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Range Anxiety Could Reduce Your Usable Range By 25 Percent, Study Finds.

Cold weather, poor driving habits, and under inflated tyres can all have an impact on electric car range, but it turns out range anxiety is the real reason for electric cars not travelling as far per charge as their manufacturers intended.

That’s the conclusion of Thomas Franke, a doctoral candidate at the Technische Universität Chemnitz in Germany, (via GreenCarCongress) who has examined the data collected by from nearly a quarter of a million miles of logged trips by BMW Mini E drivers in a recent test program in the city of Berlin.

Driving to empty: it's all in the mind.

You might be driving your EV less far than it’s capable of — just because of range anxiety.

Originally funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the study examined the usage patterns of 79 fleet and private customers over a six month period to better understand their charging and use patterns, with the expressed interest of understanding how charging patterns could fit in with surplus renewable energy generation.

As part of the study, participants kept logs of their user experiences, answered questionnaires, and had their driving patterns monitored by on-board data loggers in each car. While the study itself discovered that a typical German could easily make all the trips they needed in a single day on a single charge of their vehicle, many were plugging in long before their cars were actually empty, or avoiding trips because they were worried about running out of charge.

In his doctoral paper, Franke explains that the degree of discomfort felt by different drivers when approaching the end of their car’s range varied dramatically, proving that as we already know, range anxiety is highly subjective. In the worst cases however, range anxiety caused drivers to artificially limit their drivable range by as much as 25 percent.

“This is caused on the one hand by the competence in dealing with the range – users who have understood the range dynamics of the vehicle can control the range more effectively. On the other hand the question is: How big is the individual preferred safety buffer? ” Frank explains. “In this context, of course, also personality plays a role. For example: Does a user generally believe that he can solve technical problems based on his skills or does he rather believe that this happens by luck or chance.”

How close to the empty mark do you get in your EV?

How close to the empty mark do you get in your EV?

As Franke details, most EV drivers do eventually eliminate their own range anxiety given time and experience with the car, with those experiencing most range anxiety when they are inexperienced. Interestingly though, he also notes that most experienced drivers develop three different ways to express their car’s range — seemingly without the use of any on-board range-prediction algorithms: Competent, Preformant, and Comfrotable. 

The Competent range is the distance the driver knows they are capable of driving — usually after a bit of trail and error. It’s the distance you know you can go if you concentrate really hard, drive in an extremely eco-minded way, and perhaps keep the heating off.  Performant is the distance your car is capable of actually driving, while the Comfortable range is the distance you invariably end up driving without any feelings of range anxiety.

The challenge, Franke says, is to develop ways to help drivers learn and understand the differences in range in all three situations — and use more of their car’s battery pack as a consequence. One suggestion is to include more modes within the car that make it easier to extend range when required by engaging different driving modes. Here at Transport Evolved, we think a ‘reserve’ charge button to access extra capacity when required would be kind of neat, but as Franke hints, one thing is absolutely certain: EVs need a better way of helping drivers understand range and how far you really can go per charge.

Do you have any ideas on how to help drivers maximize the distance travelled per charge in their EV, or do you think it’s always safer to charge when an opportunity presents itself? Or perhaps you have an idea on how automakers could help improve our range expectations?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Richard Glover

    1)Try to be more law abiding by driving within the speed limits (would be nice to have a “drive in legal mode button” or simply have the speedo digits turn red when you’re over the limit)n2) Don’t play catch-up. ie. when in a convoy and those in front go round a round-about or through some lights but you get held up, don’t put your foot down to catch up. Chances are you’ll be speeding to do so. You’ll be a more courteous driver by leaving gaps in the flow of traffic and you’ll catch up anyway most likely.n3) tune-in to BBC radio 3.

    • vdiv

      To those great suggestions I would add a somewhat controversial one. Charge the EV every opportunity you have, or as a friend puts it, be either on the road or on the wire. Leave your mobile number on the dash in case someone desperate needs to use the charger so they can call you. PiA has a nice card for that:nnhttp://www.pluginamerica.org/evcardnnnnAnd of course when finished charging move your EV or get back on the road 🙂

  • vdiv

    This is where extended range EVs like the Volt/Ampera come into play. Sure, they may have half the electric range of a pure EV, but do not have the effect of range anxiety. Some say there is a “gas anxiety” instead among some Volt/Ampera drivers, but the effects are not nearly as severe or as wide spread. This allows EREV drivers to use the complete electric range of their vehicles. I have on many occasions reached home with 1 mile range left on the guess-o-meter, or even already in extended range mode just seconds before the gasoline engine would have kicked in.

  • Kieron

    I try to keep my i-miev battery between 20% and 80% (read somewhere this is better for the battery) so this affects my day to day charging regime and comfortable range, but I happily drive to within the last couple of bars if needed. I start sweating when the filler symbol starts flashing (last 10 miles or so)nHowever, I would say that even after a year or so of EV driving, I am still a proper chicken. Only a handful of times have I gone out on a journey without being able to get back on my charge! So I am definitely not over range anxiety. In rural Gloucestershire there are just not enough public chargers. I am on the edge of my range even to get to the nearest rapid chargers going East or North. If they turn out to be out of action then I will be stuck! South is better and soon I am going to drive to south Devon using the rapid charger network on the m5.n

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  • Varun A Shah

    EV Fans Rejoice – Range Anxiety is now SOLVED – http://www.teslamotors.com/forum/forums/range-anxiety-solved-message-elon-musk

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