansion of charging points across the country.  There are already 15,500 public charge points in the UK and Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants every EV owner to be within 30 miles of a charge point. Capital is flowing into the industry to make this happen – in early 2020 the large French owned utility EDF acquired independent charge company PodPoint, and BP and Shell have bought into the sector, acquiring ChargeMaster and NewMotion respectively.Investment in charging infrastructure, combined with the extended range of new vehicles and an appreciation of how people use their car in practice, suggests that range anxiety is likely to be a dwindling concern for EV owners.  Over time, my sangfroid over the range of my EV is likely to be commonplace, and I can rest assured that I am not an outlier – on the subject of range anxiety at least.

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Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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