Wed. May 25th, 2022

Range anxiety is the term given to the nagging concern that an electric car does not have enough battery charge to cope through the day. It is one of the commonly known barriers to the admission of electric vehicles.

Those who own an electric vehicle will know that range anxiety is not the big issue once you understand more about electric cars. And if you’re anything like this writer, you’ll have experienced real range anxiety – and price anxiety – as a poor student driving a car with an internal combustion engine and counting cents out to fill the tank!

The beauty of electric cars is that while public charging infrastructure is increasingly being rolled out in important corridors and city centers, there are already more places to charge an electric car than there are to fill a petrol or diesel car.

Tip: you just need a powerpoint.

Here are nine ways to manage your battery charge status and alleviate range anxiety:

Understand your driving range requirements

Whether you live in the city or the suburbs or in a regional area like this driver, the chances are that your daily driving habits are fairly regular.

The average daily commute for an Australian driver is just under 40km (ie less than 20km one way). New electric cars are capable of driving up to 200 km on a single charge, at a minimum, and that is more than enough for at least 4 days of driving.

And most modern electric cars can drive even further, with the most popular electric car in Australia, the Tesla Model 3, capable of driving around 400km before they need to be charged (depending on how they are driven). Others may go further. It largely depends on the size of the battery.

What is important to understand is how often you are likely to drive an unplanned drive, especially if you are a parent or caregiver. Both teenagers and toddlers have e.g. great suitability for emergency trips.

Or maybe your job requires you to be on the go at short notice. If this sounds like you, try to estimate how often you might need to take such trips, decide where there are chargers you can use when on the go (plugshare.com is great for this), and where often you will be able to fill up your range.

plugshare ev chargers october 2021
Source: Plugshare

Understand the difference between NEDC, WLTP and EPA range ratings

A common misconception (which also applies to ICE vehicles) is that the energy efficiency and thus the “official” driving distance (or fuel consumption of an ICE car) is indicative of actual driving.

As with ICE cars, the range you get is based on a number of factors, including how fast you accelerate, the speed you travel, and how many hills there are on your route.

There are three range ratings, and the label on the window screen of an electric car when you buy uses a range based on an outdated NEDC rating, which generally exaggerates the range (because the tests are performed under unrealistic conditions).

There’s also the more accurate WLTP standard used in Europe, and then there are the range assessments handed out by the US Environmental Protection Agency – you can search for these at fuelconomy.gov.

The EPA is generally the best guide to the real world driving range. You can get a complete picture of the difference between the range assessments in our FAQ here.

Know your guess-o-meter

The display of the remaining range in your car is colloquially called a “guess-o-meter” because the car’s software makes an estimate of your remaining range based on your recent driving behavior.

Although these algorithms have been greatly improved in recent times, it is a good idea to spend your first few months of ownership keeping an eye on what is written and how far you actually get before the battery is low.

Again, it’s a lot like seeing the fuel gauge in an ICE car!

Know your charging stations

As mentioned above, it is important to know where your local charging station is when you are not at home. But you also need to know what types are available so that you can choose the best type for any given situation.

When you are at home, you can connect a standard powerpoint using the “regarding charger” that comes with your car (it may also be a good idea to buy a power adapter with overload protection to ensure that your car does not fall into your home circuit).

This is typically charged at a speed of about 2.2 kW or higher if you have a wall charger or dedicated 15/32 amp connector or even three-phase power.

Goulburn DC charger
NRMA fast chargers. Source: Plugshare

Public charging stations are either AC or DC, with the latter being the fastest type of charging available. AC chargers are commonly called destination chargers and you will typically find them at malls, restaurants and hotels or at workplaces and you park your car there for at least an hour or two to fill up while you are at work or shopping or eating.

DC fast chargers charge your car from 0-80% in anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the size of your battery and your car’s highest charging speed. Most fast chargers in Australia are 50kW or 350kW.

Fill up where and when you can

Go to the shops? Choose the mall you know has a destination charger. Are you going on a road trip? Book the motel with a destination charger, or call in advance to ask if you can connect your electric car (and offer to pay for the electricity you use!).

At home during the day or at night? Connect the electric car and leave it on for a maximum charge (generally to 80%, but 100% if you own a Shanghai-made Tesla with LFP battery).

AC EVlink and DC Tritium chargers at Hamilton in Brisbane.  Credit: Bridie Schmidt
AC EVlink and DC Tritium chargers are part of QESH at Hamilton in Brisbane. Credit: Bridie Schmidt

Turn off air-con and other auxiliary drains

There is always the potential for you to get stuck on a longer trip and risk a low battery status. In cases like these, turn off the air conditioning, music, and any other energy drains that may be consuming your charge.

Drive more conservatively

This is for the lead feet (and I admit that I am one of them at times!). Accelerating and driving slower – again as with an ICE car – will result in you using less energy per second.

Choose another route

If you have the choice between a route with hills and a route without, select the one without if the distance is the same. Many electric cars also have a feature that makes it possible to predict a navigation route that uses less energy.

Make sure your tire pressure is optimal

If your tires are a little empty, you will use more energy. Check the air pressure regularly and fill according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

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