Range Anxiety caused by charging limitations, not battery limitations

Electric Vehicle Charge PortRange anxiety is the term used to describe the ever-growing concern that the general public has that electric vehicles can’t move them far enough without needing a re-charge. It’s been widely assumed that this is due to the lack of a battery packs ability to hold larger amounts of electricity which would result in more energy to deliver to your electric motor – thus allowing you to travel farther.

A new idea circulating the interweb is that it’s not the battery packs that are to blame, but the charging process – let me explain. If a new gasoline engine came out that got 100 MPG but could only hold 1 gallon of gas, which meant you had to stop and buy gas every 100 miles, do you think there would be much range anxiety? You’d have to look long and hard to find a place in the country where 2 gas stations are farther than 100 miles apart.

However, with electric vehicles that only get 100 miles of range on a ‘tank’, people are disappointed/upset/turned off. If electric vehicles could refill their ‘tank’ in a few minutes, the same or less amount of time it would take to refill that 100MPG gasoline car, there would be a whole lot less concern about the 100 mile range of the Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf, and other electric vehicles on the horizon.

The next generation of electric vehicles, including the 2012 Ford Focus Electric, and the 2013 Nissan Leaf which is said to have many improvements, faster charging is a necessity. The 2012 Ford Focus Electric includes a 6.6Kw on board charger, rather than the 3.3Kw charger the current Nissan Leaf has. That means the Ford Focus Electric could charge in about 3 hours – but this is still a lot slower than the 3 minutes to add a gallon of gas to your 100MPG gasoline engine vehicle.

Here’s a chart of how many minutes it takes on a charger miles of range gained for today’s electric cars and estimates for those on the way (borrowed from ConsumerReports.org):

EV charge time/mile Onboard charger Tested/
120 volts (Level 1) 240 volts (Level 2)
Min. charging / mile range Miles per 30 min. charge Full
Min. charging / mile range Miles per 30 min. charge
2012 Ford Focus EV* 6.6 kW 75 7.5 6.0 5.0 3 2.4 12.5
2013 Nissan Leaf* 6.6 kW 75 7.5 6.0 5.0 3 2.4 12.5
2011 Nissan Leaf 3.3 kW 75 16 12.8 2.3 6 4.8 6.3
2011 Chevrolet Volt 3.3 kW 35 10 17.1 1.8 4 6.9 4.4
2012 Mitsubishi I* 3.3 kW 64 12.5 11.7 2.6 5 4.7 6.4
2011 Ford TransitConnect EV* 3.3 kW 64 12.5 11.7 2.6 5 4.7 6.4

* based on estimated range and charge times

Although the 6.6Kw chargers are a great improvement, it still isn’t enough to get your average consumer over their range anxiety. Vehicle manufacturers and private battery companies and charging manufacturers are all scrambling for a solution, so it’s only a matter of time. Do you buy a Ford Focus Electric now, or do you wait a year or two, or more, when an electric vehicle can compete with a gasoline powered vehicle’s range and fill-up times?

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  • Cliff Finney says:

    All hail the early adopters that go through the pain and price for the rest of us! Thank you for your trail blazing efforts….but for me, I can’t deal. I’ll wait for the economics and practicality to make sense.

  • David Murray says:

    The chart is confusing. How can the Focus electric charge so much faster on Level 1? After all, it is really a limitation of the power outlet, not the car. Will their charger be able to pull more amps to take advantage of 20-amp 110V outlets? If so, I hope it is switchable to a lower amp setting for regular homes.

  • Andre Lavoie says:

    Faster charging is obviously better. But, keeping in mind that 99% of my drives are less than 60 miles a day, I only have to charge at night, and I sleep 8 hours. No problem.

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