Have you ever run out of gas and found yourself stranded on the side of the road, waiting for roadside assistance or a friend to come to your rescue? Running out of gas isn’t a thrilling prospect, but it’s relatively simple to avoid. Gas stations are on virtually every corner and along every major interstate and highway nationwide. Today, however, the rising concern isn’t a blinking “E” on the dashboard but the rise of “range anxiety.”
Future Ford of Sacramento is the leading Sacramento EV dealer and your authority on all things EV, including range anxiety, the shorthand for the worry that your electric vehicle will run out of battery before you reach your destination or another charging station. While it sounds like a buzzword, range anxiety is very real and is a cause of concern for many potential EV buyers. That’s why we’re here to tackle the intricacies of range anxiety by separating fact from fiction and discussing the realities of EV battery range and what you can expect behind the wheel.
Range Anxiety: The Search for Peace of Mind
The Bureau of Transportation reports that Americans travel an average of 40 miles each day, accounting for a national average of 11 billion miles traveled in a day. But what does this have to do with electric vehicles? It all comes down to the driving range.
There’s a common joke that drivers fall into two categories. There are those who regularly fill up to ensure they have a full tank of fuel, and there are those who drive around on fumes with the “E” indicator flashing. The latter argue that the risk of running out of gas is minimal because gas stations are plentiful and the opportunity to refuel is readily available; they’ll simply get to it later.
Electric vehicles are a different story, however. Range anxiety is the fear of not only driving on “E” but running out of battery before you reach a charging station or your destination. Automakers are targeting this anxiety by offering electric vehicles with higher driving ranges; not only do these meet our daily driving needs but they give us the confidence to adopt an all-electric lifestyle.
Testing a Theory and Running the Numbers
Let’s say you fall within the national average and travel around 40 miles each day between your commute and running errands around town. Is range anxiety a valid concern? The Ford Mach-E with a standard range battery has a 247-mile range, with the California Route 1 offering the Mach-E’s highest driving range of 312 miles with its 91-kWh battery and all-wheel drive technology. This is more than enough to mitigate any concern of depleting the battery. How so?
With a 312-mile range and a daily average of 40 miles, you can practically drive the Mach-E throughout the week without recharging the battery. By the end of the week, you can estimate having around 100 miles left on the battery before it’s time to recharge. The Ford Lightning gives drivers even less reason to worry, offering an extended-range battery with 131-kWh of usable energy and a 320-mile driving range on trims like the XLT and Lariat.
Beyond the Miles
Now, there’s more to battery usage and driving range than the number of miles you drive. Like your smartphone, an electric vehicle will lose some of its battery when not in use. The battery powers various components working behind the scenes, but the usage is minimal and will not dramatically impact your driving range.
Beyond this concern, the most prominent factors that impact your EV’s driving range are your driving style and the climate. Extreme temperatures are not ideal for electric vehicles because their motors and batteries must work hard to reach and maintain the perfect operating temperature. As a result, driving range typically decreases in frigid winter conditions and during summer heat waves.
Your driving style also plays a critical role in your driving range, as the motor has to work harder to keep up with your demands. For example, EVs are often more efficient in town because the electric motor has to work harder when traveling at higher speeds, like on the highway. The same is true when you accelerate quickly, which forces the electric motor into overdrive to reach the desired speed quickly.
Is Range Anxiety Valid?
Range anxiety is a valid concern, but not for the reasons many assume. First and foremost, range anxiety has little to do with the driving range of an EV. Automakers have eliminated this concern by ensuring EVs can travel further and run longer. As a result, EVs can readily accommodate our driving needs and then some. Moreover, recharging at home is straightforward and cost-effective, with many major EV manufacturers including the installation of a home charging station with every new EV purchase.
Realistically, you won’t drive your EV an entire week without recharging. Before leaving the dealership lot, you’ll know the benefits of recharging at home with a Level 1 or Level 2 charger and why manufacturers recommend against completely depleting the battery as much as recharging it to 100% capacity; we like to call it the “sweet spot” of keeping your battery between 50% to 80% capacity.
Because of this, the risk of depleting the battery is minimal. You’ll likely get home after work, plug the EV into a Level 1 or Level 2 charger, and let the electricity do its thing. By the next morning, you’ll have enough range to tackle the day without concern.
The Truth Behind Range Anxiety
If range anxiety has nothing to do with an EV’s driving range, then what’s the cause? Think about how many gas stations you see on your daily commute. Gas stations are on nearly every corner, with many competing for your business across the street from one another. Finding a gas station is not a major concern when we travel because the network is extensive.
Now, think about how many charging stations you see along your route. Do you know what they look like or where to look? Do you know how to operate them? Are they noticeable or advertised? This is the real basis of range anxiety.
The infrastructure of public charging stations is growing, with major cities like Sacramento home to thousands of Level 2 and DC Fast Chargers. California leads the country with the most public charging stations, but traveling beyond the state tells a different story, and range anxiety becomes a genuine possibility. The worry is not human error or oversight that you won’t remember to recharge your EV but won’t have the opportunity because public charging stations are few and far between.
As of 2023, there are approximately 130,000 public charging stations nationwide and over three million electric vehicles on the road, with demand skyrocketing. Automakers are committed to an all-electric future, introducing new models that meet this growing demand. At the same time, the infrastructure of public charging stations continues to grow, with experts projecting the need for over 1.2 million Level 2 and Level 3 chargers nationwide.
Facing Range Anxiety Head-On
Range anxiety is more than a buzzword; it’s a valid concern for drivers because the infrastructure of public charging stations doesn’t instill the peace of mind we want behind the wheel. However, that isn’t deterring drivers away from electric vehicles—nor should it. Instead, drivers consider it another growing pain that marks a new chapter in transportation. At one time, gas stations weren’t on every street corner, but demand changed that. The same will happen for EVs, with charging stations soon becoming as familiar and as readily available as the fuel pumps we see every day.