Electric Vehicles: Why Range Anxiety is a Myth

Range anxiety remains a barrier to EV adoption

Ever since electric vehicles (EVs) started to become a viable transport alternative, the phrase ‘range anxiety’ has been tossed about, with most pundits citing the fear of not being able to reach your destination without running out of power as a barrier to EV adoption. Even today, range anxiety is still mentioned as one of the top reasons why people are reticent about transitioning to electric vehicles. The funny thing is, though, that almost as soon as this phrase became part of the conversation, it became a myth. And some would argue that range anxiety was never a thing in the first place. So, let’s look at expectations and why ‘range anxiety’ doesn’t match with reality.

In 2011, when the first major EV was released to the market (the Nissan LEAF for those interested) you would get maybe 160km out of a full battery charge. And for some, that would be enough to make you nervous about running out of power, especially when the network of charging stations back then was minimal.

By 2015, though, the average EV had a range of around 200km, while today it hovers around 350km – a number that is expected to rise to around 400km in the not-too-distant future. And the charging station network? It has grown by leap and bounds. In the UK, there were 37,261 EV charge points spread across 22,049 charging locations by the end of December 2022 – a 31% increase from the previous year. In the EU,there were roughly 375,000 charging stations by the end of 2021, with that number expected to increase rapidly in the coming years.

Expectations vs reality

Those who cite range anxiety might have visions of being stranded on some roadside with no charging station in sight – and no ability to ‘fill up a gas canister’ for an emergency top up. But how far do people drive and where are they going?

If we look at the numbers, a study conducted on more than 600 000 vehicles across Europe showed that 8 in ten drivers travel less than 100km a day. That same study finds that 6 in ten drivers travel less than 50km a day. To break it down even further, in the UK, the average trip length is 8.4km, while globally, the average daily car journey is around 15 minutes or about 15km. In Europe, internal combustion engine (ICE) drivers average just 13,600km per year, while EV drivers are clocking up averages of 14,200km annually. In the US, 95% of car journeys are under 48km, with 60% less than 9km.

So, what does this tell us? That most of our time behind the wheel is spent on short, stop-start journeys – but even if those trips are longer, range anxiety really isn’t a realistic factor.

Here are a few individual EV model ranges to give you an idea of scope. Range, of course, varies due to things like weather and payload, along with factors such as city, highway, or rural driving. This means Real Range is an industry calculated average – and it’s important to note that the median range for EVs has increased by 56% in the last 6 years or so.

As you can see, the range numbers vary a great deal and this has to do with battery size, but even on the lower end you aren’t likely to run out of juice mid-trip. Most people charge their EVs at home, usually overnight, and while this has previously presented a challenge to those living in apartments, this too is changing as public charging stations rapidly grow in numbers, along with landlords installing charging stations in parking areas.  And while the number of EV charging stations does not yet match the number of gas stations, the rapid EV adoption we are currently experiencing means that will change very quickly.

Here in the Nordics, three in four new cars sold are EVs, and there are about five EVs on the road for every public charging point – people don’t all charge at once and many of us will be charging at home, so the fear of not being able to top up or having to wait in a ‘first come/first serve’ model is no longer really an issue. There are also myriad new solutions coming to market, including in-transit charging points and mobile charging stations.

And then there is the very basic fact that nearly all car manufacturers are investing in EVs and committing being part of the EV ecosystem expansion. VW alone has committed to installing nearly 3 000 new charging stations in the US, while a European high-power charging networs has committed €700 million in investment to enable rapid EV charging network expansion and accelerated growth across Europe. And there are new governmental schemes and investment being announced all the time, both on the local and national levels. In fact, the European Union has decided that the sale of new internal combustion engines will be banned by 2035, and all new cars will be battery-electric, meaning the automotive industry will play a big role in the battle for carbon neutrality by 2050.

To learn more about EVs and the ecosystem around them, download our EV Ecosystem White Paper.

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