Range anxiety: Almost one sixth of EV drivers have run their batteries flat, US survey finds

Some 16% of drivers said they’ve been stranded with a flattened battery, but almost all say they’ll buy another EV next

One of the primary, indeed primal, fears among those who are resistant to the idea of taking the electric car plunge is that of range anxiety. That feeling that you just don’t have enough charge to get home, or reach your destination, and that you’ll be left marooned on some lonely hard shoulder with a flat battery.

Originally an issue that was focused on the limited one-charge range of the early, small, electric car batteries, the anxiety has remoulded itself to become charging anxiety – fear that you won’t be able to find a working and available charging point to continue or complete your journey.

The thing is, actually running entirely flat – the draining of your electric car’s battery of so much juice that it grinds to a halt – is actually pretty rare. According to a survey carried out in the US by Quantum, on behalf of charging provider Idea Power, just 16 in every 100 drivers have actually entirely run out of charge while driving.

“Understanding the charging habits of electric vehicle drivers sheds light on more than just their daily routines – it highlights underlying concerns related to charge anxiety. This form of anxiety encompasses the stress EV owners feel about finding and using charging stations. It includes worries about finding an available spot, dealing with incompatible charging equipment, or encountering broken chargers,” said a Quantum spokesperson.

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Forty-four per cent of those surveyed said that those feelings of charging and range anxiety had “negatively impacted” their experience of owning an electric vehicle, but a much larger 91 per cent said they intend to buy another EV as their next car.

Forty-six per cent said they experience feelings of range anxiety about once every month, while 21 per cent said they never get that prickly feeling. A small 8 per cent said it’s a daily occurrence. The biggest message, for governments, EV manufacturers and charging suppliers, is that more chargers are needed. Fifty-one per cent said their primary concern when driving was that there are not enough charging locations to allow them to drive worry-free, while 72 per cent said that more charging stations would be the biggest factor in improving their electric-vehicle ownership experience.

A total of 38 per cent of electric car drivers said they had to wait in line for a charger “several times”, but the most common waiting time was less than 15 minutes, with only 8 per cent saying they’d had to wait 30 minutes or longer. Forty-two per cent of respondents said they’d be prepared to pay an extra fee to reserve a charging spot, and a figure of $15 (€13.95) was considered acceptable for that privilege.

Forty-four per cent said their experience of range anxiety was rare, and 69 per cent said it usually occurred only when undertaking long journeys. The survey found 70 per cent of EV drivers charge their cars “mostly” at home.

“The insights from current EV owners point to a resilient commitment to electric mobility, despite the challenges posed by charge and range anxieties. As we look to the future, the industry’s focus must be on enhancing charging infrastructure and improving the EV experience to address these concerns effectively. This concerted effort will not only cater to existing electric vehicle owners, but also pave the way for a new wave of adopters, ensuring that the journey towards a sustainable, electric-driven future continues with greater momentum and fewer roadblocks,” said the Quantum spokesperson.

However, the figure could change in the coming months. Given the enormous current popularity of Tesla’s electric cars, Quantum did some digging into the figures and found there are some differences if you’re driving a Tesla compared to other electric cars. When it comes to running out of charge entirely, the figure for Tesla drivers was 12 per cent, compared to 21 per cent for those driving other marques. Equally, a higher proportion of Tesla owners – 95 per cent, compared to 86 per cent for other brands – said they intend to buy another EV. Those figures are doubtless indicative, in part, of the strength of the Tesla Supercharging network. That network – which is just now starting to be opened up to other electric car brands – boasts some 50 million charging points in the US, and has been rated as the most reliable electric car charging network.

That could be on the turn, however. In a letter to employees this week, Tesla’s Elon Musk said he was embarking on a drive to cut out “dead wood” among Tesla’s workers, and demanding an 80-hour working week from all employees. At the same time, Musk has just fired the team that looked after the Supercharger network, and one of those former employees – speaking to the InsideEVs blog under condition of anonymity – said: “We couldn’t keep up. And now the network is even larger. Now, guess what? There are even more consumers. There’s gonna be a lot more issues that could possibly come up. The quality is going to deteriorate.”

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