Blog: Dave LeggettRange anxiety - has the realisation yet to dawn?

Dave Leggett | 17 January 2011

This BBC report summarises the difficulties at the heart of the electric car proposition. There's just no getting away from it: low range between battery charges will put people off of pure electric vehicles, at least in terms of replacing a typical one-car-does-all household's vehicle.

The BBC journalist's London-Edinburgh run in a Mini E highlights the problems associated with both low range and range anxiety. Despite his parting shot that the car successfully made it, you'd be mad to attempt such a journey in an electric car recharging as you go – it took him almost four days. Pure EVs will have a place in the market, but you wouldn't use one for a journey like that if you had to rely on charging the battery along the way. A trip of several hundred miles would obviously suit a conventional vehicle or, dare I say it, a train or plane. The pure EV will find a niche in an urban setting or as a low daily mileage second car.

That will probably mean, in practice, reliance on domestic charging, but with users also prepared to do slightly longer journeys where they can leave the car's battery to recharge – say, while they go shopping or at a place of work. A battery charging infrastructure will get some use (though I wonder how much...) and is also important to offer some peace of mind to EV users.

But these are clearly niche market vehicles and when it comes to journeys of several hundred miles, a pure EV just isn't quite the ticket. I just wonder whether people who say 'yes, I'll have an electric car please, especially given the rising price of petrol', will be as keen when they consider the occasional need for a longer journey than their daily average (in exceptional circumstances) and the premium they are paying on purchase price. It boils down to this: just how big is the car using segment for whom the EV really works and are there enough customers to go round - fleet and retail?

(And the media should be looking at how pure electric vehicles work in their planned market settings rather than unrealistic journeys like that one...I think I can see the shape of the Volt/Ampera 'range anxiety busting' BBC report later this year already...)

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