Driving for Green: Do You Have Range Anxiety?

Range anxiety: I love this term! Unfortunately for me I can’t take any credit…so I have to congratulate General Motors for making it up and the Automotive Engineer magazine for a great description…

Range anxiety refers to the sensible reservations on the practicality of battery powered vehicles, i.e. will it get me to where I’m going and will I be able to get home?

And to my second question from the mini poll:

Would you be willing to drive cleaner cars that have a max driving range of 80 km?

A whole 55% of you have range anxiety and would want your eco car to travel more than 80km (OK I’ll stretch to 100km) before filling up or charging up.

Let’s go back to General Motors and have a look at why they believe the Chevrolet Volt has to be able to travel 40 miles (60km) before the range extending gasoline engine fires up to recharge the batteries. Well GM simply took the information supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics on “how many miles one-way do you travel from home to work on a typical day?” and multiplied it by 2 to get the round trip back home. Thus finding that 78% of Americans commute 40 miles or less daily – and I’m guessing that the same percentage of Europeans and Asians would commute shorter distances.

Maybe I should have included a comments box with this question. I’m very curious to find out why 112 people out of 203 want their car to be able to drive long distances all the time.

Let me ask another question: If you could easily hire a long range car would you settle for a short range one for all other commutes?

But maybe I’m slipping into the mini poll’s question 3…

Sustainably yours,


P.S.  In case you missed the poll and Q1 analysis, here are the articles: Driving for Green: a mini poll & Driving for Green: Poll answers for Q1

  • “I’m very curious to find out why 112 people out of 203 want their car to be able to drive long distances all the time.”

    I would be one of those who would like to have an extended range – for one single reason: I would usually forget to recharge my car in the evening.
    I have this all the time with my mobile phone, to the point where I almost do not use it anymore (it is always discharged when I need it).

    A car (or phone) is for me a commodity. It is not an art display or a pet and the less I need to worry about it, the better.

  • I think Wojtek touches on an important factor in all this: human laziness. I exhibit similar behavior with my mobile phone, and I must say our lives are tasked with such heavy to-do lists, the easier and less frequently I need to recharge my car, the better. So if we have to recharge more often, it should be very easy to accomplish. I live in an urban setting where finding an affordable gas station within proximity is not that easy. Especially compared to my days in NC where there was one on practically every corner. What type of recharge solution/infrastructure do you think would marry well with cars of lesser driving range?

  • “What type of recharge solution/infrastructure do you think would marry well with cars of lesser driving range?”

    Something along the lines of inductive (wireless) recharge at crossroads (when waiting at a red light), at parkings and in general at other typical places where the car is idle (say, highways at 18:00 :)).

    I need to fill a patent on that one, when I have time and do not forget to recharge my laptop 🙂

  • I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. I agree that plugging your car in to charge the batteries every day will not be easily accepted. I fill my car up once a week…

    On my desk at work I have a docking station for my laptop and for my mobile phone, in some ways to keep my desk tidy I dock my devices! The same can said for house hold mobile devices such as mini vacuum cleaners, electric shavers, electric toothbrushes, etc. which all have their own docking stations to charge them up. It’s pretty instinctive to tidy these devices away by docking them too.

    Wojtek, I like your idea of inductive charging – it’s very wireless! Another idea is to have “docking stations” in all car parks, all you’d have to do it just drive up (or reverse) on to special plate to charge the batteries – almost like a truck’s tractor unit backing up and connecting to the trailer unit or slot car electric brushes connecting to the track.

  • Carol

    The other issue regarding the range is the unpredictability of our lives & the misleading nature of averages.

    RE: Unpredictability
    In my case, yes, I usually drive to work & back each day & try very hard to avoid errands until the weekends. But there are days when the school calls & I have to pick up a sick child & take him/er to the doctor. Given the distances involved, & the amount of potential back & forth (e.g., going to a pharmacy to get a prescription filled) I may end up just at or over the range. Also, what happens if I’m stuck in traffic & the power is drained a greater rate than the miles involved suggest? What happens if the weather causes the battery to drain at a faster rate (in our hybrid, the car’s fuel economy is 45.1 mpg winter & 50.2 in the summer — I’m not sure whether that’s a function of the fuel, the battery, or something else).

    Re: Misleading nature of averages
    On average, I drive well under 40 miles per day. On a normal day, in fact, I drive about 10 miles. However, at least once a month (& if I am lucky more frequently), I go out with my husband after work, usually in the city where he works (we live & I work in the suburbs 25 miles north). If I meet him in the city after work, on that day, I will drive more than 40 miles.

    Also, there is one difference between running out of gas vs. running out of battery power – when I’m nearly out of energy with a gas car, I have to spend primarily money to re-fuel the car — the time I spend is trivial. With a chargeable car, I have to commit to time. So, let’s say I go to work, & afterwards drive straight to the city — that leaves me with approximately 10 miles left on the battery & a 25 mile return trip. (& at the moment, there is no infrastructure in place to allow me to recharge my car in a public garage, but let’s pretend such an infrastructure is installed). If I’m going to spend 2 1/2 hours out with my husband, can the battery recharge enough in that time period for the 25 mile drive home? Maybe, maybe not.

    GM’s solution to range anxiety (add a gas engine to extend the range) does meet all my concerns about range.