2012-02-28

Eat It, Range Anxiety! Data Tells The Truth About Electric Cars

A new infographic should put to rest everyone’s fears about electric cars.

Since the advent of the electric car consumers have been continually reassured that, no, in fact, you really probably don’t drive more than a few miles a day and an EV will be a totally acceptable transportation choice for you. And yet, the idea of range anxiety--that you will be left on the side of the road as your sad little electric car loses juice--persists. In this series of infographics from GE’s Ecomagination, the company aims to challenge some of our assumptions about EVs and driving habits in general.

Where we live affects how we drive. Certainly, a Nissan Leaf might not be the best option for someone in rural Montana who commutes 100 miles to work each day. But most Americans live in or near cities, and proximity to a city center causes your driving mileage to plummet. The average city dweller drives fewer than 30 miles a day:

That’s a whole day, but the average trip (after which--once we get more charging infrastructure in place--one would assume you could recharge) is under 6 miles. Trips over 30 miles make up just 5.5% of all trips:

A more interesting question about EVs is how we will charge them. Plugging in a fleet of cars to the grid, some argue, could overpower our already tenuous electrical system. GE data breaks down current electric car owners usage patterns about when they drive and when they charge:

As you can see, this fear about electric cars is more reasonabe than range anxiety. Between nine and midnight, we’re trying to plug our cars in at times when we’re also plugging in everything else. But this isn’t an insurmountable issue: It’s exactly what smart meters and smart chargers are for. As technology develops, you’ll plug your car in when you get home after work, but it won’t suck down power until the point at night when there is a large surplus of electricity.

There are, surely, still many challenges left before we can live in a world where electric cars are the de rigueur mode of transport. But it might be time to be a little less anxious about range and charging times. Take a deep breath, it’s under control.

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11 Comments

  • BuckyK

    What about those of us who live in southern tier states and drive 30 miles each way with air conditioning (It's 95F at 7 am.)? It's fine if you happen to be able to plug in and charge all day, but that depends on employers being willing to provide charging stations. Somehow, I doubt mine would be that generous. 

  • Lance

    AC won't be a problem.  The LEAF's AC is very efficient and won't affect range significantly.  Heat is another story but even that is fairly manageable with seat heaters and heated steering wheel.

  • Ckocek

    Why doesn't Nissan or Ford or any of the car companies making EVs create an app that tracks your personal driving habits so you can have real time daily/weekly data for yourself?  After all, Progressive Insurance now has a device that keeps track of everything, from sudden acceleration to sudden breaking.  http://thesocialgreen.com/2011...

  • Lori Drozd

     Actually, Nissan does - Carwings. This even turns your driving habits into a game. You're ranked based on the efficiency of your driving habits. It even tells you what types of regeneration you're doing.

  • Brian of London

    What a marvellous presentation. Matches my own patterns and that's exactly why I'll get an electric car in a month or two. For the 1 or 2 times a month I want to drive more than 100 miles I'll be able to swap batteries 'cos I'm lucky enough to live in a country where the correct infrastructure to make today's electric cars practical is being built.

  • laude05

    I suspect that the real issue is not my fear that I will be stranded on any single trip. I can't afford to have a long trip car just sitting while I use and pay for that short trip car. It's the reason you see all those huge SUVs with just one person in it. On the weekend it's hauling stuff from the home center and all the kids to softball practice. So I have one "weekday" car and one "week end" car or just one all around car.

  • Joe Foerster

    Two things: 
    1: Home Depot has a pickup truck rental program for those times when you need to haul a lot of junk home from there. They also have delivery service. 2: Rental car companies will be happy to rent you a car to drive 150 miles, 250 miles, 550 miles... whatever you need. You think these options are too expensive, but since you won't be spending $300 a week on gas for the SUV, you can afford to rent a car or truck once in awhile. 

  • JohnThackr

    If 55% of trips are less than 6 miles, say that they average 3 miles each.  5.5% of trips are at least thirty miles.

    Then there are one-tenth as many long trips, but each one is at least ten times as long.  Therefore, we spend more time in the car on trips over 30 miles long than on those short trips.

    Weighting by number of trips makes the same data look different than weighting by mileage or time, right?

  • Joe Foerster

    '"I can't go there because I only have 10% charge" - this is a problem people will not tolerate.'
    As more charging infrastructure goes into place, as it is every day, this will rapidly become a non-issue. Many people are already finding it a non-issue. Until then, an extended-range vehicle such as a Volt will never leave you with only 10% charge. You can always go. So looking at your lifestyle, your work and home situation can help you decide if pure EV or Extended-Range works best for you. 

  • PW

    I think your missing the point and that may due to how the data was displayed. As an owner of a Nissan Leaf and someone who drive approximately 65 miles a day there is no issues. I think I am fairly consistent with most people and that is what the article is saying. I typically only charge my car 80% and I am typically left with 20 miles when I get home. I then go to the gym which is 5 miles round trip and then groceries or other errands if necessary but this locations are only a few miles away. This is how it needs to be looked at. The car isn't for everyone but the point is that most people have allowed the oil companies convince them that they need 400 miles a day of range, which is just silly. Road trips, use a rental car and save the wear a tear.

  • bzdyelnik

    I think it's valuable to look at miles per trip, however I'm not sure consumers will want to give up those 5.5% of trips that they can't take without stopping to charge at stations that don't exist.

    "I can't go there because I only have 10% charge" - this is a problem people will not tolerate.