When we’re talking about electric vehicles, make no mistake — the range anxiety (worrying that one won’t have sufficient power to reach an intended destination) is still real. That said, it doesn’t mean EVs are unpractical, but rather users just have to take them at face value and plan their trips accordingly.
Several apps are available, like PlugShare, which help pinpoint exactly where the next closest charging location might be. Prospective buyers may want to select an EV equipped with a bigger battery and therefore can drive further on a single charge, like a Chevrolet Bolt or Tesla Model S. Or maybe a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is the way to go, boasting an on-board gasoline engine engineered to kick in when the battery level drops. Read on to find out how to fight the fear of being left stranded.
There’s an app for that
It’s easy to take gas stations for granted, since there’s usually one accessible every few blocks in any urban area. EV charging stations, however, are still an entirely different story, even given the increasing adoption by the general public. Cue companies like PlugShare that provide a free website service and app listing over 70,000 stations across the United States and Canada, and 80,000 internationally.
The early EVs on the market had one glaring problem: a limited range of as few as 60 miles. Manufacturers are starting to catch on and in the last year or two have been increasing the battery capacity in both existing and new models.
The popular Nissan Leaf recently got a bump from a 24 kilowatt-hour battery to 30, improving the maximum range from 84 to 107 miles. Similarly, the BMW i3 is going from 22 kWh to 33 now providing up to 114 miles before a recharge is necessary. Chevrolet’s newest electric offspring, the Bolt, gets 238 miles per charge, a feat even more astounding given its sub-$40,000 price tag when brand new. Tesla vehicles have always excelled at long-distance from the get-go, but its luxury status put them out of reach for many customers. That’s changing, as early Model S’ are finally becoming more affordable.
Don’t ditch fossil fuels just yet
For some, having an expiration date on a vehicular journey due to battery limitations is simply not an option. Luckily, PHEVs overcome the problem via a powertrain consisting of an electric motor working in tandem with a tradition internal combustion engine (ICE). They are still designed to be plugged into an outlet and can run on pure electricity, albeit for a shorter distance.
Take the Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid — once 27 miles of emissions-free driving is exhausted, the Sonata automatically switches over to gas, together netting nearly 600 miles. The first-generation Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, uses the ICE to power a generator producing electricity when the batteries are depleted.