Electric Vehicles, Part 2: Range Anxiety & Road Trips

Welcome to part 2 of the survey results from drivers of electric vehicles! This post will address the biggest worries that people have about EVs: long-distance road trips, and range anxiety. Also, I gathered some great advice from survey respondents for people like you (and me) – those who might be unsure whether they’re truly ready to make the switch to an electric vehicle.

If you didn’t catch part 1, check it out here. It’s all about charging at home, using public charging stations, and the costs involved. Don’t miss it!

Road trips in electric vehicles

Those considering switching from gas to electric might have concerns about taking long road trips. The availability of charging stations along the route, plus the time spent charging, is something that needs to be considered. I asked about road trips in my survey, and here are a few of the responses.

Planning helps. Tesla Superchargers are generally great. Near food and sometimes lodging. With dogs, walked them. With kids, bring a frisbee or food and have a picnic. It is best to have chargers at lodging. I usually pick hotels that way.

Westminster, CO

We generally use the bathroom, get snacks or something to eat, or watch tv while the car is charging. It’s caused us to “slow down” a bit when driving long distance. Forced short breaks have been a blessing.

Benton Harbor, MI

I would probably rent a gas powered car. No patience for waiting if I’m on the way somewhere.

Orange, CA

I bought my Chevrolet Bolt in Ohio and drove it back to Florida. We had to stop two or three times per day and also we only stayed at hotels that had charging stations. Marriott was very good about that. And it was such a relief to discover that almost all of the Walmarts now have charging stations. One time a Dunkin’ Donuts had a charger! So we would wander into the store and use the bathroom and buy coffee and just wait.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Based on most of the responses I’ve collected, it sounds like Tesla’s sedans and SUVs are the best EVs for long-distance travel. The prevalence of Tesla Superchargers along major highway routes, and their recharging speed, goes a long way toward minimizing the inconvenience of road tripping in an electric vehicle.

If you drive a non-Tesla EV, long-distance trips are possible, but incompatibility with Tesla’s Supercharger network means that more planning and time may be required. There are big investments being made in charging infrastructure at the federal, state, and local government level, as well as by automakers. As it improves, I predict that taking long road trips in an EV will be less of an issue as time goes on.

Range anxiety

One of the largest hang ups that people have with electric vehicles is the concept of range anxiety. This is the fear that your car’s battery won’t have enough juice to get you to your destination, or to a charging station. In the earliest days of the EV, before the charging infrastructure is what we have today, range anxiety was (and still is, for many) a very real concern. So, I asked owners what their personal experience has been with this phenomenon.

Yes, I had range anxiety in the beginning. After a few months that goes away. I generally use route planners for long, cross-country road trips to help quell range anxiety.

Atlanta, GA

This is our 3rd EV lease and I used to have a lot of anxiety. That has improved unless I go to new places where there are not many chargers or it is close to my limit. Sometimes I am afraid to run the heat or AC.

Portland, OR

I had range anxiety for the first week of ownership, but went on a long road trip and after having no issues, and after seeing how convenient it was to wake up to a full charge every morning, the anxiety went away quickly.

Gaithersburg, MD

On the first long trip I was a bit worried, but navigation worked fine to get us to the destination with charges. I mostly have it when I have family in the car who could be whiny.

Washington, DC

It diminished significantly after 2 months and more or less disappeared when I got level 2 charging a year after purchase.

Marietta, GA

Yes, it’s still there, but for common routes, it’s less because I know where to find the nearest public chargers.

Vancouver, WA

Again, range anxiety is a real thing. While you’re acclimating to an EV, it will definitely take some planning on your first few longer trips. But these days, electric vehicles with 250+ miles of range on a full charge are becoming commonplace. It won’t be long before the range of an EV exceeds the driving range of a gasoline-powered car with a full tank. And as the charging infrastructure continues to improve, range anxiety will no longer be a source of worry.

Maintenance costs of electric vehicles

Electric vehicles will save you money over gas-powered vehicles when it comes to maintenance, too. Electric motors are simpler than conventional internal combustion engines, and have fewer moving parts. No more oil changes, and no more spark plugs.

Returning to the Consumer Reports study mentioned in Part 1, they found that the typical EV driver will save $4,600 in maintenance and repair costs over the lifetime of the vehicle, compared to a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Are you a convert?

One of my final questions was whether each respondent was now committed to electric vehicles based on their entire experience.

Graph reflecting the percentage of owners of electric vehicles that plan to continue to drive an EV in the future

Over 76% said that they were, and plan to only drive electric vehicles in the future. 19% said that they plan to own an EV, but will likely own a second gas-powered vehicle as well. Only one person stated that they want to go back to gasoline. I reached out to that respondent to see if he would elaborate, but I didn’t hear back.

Even so, that 95% of EV owners are committed to driving electric in the future is telling.

Ready to make the leap?

In my last question in the survey, I asked what advice EV drivers might give to someone who is hesitant to make the switch from gasoline. Here are a few of the responses.

It takes a little getting used to, but I love it! Driving past a gas station and seeing prices makes me a happy I never need to do that.

Tacoma, WA

If they were to buy an EV right now they need to carefully look at their driving needs and buy accordingly. If I could’ve afforded to, I would’ve purchased the Leaf Plus with the larger battery with longer range. I love my EV but you can’t charge it just anywhere, like you can fill an ICE vehicle. That being said I am so glad I purchased mine. In some ways I feel like a pioneer… like I’m driving a horseless carriage while others are still driving a horse and buggy. EVs are the future. Don’t be afraid of them, but make sure you are realistic about your needs and what is required to keep your EV charged.

Corning, NY

Just do it. Get a vehicle with at least a 200 mile range and stop spending $ on and pumping gas. I haven’t been to a gas station in at least 5 years and don’t miss it. EV cars are very quick, quiet, very little maintenance, economical, and go much further than you probably think. It’s an amazing feeling traveling all over the city with little impact on the environment, not to mention no noise and light on the wallet.

Orange, CA

Most people worry about where or how to charge your EV. Now owning an EV I worry about people that have to stop for gas all of the time. You never know when the price of gas is going to go up while electricity is regulated in most states. I like the peace of mind knowing that every time I get in my car that it has the equivalent to a full tank of gas at a fraction of the price.

Raleigh, NC

EVs involve a bit of a mental switch – most folks worry about range anxiety when it’s rarely an issue with how far most of us drive. And think of it like your phone – if you have the ability to charge your EV at home, it’s like charging your phone. You plug it in when you get home and it’s ready to go the next morning. It’s a very different mindset from needing to stop to get gas.

Benton Harbor, MI

Electric vehicles require a shift in your habits…

Ryan and Sean, above, make a great point that I want to hammer home. With a gasoline-powered vehicle, if you’re like me, you drive until your tank is on “E” and your gas warning light comes on, and then you go fill it up. Driving an electric vehicle in this same way would result in long and inconvenient charging times. Instead, with an EV you need to get into the habit of topping up the battery as often as possible. Anytime you return home, plug in your car. At work or at the grocery store, if you have access to an affordable charging station, replenish your battery.

Once you’ve adjusted to this new habit, I believe that most drivers could have nearly all of their personal transportation needs met perfectly by an electric vehicle.

In conclusion…

Realistically, until DC Fast Charging infrastructure improves even more, to eliminate range anxiety and further minimize the shortcomings of long-distance travel in an EV, I realize that most consumers will remain unwilling to make the switch from gasoline. Even if an electric vehicle would suit 99% of their driving, worries about longer trips are likely to be a dealbreaker.

But I’ll leave you with this. The next time you’re shopping for a new car, consider the type of driving you do most often. Especially if you’re part of a multi-vehicle household – do you truly need two (or more) vehicles that run on gasoline? Or could one of them be replaced with an EV?

Vehicles powered by fossil fuels are a thing of the past. They’re dinosaurs, and electric vehicles are the asteroid. Maybe you’re not ready to make the switch now, but the way the market is going, we’re all going to be switching to EVs – possibly sooner than you might think.

Thank you for reading. If you need help selecting your next vehicle, electric or otherwise, and want to make sure you’re getting a good deal just like these fine folks, let’s talk!

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