Thursday, September 20, 2012

Range Anxiety...or not

Oooga booga... rrraannge annxiety...aiigh, please don't scare me.

'Range anxiety' is the term created to imply that ownership of a vehicle and the very nature of the vehicle will cause the driver concern about being stranded an unable to arrive at his/her destination. The only time I have ever encountered this term is in a negative connotation where the thrust of the comments were driven (pardon pun) to maximize the fact that an EV has limited range. 

So let's borrow Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine and with my trusty boy Sherman at my side we will travel back in time to 2004. 2004, a time when gasoline vehicles roamed the prairies. I was driving westbound on I-70 just west of St. Louis in a 2002 Saturn SL when suddenly my low fuel light brightly illuminated the interior of my car. Despite the presence of my sleeping family I recklessly disregarded the illuminated warning and proceeded briskly down the unending ribbon of asphalt. Five miles. Ten miles. Twenty miles past the last gas station. Ever closer to the brink of despair as each drop of precious gas exploded into a miniature fireball and a noxious cloud of vapor propelled the car further into the heart of misery (pun intended). 

This is range anxiety at its finest. I truly began to be worried that I wouldn't make it to Columbia, MO where I knew there was a QuickTrip with that precious liquid to continue on our way home. I intentionally continued past a point where a reasonable person would say "Don't you think you're pushing it?". I went about 80 miles on 2 gallons of gasoline. As I got closer to Columbia I was truly concerned that I would be stranded on the interstate with my family and no cell phone.

Now to return to the present. I intentionally purchased a vehicle that has the following:

1. Limited range
2. Extended time to "refuel"
3. A limited number of possible locations to "refuel"

So based on the previous experience I should have a flaming case of 'range anxiety'. But I don't . Everyone has experienced the low fuel light and a low checking account light at the same time and continued to drive hoping the car makes it until payday. After a while you know how far you can drive. With my Saturn and my last job I knew that if the fuel light came on when I left the office that I could safely make it home and to the office and then back home again without worrying. With my current job and my old Escort I knew that if the fuel light came on that I was good for 2 full days.

Now with an all electric vehicle I live in the world of 'your fuel light is on' but it's always on. I really only have to worry when not only the Low Battery warning is sounded but there is also a Very Low Battery warning and that is followed by Turtle. I know that I'm only going to be a limited distance from the house so I know that it won't be a problem to get home. I also now have 3 months experience with the car and I know exactly how accurate/inaccurate the GOM is. Have I used range applications on my smartphone to check if I can go a measured distance on the available charge? Yes. Have I been concerned that an extra trip would deplete the battery? Yes. Have I done it more than once? Yes. Will I do it again in the future? You betcha. It's kinda fun in a twisted sort of way. Almost every day you can see someone on the side of the road because they ran out of fuel. So far I haven't seen a single electric vehicle stuck for lack of fuel.

The bottom line is that all cars have limited capacity to get you from point A to point B, C, D.... The fact that my Leaf lives in the short range is not a flaw in the vehicle it is simply one aspect of a car and an aspect I am willing to accept to free myself from the shackles of imported oil and environmental pollution.

When you get right down to it, learning the in's and out's of an electric car is fun. Right now everyone knows how to drive an internal combustion powered car. Everyone knows 'turn key, press pedal'. The opportunity to learn something new and play with a car is a lot of fun and in a future post I'll be discussing the 'video game' aspect of owning a Leaf.

'Range Anxiety' is a myth. There is only anxiety when you don't think about what you're doing and when dealing with heavy, fast moving vehicles you should always be thinking. I will leave you with this dirty little secret that is never mentioned by anyone on either side of the 'range anxiety' debate. Nissan Leaf's include at least 3 years of roadside assistance that includes towing your vehicle to the nearest charging station or the dealer. It's still embarrassing to run out of juice (I guess) but there is no anxiety as you know you're not stranded.

Signing off for today
Try reading a book, it's a novel experience.

So it was interesting this afternoon. On the way to pick the kid up at school what should I see stranded in the middle of the road? Yes, a Jeep had run out of gas two blocks past a BP station and half a mile from a Phillips station. I bet he had some range anxiety building until that last second when the car refused to run.

No comments:

Post a Comment