Is the End of EV Range Anxiety in Sight?

Innovative new strategies from automakers and tech companies hope to calm electric-vehicle drivers' fears of running out of fuel.


| June 27, 2013



electric car charging station

A report from information firm IHS expects the number of charging stations available worldwide to grow to 10.7 million by 2020, up from the 135,000 available today.


Photo by Fotolia/Dariusz Kopestynski

Reposted with permission from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

In the early days of the automobile, travel required careful planning. There were no convenient places to fill up your car — gasoline had to be obtained at bulk depots located outside of cities. In 1905 the first gas station was born. Early adopters of the automobile had what we now call “range anxiety,” a fear of running out of fuel. By 1930, the number of gas stations increased to 100,000, AAA was offering emergency roadside assistance to stranded drivers, and range anxiety seemed a thing of the past. Now, with the move to electric vehicles, range anxiety is appearing once again.

Though in the U.S. 95 percent of all single-trip journeys by car are less than 30 miles — well within the range of most electric vehicles — manufacturers are sensing reluctance to purchase all-electric vehicles due to range anxiety. Yet various strategies are emerging that can put people’s range fears to rest. From already available quick-charging stations to futuristic charging coils built into the road, companies are figuring out how to get people over their range anxiety.

Making Batteries Go Further

Current research efforts to increase range include improved battery technologies such as IBM’s lithium-air battery that could lead to an EV with a 500-mile range, and Phinergy’s aluminum-air energy storage device that could increase an EV’s range to 1,000 miles. Another way to increase range is to lighten the vehicle. From Mitsubishi’s motor-inverter combo pack, which is half the size and significantly lighter than the company’s existing motor and external inverter, to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s work on carbon fiber composites, there are many ways people are working to lighten vehicles.

Charging Stations Surge

Another solution is the expansion of fast-charging stations. A report from information firm IHS expects the number of charging stations available worldwide to grow to 10.7 million by 2020, up from the 135,000 available today. New York alone is hoping to add at least 10,000 public spaces with access to chargers over the next seven years. Also expected is a growth of employer-owned chargers to serve their workforce and an increase in for-profit charging facilities, such as the network being established by Texas-based eVgo.

A fast-charger network was recently installed in Estonia, with 165 quick-charging EV stations, no more than 60 kilometers apart, throughout the country. In an interview with PRI, Jarmo Tuisk, head of Estonia’s EV program, said the stations were installed “to give a safety net to the early (EV) adopters so nobody is left on the road.”





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