Range anxiety is the fear that a vehicle has insufficient range to reach its destination and would thus strand the vehicle’s occupants. The term, which is primarily used in reference to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), is considered to be one of the major barriers to large scale adoption of all-electric cars. The term range anxiety was first reported in the press on September 1, 1997 in the San Diego Business Journal by Richard Acello referring to worries of GM EV1 electric car drivers. On July 6, 2010, General Motors filed to trademark the term, stating it was for the purpose of “promoting public awareness of electric vehicle capabilities”. The Norwegian equivalent rekkeviddeangst was assigned second place in a list of Norwegian “words of the year” for 2013 by the Norwegian Language Council.
The main strategies to alleviate range anxiety among electric car drivers are the deployment of extensive charging infrastructure, the development of higher battery capacity at a cost-effective price, battery swapping technology, use of range extenders, accurate navigation and range prediction and availability of free loaners for long trips.
Range anxiety maybe be overblown, as recent studies have concluded that most daily trips can be accomplished within the range of an inexpensive electric vehicle.
Still, the concern that users of all-electric vehicles may become stranded has led to public calls for extensive public charging networks. As of December 2013, Estonia is the only country that had deployed an EV charging network with nationwide coverage, with fast chargers available along highways at a minimum distance of between 40 to 60 km (25 to 37 mi), and a higher density in urban areas.
Electric vehicle manufacturers have sought to quell range anxiety concerns through increased battery capacities to extend the vehicle’s range. REVA has a proprietary technology called “Revive”, which is a battery reserve that can be released by electric vehicle users by texting or calling an operations center. Using a range extender solution, as implemented in the Chevrolet Volt or the BMW i3, the internal combustion engine switches on to recharge the battery before it is empty. Another method is the proposed Ridek modular vehicle approach whereby a vehicle’s chassis could be exchanged for one containing a larger-capacity battery at a network of chassis-exchange stations before embarking on a long journey.
Since lack of information can be a contributing factor, a good navigation system with knowledge of the battery capacity and remaining distance can minimize the fear. There is also the possibility to minimize the fear before buying a vehicle.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has started a road-recharge pilot program in six cities, Knoxville, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa. EV-driving AAA members can use the truck’s level 3 charging capacity to recharge a Nissan Leaf to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.