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Range Anxiety: Fact, Fiction, Buying Tips For Electric Vehicles

Not too many years ago, the term “range anxiety” might have pertained to a golfer who’s nervous on a driving range or a rancher uncertain about spending time on a vast, open plain.

But with an ever-increasing number of auto manufacturers offering electric options, range anxiety is now a major reason why car buyers have been wary of switching from gas-powered vehicles. It’s the fear of running out of power and being stuck miles from the nearest charging station.

According to a survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association, the industry trade organization in Arlington, Va., 71 percent of respondents said range anxiety is a concern when considering purchasing an electric vehicle.

And it’s warranted. With more than a dozen mainstream manufacturers offering the electric-only vehicles, mileage range varies from 11 to 265. The average daily mileage per car in the United States is 36.5 for urban-based vehicles and 48.6 for rural-based vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But concerns about range anxiety shouldn’t be a deal breaker. If you’re considering an electric vehicle, consider the opinion of John Kalb.

"Range anxiety is only a prepurchase condition. Once you drive for a few weeks, any range anxiety is replaced by range confidence," said Kalb, founder of EV Charging Pros, an independent electric vehicle-charging consulting service in Novato, Calif.

"Once you drive an EV for any length of time, you know the boundaries. The other reality is people are now buying the EV that matches their driving patterns," Kalb said. 

For current EV owners, improving the driving experience is not too dissimilar from gas-powered driver consumers seeking improvement. Common sense, preparation and more conservative driving are key. Consider the following:

1. Planning and familiarizing trip routes via charging station locations via a smartphone app (PlugShare and CarStation, for example) is an ideal way to start an EV drive. In addition, many EV apps feature images and customer reviews.

2. Speed hurts in many ways, including draining electric batteries faster than advertised. Maintaining a steady speed and abiding by speed limits (or going a little slower than the limit) will help preserve charge range.

3. Know your route. Gas-powered cars are more likely to run out of gas when the driver gets lost. Ditto for EV drivers and electricity. A map, smartphone or navigation system can help prevent wrong turns and thus alleviate battery drain and range anxiety.

4. Electric vehicles generally require less maintenance than gas vehicles. But properly inflating and rotating tires as well as following the vehicle’s manual recommendations in other areas are paramount to a safe, anxiety-free drive.