Why it's time to get over your EV range anxiety

Why it's time to get over your EV range anxiety
Mar 2023

Electric vehicle batteries keep getting larger, and the typical driving range between charges keeps growing.

The shift is partly a response to "range anxiety"--the fear of being stranded because EV batteries don't have enough power to get to the next charging station--an idea so familiar in discussions of electric vehicles that it was spoofed in a Ram Super Bowl ad last month.

But this concern is unwarranted for a large share of EV customers, according to research from the University of Delaware, published February 21 in the journal Energies.

Willett Kempton, a University of Delaware professor, and his team looked at driving data for 333 gasoline vehicles over one year in the Atlanta area and then created a model to see the extent to which various EV options would have been able to meet the needs of those drivers.

They found that 37.9 percent of the drivers would have been able to make all of their trips for the year using a small EV like a Nissan Leaf as their primary vehicle and charging at locations like home, work, or wherever the vehicle was parked and charging was available. The hypothetical vehicle had a 40 kilowatt-hour battery and range of 143 miles.

To put this a different way, more than a third of drivers were able to meet 100 percent of their needs with an EV with a relatively small battery and didn't need to make any additional trips for the sole purpose of charging.

Keep in mind, drivers who can't meet their needs in this scenario aren't stranded indefinitely by the side of the road. They just need to find charging options outside of their typical routines, which usually means stopping at fast-charging stations on longer trips.

I asked Kempton what he sees as the main takeaways from this research. One of them, he said, is that small batteries can meet the needs of a large share of drivers.