Electric vehicle owners are unfazed by ‘range anxiety’

Most electric vehicle owners are unfazed by the prospect of getting stranded with a flat battery.

This is the finding of the latest poll by Flip the Fleet, a citizen science collaboration of over 200 New Zealand electric vehicle owners that share data from their cars’ dashboards each month.

The poll found 72% of drivers experience no or only very occasional range anxiety. New electric vehicle owners are more anxious at first, but quickly learn the performance of their EV and drive within its range.

As one respondent put it: “We are not idiots. We can see how much we have in the tank before we start out”.

Another said: “In 51 years of driving an Internal Combustion Vehicle, I have run out of gas three times – I bet I can score just as well in whatever number of years I have left driving a battery around”.

So do EV owners not get stuck just because they hardly go anywhere? Far from it. Flip the Fleet has already logged 447 randomly selected trips by full electric vehicles – that’s not including any of their hybrids. The average trip out and then back to home base was 54 km. The ‘median’ (middle or 50 percentile) distance was 27 km. Around 8% of trips have EV drivers going over 100 km before returning to home base. These figures are not much different from those for trips in conventional vehicles.

“So don’t fall for the myth that EVs are just good for short trips, or that you have to delay in buying one till the new long-range EVs are available,” says Mark Nixon, from the Christchurch EV Group and contributor to the Flip the Fleet database. “For the vast majority of people, one of the cheaper, entry-level EVs such as the Nissan Leaf will be good to drive for a day or two without having to worry about a charge. And when you need to charge, it’s simply a matter of charging up at home while you sleep. They are also ideal for medium range commuting of a 100-120 km round trip – even more if you are able to charge up at work”.

The car’s dash gives adequate warning when the charge is low and predict how far you can go before you need a charge. There are enough fast chargers in most parts of New Zealand for long trips, but 95% of the charging just happens at home – it’s like having your own private petrol station in your garage.

Lots of NZ families retain a conventional vehicle for occasional long trips and do nearly all their local and regular travel in their electric vehicle. It just needs a bit of forward planning. But be warned – in a two car family, the EV quickly becomes the household favourite, and there is usually a scramble as to who gets the EV first.

So what’s the fuss about range anxiety? Some electric vehicle owners even think that others deliberately magnify the ‘range anxiety’ problem as a reason for maintaining conventional vehicle business as usual.

“One thing is for sure – while range anxiety is a small and manageable problem for most EV owners, it’s more of an issue of perception in the minds of prospective EV buyers than in the minds of those who actually drive them,” said Mark Nixon.

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