Are you seeking a more sustainable car, but worried by headlines suggesting the infrastructure can’t support your charging needs? Is this causing you charge anxiety? Are you an electric vehicle (EV) owner suffering with charge anxiety?
Yes, charge anxiety is real. Realistically, the infrastructure is not quite there yet to put the average driver (or passenger) at ease when traveling long distances in an EV in either the US or the UK.
My EV is a 2017 Tesla and on paper (sales and marketing paper), it gets up to 330 miles per full charge. I’ve played this game before – I remember my Lexus Hybrid sales paper stating that it would get up to 77 miles per gallon. Realistically we were typically between 45 and 55 miles per gallon.
So, I was keen to see what sales paper versus reality would look like for my EV battery range. There are multiple things that impact EV mileage. The first is that you never charge it up to 100%. To prolong battery life, it is recommended that you only charge it up to 80% unless you are planning a road trip.
When I charge my car up to 80%, that typically equates to about a 200 mile range. To be clear, what I mean is that when I’ve charged the battery to 80%, and I get in the car, it tells me I can go around 200-220 miles. In moderate weather, and at city speeds (less than 70mph), that is a pretty good estimate. And, that is more than I need in a typical day.
When charging the car for a road trip, I typically charge it up to 90 or 95% – which gives me more like 230-250 range. I’ve never reached the 300 – 330 range promised on the sales paper. These ranges are estimated under scientific conditions, with no drag, no weather, and probably no people in the car.
So, the 200(ish) mile estimated range on a normal 80% charge didn’t shock me too much. I knew 300 was a high estimate. And, even though I used to have a driving commute of 80 miles each way, 200 mile range was usually plenty to get me where I needed to go in day to day life – to the shops, to and from work, to the train station, to and from work, etc.
What did surprise me, though, was how quickly that range drops off when it is cold. On cold days, I could lose up to 25% off that range – taking my 200 mile range down to 150. Boy is it a wake up call to get into your car at 5am to go to work, set off driving, and realize that while 200 miles was plenty to get you to and from work (remember — 80 miles each way), 150 is not. If I had known that in advance, I would have done a “road trip” charge the night before.
Ok, so with a little trial and error, I figured out how to manage getting to and from work and around town in daily life using an electric vehicle. But what about road trips?
This is where the charge anxiety comes in. We have family up in North Yorkshire, and we live in Hertfordshire. It is about a 220 mile drive each way. We can get to Yorkshire no problem, especially as there is a super charger in Grantham on the way. However, we do not always have off street parking, leaving us no way to recharge easily while we were up there. There are a few chargers around town, but none were* fast enough to charge the car in under 8 hours, and none had the option to leave our car overnight.
Enter charge anxiety. We once created a trip hazard by running a cable from my mother-in-law’s house to where we were parked on the street. Unfortunately she lives next to a pub, and a few late night revelers managed to nearly trip over. We narrowly avoided a lawsuit. Ouch!
We once had to drive all the way to Leeds to supercharge on the way home. While this wasn’t the end of the world – only about 20 minutes out of our way, it did not result in domestic bliss.
A four hour road trip with two children under 10 and a dog isn’t the best way to spend your time under the best of circumstances. Making an hour long diversion (20 min there, 20 min charging, 20 min back) on top of that road trip is less than great.
Managing charge anxiety, arguing over how far we can actually make it versus what is displayed on the mileage dial, and trying to entertain children and dogs while you recharge in a random car park 20 miles off your intended route can raise blood pressures.
Once we went to visit friends in Norfolk. We didn’t charge up the car on the way out, because they have off street parking – so we assumed we could charge up at theirs. It wasn’t until we arrived to their beautiful thatched roof historic home that we discovered plugging the car in caused all the lights in the house to trip out.
Enter charge anxiety. We spend a fair bit of the weekend driving around to charge points, finding them occupied, or finding they have maximum stays that wouldn’t give us enough charge to get home. Finally, we decided to risk it and just see if we could make it to the Tesla supercharger next to Centre Parcs Elveden – Tesla know their market well – of course there is a supercharger outside Centre Parcs.
In the end, we made it – but with only 6 miles left on our estimated range, this was not a moment of calm enjoyment. There was serious charge anxiety. What I will say, though, is that we have never run out of charge. Tesla are extremely good at telling you how far you have to go, and at what speed you need to drive to get there.
For example, you can go a lot further in stop-and-go traffic than you can at 80 miles an hour. So, when your charge is questionable to reach your destination, there are all manner of warnings on the dash telling you to slow down and stay under 60mph to reach your destination.
From my perspective, having an EV is worth it. I treat road tripping in an EV to be an adventure that requires flexibility and sometimes ingenuity. I get that not everyone in my family feels that way, or is up for that adventure – so good on them for continuing to get in the car with me and go places despite the anxiety.
Equally, the infrastructure is improving. *There are more and more charge points going in, and I see now there is an Instavolt charger at a McDonald’s outside Scarborough – please no one tell my children – we don’t need any additional reasons for them to beg for Happy Meals. So, while when we first started road tripping to Yorkshire the infrastructure to charge while we were there didn’t exist, that is no longer the case.
Are you struggling with charge anxiety in considering switching to electric? My advice would be to research the key areas where you go regularly – see what the infrastructure is like today, and look at plans for the future. I am sincerely optimistic that where there are a few kinks to work out for any tech transition, the future for EVs is bright.