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I Have Range Anxiety but It’s Not What You Think

When I was a teenager, I bought tickets to a concert my boyfriend had no interest in attending. The venue was a 90 minute drive from home and tensions were high as I picked him up to start the trip. My attention was focused on convincing him that he would enjoy the evening, but should have been on my car’s fuel gauge. You can imagine the turn the evening took when we ran out of gas 30 minutes into the drive. It didn’t help that we were on the highway and had to walk a couple of miles to the nearest gas station. Not the romantic date night I had envisioned.

This incident marked the onset of 25 years of range anxiety. Gasoline range anxiety. When on a long road trip, my worst nightmare was seeing that little yellow gas light come on and not knowing how far it was to the next station. The introduction of Google Maps and Waze helped lessen the uncertainty, but there was still no way to control whether or not the gas in my tank would take me to my destination, or leave me stranded (again!) on the side of a road.

Contrary to popular belief, purchasing an electric vehicle has cured — rather than created — my range anxiety. I’ve had a Tesla Model 3 for nine months now, and in addition to driving it back and forth to work every day, I’ve taken it on road trips up and down the East Coast.

When I get into my car, I use the built-in navigation system to map out my route. The car immediately tells me what time I’ll arrive and how much remaining charge my battery will have left when I get there. If I don’t have sufficient “juice”, the navigation system will automatically add a stop – or multiple if it’s a really long trip – at a charging station along the way. I’ve never had to go more than a couple of miles off the fastest route to get to a charging station.

During my entire trip, there is never a doubt about whether or not I can make it. Not only do I have complete transparency — before my trip even starts — about when I’ll need to charge, but the car’s navigation system takes care of building charging stops into my trip.

But, this isn’t the same experience for everyone.

I’m a lucky customer that has purchased a car with an expansive charging network. Unfortunately, lack of infrastructure access for everyone else is a primary reason we don’t see a larger volume of EV owners. According to a recent report by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI) we will need a 10X increase in public EV infrastructure access to support the estimated 18 million EVs on the road in 2030. Approximately three-fourths of the necessary infrastructure will be located in residential locations.

Source: EEI and IEI, 2018.

Residential infrastructure access is challenging for certain customers, such as condo dwellers or apartment renters, which necessitates the need for high speed public charging and workplace charging to serve the demand.

According to a recent report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Quantifying the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Gap Across the U.S. Markets, of the 100 metropolitan areas included in their analysis, 88 had less than half of the total required public, workplace, and fast charging infrastructure in place, based on anticipated EV growth through 2025. As shown in the heat map below, some areas of the country need more infrastructure than others.

Source: ICCT, 2019.

Everyone should be at the table to help make this multi-billion dollar investment. Automakers, electric utilities, charging companies, the investment community, and government are necessary to enable this massive build out in a relatively small amount of time – while at the same time keeping grid infrastructure upgrade costs at bay.

While the industry is making these investments, they should enable these chargers to take advantage of potential grid benefits from EV charging and reduce costs. Installing networked chargers that speak a common language to perform during demand response events – often referred to as managed charging, smart charging, or V1G – would be the first step.

Based on the results of an upcoming SEPA report, Utilities and Electric Vehicles: The case for managed charging (updated), we have seen tremendous growth in the level of interest and commercial opportunities for managed charging. For example, between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of EV charging manufacturers with managed charging-capable equipment increased from 33% to 65%.

Utilities are taking notice of these opportunities as well. Based on preliminary results of SEPA’s 2019 Utility Demand Response survey, 69% of utilities are interested, planning, or have implemented a managed charging program. The same survey also found that the cost-benefit to implement a program was a major barrier. The more the industry can do to help bring down costs and define use cases, the easier it will be to incorporate these critical investments.

SEPA is working closely with our members as part of a new Transportation Electrification Pathway to further these discussions and we invite everyone to participate in our community. We have an active Electric Vehicle Working Group that is facilitating these discussions to move the needle on infrastructure investments, including managed charging networks, and much more.

As the U.S. expands our charging networks, others will get to enjoy the same level of comfort I have now with my EV. A focused and results-oriented approach to infrastructure deployment will not only encourage more people to purchase one of these amazing cars that they are guaranteed to love, but it will also help resolve numerous grid issues.

Thanks to my EV, I can now enjoy the rest of my life free of range anxiety and so can you.

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