When you think about electric vehicles (EV), do you worry about running out of power and getting stranded in a mall parking lot, on the shoulder of a highway, or in unfamiliar territory?
It wouldn’t be fair to dismiss range anxiety outright. But it’s probably not something that most drivers will ever really have to deal with given the fact that EV driving ranges are getting better with each new model year and the infrastructure of charging stations is growing steadily.
Cara Clairman is the founder and CEO of Plug’n Drive, a non-profit organization based in Toronto that promotes the environmental and economic benefits of EVs. She says that many people who do get stressed out about range anxiety tend to have a change of heart after, firstly, doing some research and, secondly, looking at their own driving habits.
“People are concerned about what they’re concerned about,” says Clairman. “We don’t like to minimize it. We just want to help them get over it if there is a way to get over it. For example, if you’re a short-distance commuter, and you drive to work every day and your trip to work is 30-40 kilometres, you are the kind of person where the range is not going to be an issue – especially if you’re a two-car family.”
Regarding Luxury recently had the opportunity to speak with Clairman, who graciously took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions. During a Q&A session, she talked about her experience as an EV owner, instances when range anxiety may be a legitimate concern, and more.
Range anxiety stress
Regarding Luxury: What is your personal experience with EVs?
Clairman: I walk the talk my friend. My first EV was a 2011 Nissan Leaf. I had that for many years. It was one of the first fully electric EVs on the market. And then I bought the 2017 Chevy Bolt. We still have that car. And now I also have a Model 3 Tesla. We sold our Leaf last year and got the Tesla. So we’re a two-EV family.
I’ve done road trips in all three of those vehicles. The Leaf, let’s face it — it was a first-generation car. It only got about 140 kilometres on the best possible day. So that was definitely challenging to do a road trip in. But the Bolt and the Model 3 both have very big ranges, so I’ve had nothing but fun doing road trips in those cars.
Regarding Luxury: What are some of the instances where range anxiety might be a legitimate issue for some drivers?
The challenge of charging stations
Clairman: Now, if you’re a family that’s a one-car family and you want to go on a very long road trip every weekend into the bush where there are going to be fewer charging stations for electric vehicles, that’s a legitimate concern. It might be difficult. So that might be somebody who we would recommend…consider a plug-in hybrid where the range won’t be as much of an issue.
Regarding Luxury: So it’s not really a case of having only two options – get a fully-electric EV or get a fossil-fuel car?
Clairman: Right. You can still get a plug-in hybrid. People often forget about that option – where their urban or suburban driving, or their commuting, will still be on electric but where they also have the gas backup if they want to do a road trip.
And you know road trips, to be fair, there still can be an issue. I’ve done plenty of road trips in my EV, but there’s more planning required and it’s not as simple. It’s something that can be done, but it might not be something that everyone will want to do.
But I certainly think, like if you have another car in the family that’s a fossil-fuel car, it’s a no-brainer. In the sense that you’re going to save money and you’re going to reduce emissions.
App for charging stations
Regarding Luxury: What are your thoughts about the complaint that charging stations are neither as plentiful as, nor as visible as, gas stations?
Clairman: Of course, there’s an app for that, right? And a lot of car GPSs will show them as well. For sure, there’s an app you can get on your phone. There’s a couple of different ones. They show all the charging stations.
If you are going to do a road trip to somewhere you’re not familiar with, the best thing to do is check it out the night before and just see…It will plan your route for you. You just need to enter where you’re going, and it will show a good place to stop. It’s quite simple.
Regarding Luxury: You’ve been driving EVs for around 10 years now. How would you rate the infrastructure for EV charging stations?
Clairman: I would say it’s good. It’s not great. There are still some gaps. It depends on how remote you want to drive. If you’re driving on a main corridor like the 400 series highways, it’s pretty good…It’s improved so much in the last couple of years compared to what it was. And every year it’s getting better.
In a jam? Plug it in
If you’re having trouble getting the range anxiety issue out of your head, consider that you don’t have to rely solely on charging stations for electric vehicles that may or may not be plentiful along your route.
“It’s also important to remember that you can plug into any 110-volt plug whenever you get to wherever you’re going, which I’ve done many times,” says Clairman. “So it’s not like you always need chargers along the route.”