I’m going to miss “range anxiety”

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Front.fw

A Blog by Ron Groves, Plug’n Drive’s Manager of Education and Outreach

One of the thrills of being an early adopter is the adventure of  pioneering something new!

Five years ago, the first electric and plug-in hybrid cars came to the market in Canada from General Motors, Mitsubishi and Nissan. These early EVs led the way in advanced battery technology, all-new power electronics, standardised plug connectors and many other advances that harnessed electricity as a transportation fuel.

Some would argue that these new EVs were odd looking, others couldn’t understand the benefit of “re-fuelling” at home. But most could identify the difference between electric range and gas range. 100 to 150 kms of electric range vs. 600 kms on a tank of Dino- juice was too big a gap for most drivers to get their head around.

In those early days, our family had the use of an all electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV‎ with an average range of about 120 kms. When I told my friends about the wonder of driving without fossil fuel they thought that was a great idea. But when I mentioned the i-MiEV’s range they smiled politely and quietly scratched their heads in bemusement as to how useful I was going to find such a vehicle.

Admittedly, the spunky i-MiEV my wife named ‘Sparky’ took some getting used to, but with careful planning, travelling around Toronto was pretty easy. Then winter hit and that is when the term “range anxiety” was probably first coined. The smallish 16 kWh battery lost 1/3 of its range in the cold and that is without the heater on.

It was then that the pioneering spirit of early adopters kicked-in so we could get where we were going. We learned to preheat the car’s interior when connected to the grid using the Dick Tracy remote on the key chain. Bum warmers were mandatory and allowed for warm backside, frozen nose driving using the defroster sparingly to see out the windshield. ‎Most EVs in the day had an Eco Mode that cut back power for greater range at the cost of some performance. I hated it! I preferred the max regenerative Braking Mode that fed precious electrons back into the battery every time I braked or went downhill.

All EVs have some form of driving coach built into the dash to help the driver learn habits that saved energy. Our eyes never strayed from the i-MiEV’s bright red needle that swung from “power” to “charge” as you drove. That little ‘Sparky’ had the best energy coach I ever drove.  Today I can get into any EV and easily hit or exceed the max range of the battery because of the stingy energy habits I learned driving with ‘Sparky’.

Which brings me to today and the EVs our family drives now. The Nissan LEAF with a 30 kWh battery and almost 200 kms of range, the BMW i3 with a 33 kWh battery and an easy 200 kms of range.‎ As the Monty python skit goes, “Luxury!”. We don’t give range hardly a thought. These EVs accommodate 90% of our family’s driving needs.

I’m going to share with you a story from this past weekend. My wife and I accepted an invite to a friend’s cottage for the day; a 90 minute drive away. This would be all highway, hot summer driving with AC on. And we were coming back the same day. There are no DC Quick chargers on our route (by next year there will be 200 across Ontario). We would be able to plug-in at the cottage and charge at 110 volts. This would recover about 8 kms per hour. We were there for eight hours. So while we swam, ate, boated, sunbathed and generally did cottage stuff, ‘Fritz’ (the electric i3) noshed away on electrons from our friends cottage. That evening we unplugged, set the cruise for 110, and silently, electrically, wooshed our way home. “Range anxiety”? Hah! It’s banished from the lexicon as new and better technology takes centre stage.

You will recall I said that these latest EVs can handle 90% of my family’s driving needs. The last 10% is not going to come from the vehicle but from the electric refuelling infrastructure being installed across Ontario (and Canada) as we speak. Able to recharge an EV battery in 30 minutes or less, these stations will give EVs the same range capability as gas cars.

So it looks like my adventurous EV pioneering days are over. Sadly, I will have to find another outlet that challenges me to push barriers and seek new truths because driving an EV and getting to my destination worry free has become as easy as getting the groceries, as simple as driving downtown, as convenient as talking on the phone, as comfortable as driving to Grandma’s…. ah, you get the idea. Fill in your own example…

BMW i3 Front.fw

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12 thoughts on “I’m going to miss “range anxiety”

  1. A little off topic but your end of the pioneers comment made me think. I am wondering about home charging and the effect on the micro grid. If and I believe the wave is coming, long range EVs like the Bolt sell at a significant volume then these cars plugged in at home will all put a significant strain on the 50KW transformer in the neighbourhood. Since there was no thought of EVs when the grids were installed and there is no current way to monitor the transformers and then control EV charging there seems to be a serious problem coming. If 5 cars in the micro grid were drawing 10 kwh then these alone would consume the transformer and AC and lights and stoves and refrigerators and pool pumps are not even factored in.
    It would seem some rules need to be put in place before the problem of long range cars charging at home happens. Not a problem with one pioneer plugged in and doing it after 10 PM but the pioneer days are over as you mention in your blog and the barbarians will soon be at the gate.

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    • Hydrogen furling should be included in these 200 charging stations. A perfect world: Electric drive, no pollution and no range anxiety.
      Talk about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing 😱😱😱

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  2. Another good article by Mr. Groves. As battery range increases and charging infrastructure expands, range anxiety evaporates. The Chevrolet Bolt EV enters full production almost any day now and the Tesla Model 3 isn’t far away. In my lifetime, there’s never been a more exciting time in the auto industry. Good thing as we need to reduce our emissions in our long uphill battle with Climate Change.

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  3. You make good point Doug. This is why at Plug’n Drive we worked with the LDC’s to create a website called Charge My Car. This online charger store allows an EV owner to shop and choose from several brands of Level ll charger at great prices and find a qualified electrician to connect it. We then pass along the address information of the EV owner to the LDC so they can watch for clustering of EV charging stations in one neighbourhood. It will be up to the LDC to take action and upgrade services when they spot EV charging station clustering.

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  4. My daily commute is 155 KM round trip, and my office does not have any ability to plug-in during the day. As I search for a new car before winter hits, range is still providing anxiety for me. Is there anything affordable on the market *today* that can comfortably do a 155KM round trip in Canada’s winter? I’ve only seen the Tesla cars do that range … for more money than I make in a year.

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    • The new Chevrolet Bolt has a range of 383 km per charge. The vehicle will be in Canada by December 2016 and cost roughly 30K after incentives for the LT trim. In addition, Ontario has pledged free overnight residential charging for EV owners for four years starting in January 2017. The hydro suppliers (LDCs) are working on the details of this program with the Ontario government currently.

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  5. Electric cars are just not practical for many reasons. They really do not save anything as far as carbon footprint is concerned. But, they can be quite convenient. It is really simple to just slide into a golf cart seat and push the pedal and away you go. But, they are illegal in most states on city streets! They are very handy for handicapped people and a lot faster than electric powered wheel chairs. But, they do not fit in grocery store aisles.

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  6. With the imminent arrival of the Bolt, the Model 3 and numerous other low cost, long range EVs, and the roll out of level 3 charging, we are truly entering the golden age.

    Ron, your story reminds me of the early days (four years ago) of driving to Ottawa on Hwy 7 (to save range and shorten the distance) without a single L2 charger en route, and booking the charger at the hotel in Ottawa to charge up for the trip home. After more than 100,000 electric kms, including trips as far afield as Florida, it just keeps getting easier and better every year.

    With 90% savings in GHG emissions, six times the energy efficiency, better performance and greater convenience, electric is clearly the future of driving.

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  7. Great article, however this brings back nostalgics. I distinctly recall the time in the early 1980’s having the same fears with my propane powered truck. However I could use my barbecue tank as backup.

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  8. The electric car might have a hard time establishing itself quickly outside major metropolitan centres even with the government and environmentally-conscious people wanting to buy them. We really want one but have run into problems:
    1) none of the dealers here in Sudbury seem able to or keen to sell them. The Chev dealer has a Volt but told us that their dealership will get ONE Bolt “and YOU are NOT getting it”. Lovely, eh?
    2) only dealerships that can sell the electric vehicles can service them, so even if we go south to Toronto to buy our car….we also get the inconvenience of servicing it there. Amazing, eh?
    3) there are no trained electricians to wire the faster charging outlets here either….yet.

    Hopefully all this changes. Our current plan is to test drive and buy a Bolt in the Toronto area and then have it serviced by the Chev dealer here….if he can service the Volt, hopefully can service the Bolt. Nissan Leaf not an option yet here as the dealer cannot service it….ditto Kia Soul EV and Mitsubishi Miev.

    Hopefully the success of the Tesla 3 will force the other dealerships to pursue customers’ desires instead of their desire for the money they make on servicing the ICE cars. We will likely buy the Bolt till Tesla catches up with its backlog of orders and then switch…..would love to support a company that was the main reason electric will become mainstream…..Tesla or the Leaf….will have to think about it. 🙂

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    • Hello Susanne, we certainly appreciate your thoughts on the struggles to purchase and drive an EV in Sudbury and applaud your conviction to do so despite those obstacles. It will take some time for dealers, especially in regions where the pickup truck dominates the landscape, to get onboard with EV’s. Our contacts at GM indicate Bolt will role out in Canada initially with limited supply and only to “certified electric” dealers. So if your local GM dealer carries Volt, he should be able to service Bolt, as you indicated. There is an Eaton electrical supply dealer in Sudbury at 4-1349 Kelly Lake Road Sudbury, ON P3E 5P5 Téléphone (705) 524-7955. You can ask for Brian Coleman, he can help you with a Level ll charging station for your home, and provide recommendations for a local electrical contractor to install it for you. I own an Eaton unit myself and it has given me good service for 3 years. Recommend a corded version that plugs into a socket on the wall. The one on our Charge My Car website (chargemycar.ca) is a good price and includes the socket. If any more questions, please contact me direct at ron@plugndrive.ca or 647-717-6941. All the best, Ron

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