Whether it’s sitting behind the wheel for our daily commutes, travelling for holidays or days out with the family, cars are an essential part of modern life.
While interest in electric vehicles continues to rise, “range anxiety” coupled with the lack of fast charging points across the UK is currently putting people off making the switch to electric.
But the fear of running out of power while driving isn’t unique to electric vehicles. Every day people up and down the country are rescued as a result of empty tanks and misjudged fuel gauges. This is also a form of “range anxiety”. It is just one we have grown to live with and stopping to refuel is now a normal part of everyday life.
So, is “range anxiety” for electric vehicles more about perception than reality? And does the success in their growth lie in accepting their limitations while working to improve infrastructure?
Limited battery capacity and long charging times can deter drivers, but these issues don’t have to be a barrier to accessing new technology. At National Grid, we have come up with a solution which will help open up the world of EVs to longer distance and more cautious UK travellers.
For two car families, the first car covers an average of 37 miles a day, while the second travels a much shorter distance of 13 miles a day. The current 150/200 miles range cars are adequate for this meaning the answer to perception of range anxiety is not just bigger batteries, but looking at how products can fit in with our lifestyles.
Larger capacity batteries add cost and weight making them less efficient whereas cheaper 200-mile range cars could be the answer to mass market uptake and avoid pricing families out of the market.
People are naturally cautious and when investing in high ticket items such as cars we tend to plan for the biggest thing we do – such as the one drive to Cornwall each year when a much larger battery would be needed than for the average daily commute.
Rather than waiting for larger battery cars to become lighter and more affordable, we believe the answer to widening the use of EVs lies in investing in the infrastructure designed to make travelling and charging easier so to fit in with long journeys and shorter rest stops.
We propose providing enough power network capacity to support a sufficient number of 350kw rapid chargers over 50 strategic locations across the UK. This would avoid queues at peak times and mean that batteries can charge in five to twelve minutes – not much more than the time it takes to fill up at the petrol station.
When we mapped England and Wales motorways we found that 50 optimally placed locations would ensure that 96 per cent of people using the road network were within 50 miles in any direction of sufficient ultra-rapid chargers. This would help combat Range Anxiety.
We already have the existing land and grid connections needed to install these charging points and believe it is important to show that infrastructure needn’t be a barrier to EV growth and a structured and co-ordinated roll out of rapid chargers is achievable.
Our modelling also considered the needs of not just Battery Electric vehicles but also Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles too and the capacity modelled could make hydrogen on site too.
This solution is about future proofing so that as the EV market grows, the infrastructure is in place to support it. It’s about doing it once and doing it right and by taking whole system approach we are both preparing for and investing in the future.