Range anxiety is the concern about the distance an electric vehicle (EV) can travel on a single charge – and the fear of getting stranded during the journey. Being a main barrier to EV adoption range anxiety has recently replaced upfront cost as the second most important reason not to buy an EV, according to an EY Study. What is behind this anxiety and is it valid? To give an answer I’d like to look at three main arguments.
1. EV driving range is not sufficient
The real question is, how much range do you need?
Let’s compare the current EV ranges to our daily trips. As usual it is not a black and white situation and there are regional differences. Looking at official data, we see that the average US citizen drives 62 km a day whereas Europeans generally travel less than half compared to the US – depending on the country. Germans travel the furthest in Europe which is 19 km a day.
EV ranges differ per model and depend on different factors like the battery’s state of charge, driving style, and weather conditions. Considering different sources, the average EV range sits at a comfortable 315 to 349 km today. This means a US citizen needs to charge the EV once or twice a week on average, Europeans only every other week.
Even the first EV, having a maximum range of about 175 km, would have been able to serve today’s transport needs of many drivers. All the better that the average EV range has doubled over the last decade and will grow in the next years. According to manufacturers the EV range is expected to increase to 784 km in Germany by 2025 – just to give a glimpse about what is to come.
Current EV ranges are sufficient for our daily trips.
2. Lack of public infrastructure
To decrease range anxiety, public chargers are key as many people can’t charge at home or at the workplace. Consumers increasingly expect the same services, simplicity and autonomy for EVs as they do for conventional vehicles.
The EV per charger ratio has recently increased after staying flat for several years. In 2014, an EU-appointed commission regulated that we aim for a maximum of 10 EVs per public charging point across Europe to ensure enough room for everyone to charge when needed. In 2021, the EU’s average EV to charger-ratio was 14, up from nearly 11 in 2020. Some countries have performed better than others, however, especially the largest markets in Europe do not meet the recommended charger availability.
Which is of even more concern is that there is not enough charging infrastructure being built right now. A recent analysis by McKinsey, conducted for a report from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), suggests that the EU will need at least 3.4 million operational public charging points by 2030 – compared to the 340,000 chargers today. This requires a much quicker pace when it comes to installation of public charging points: from about 1,600 installations a week in 2021 to more than 10,000 installations a week in 2030. By 2025 the weekly installation numbers must quadruple!
Also, in the US a massive ramp-up is required. According to a PwC analysis, the EV charging market in the US could — and will need to — grow nearly tenfold to satisfy the charging needs of an estimated 27 million EVs on the road by 2030.
There is not enough public charging infrastructure available.
3. Lack of public fast charging
Having enough slow charging is necessary – but so is fast charging. For the latter there are again regional differences. China clearly demonstrates leadership: over 40% of publicly available charging units are fast chargers, well above other major EV markets.
For Europe, last year’s Shell Survey report finds for retail sites that between 80 and 86% of the surveyed – across all age groups – say that charging is not fast enough. For accommodating charging needs at different destinations like shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants, etc. I’m convinced that we need the right mix of slow and fast chargers. Needs can vary, and a thorough analysis upfront will help provide a suitable mix of charging units.
Motorways are the second use case where fast chargers are urgently needed. Globally, around a third of drivers say they are concerned about driving long distances in electric-powered cars. And that’s not just a feeling. In Europe, for example, only one in seven charging stations offers fast-charging. There is a need for action.
On a positive note, in 2021, fast chargers were rolled-out at a slightly faster pace than slow-charging units worldwide. Let’s build on this trend.
We need to catch up when it comes to fast-charging infrastructure for long-distance travel as well as charging on the go.