Friday, April 16, 2021
HomeNewsRange anxiety: When battery will get you nowhere

Range anxiety: When battery will get you nowhere

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I WROTE last week in TCW about Boris Johnson’s mad rush to ban petrol and diesel cars and replace them with electric vehicles after 2030. 

As a follow-up, here’s a Guardian story that’s instructive and perhaps cautionary. It’s headlined: ‘Why did it take nine hours to go 130 miles in our new electric Porsche?’  

It’s the distressing tale of the trials and tribulations of Linda Barnes and her husband trying to get home to Kent from Bournemouth in their Porsche Taycan 4S (starting price £83,580).  

After a nerve-jangling hunt for suitable chargers en route as the battery level dropped, you’ll be heartened to know they finally made it home with 11 per cent of capacity left.  

Linda said the sense of relief was enormous. ‘We ran through the entire gamut of emotions in those nine hours – resignation, range anxiety, annoyance and disbelief that this was happening – and finally elation when we realised we’d get home,’ she added.  

Range anxiety? I’d never heard that one before, but apparently it’s a well-known term in electric motoring circles describing the fear of not reaching your destination before you run out of juice.  

Learned papers and technical analyses have been written about it, and General Motors once even tried to copyright the expression.   

Advocates of electric cars are hoping better batteries will ease range anxiety. However, a new related malady is now said to be on the rise – charger time anxiety. That’s when drivers are exasperated by how long it takes to power their vehicles, even with super-fast chargers.  

It’s simply not as quick as the ten minutes or less it takes to fill the tank of your old-fashioned jalopy with petrol or diesel. Could we be seeing the rise of fossil fuel regret syndrome?  

All that said, I must make it clear that I’m not against electric cars per se. I think they’re a great idea if they can be produced to be as good as, or better, in every way than the internal combustion engine type. But there’s a long, long way to go until then – that’s why Johnson’s 2030 deadline is certainly insane.  

Meanwhile, what do we do about range anxiety and charger time anxiety? It’s a tough one.  

As the psychiatrist guest at Fawlty Towers said when he saw Basil: ‘There’s enough material there for an entire conference.’ 

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Henry Getley
Henry Getley is a freelance journalist.

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