Last weekend I got a call out of the blue from someone I hadn’t spoken to in years. She and a friend were down in my neck of the woods for a wedding. They’d rented a Tesla for fun and weren’t sure they had enough juice to make it back. Which is odd, considering they hadn’t travelled very far.

Now, does that sound like fun to you? I seriously doubt they knew what they were getting themselves into. And I’m not at all sure most consumers considering buying an electric car do either. They just think it’s cool and bought into the hype. Whatever.

I bet most don’t know there are different standards for charging electric cars (Japan Inc. has one, American and German automakers have another, and Tesla has its own). They can all use standard outlets, but that takes hours and hours. The superchargers are way faster – albeit way slower than filling a gas tank – but they’re not interchangeable.

Truth is, electric car charging is a convoluted, fragmented mess.

Environmental wackos – I mean enthusiasts – are quick to argue that range anxiety isn’t really a thing because most trips are within their vehicles’ range. That makes so little sense it isn’t funny. There are so many scenarios that make range anxiety a real thing I’m not sure where to start.

First, if you get stuck in stop and go traffic, drive real fast, or use the AC and other functions for extended periods, that dramatically changes the range. Second, there are emergencies and detours that might alter your route. Third, what if you decide you want to do something spontaneous, like go shopping or take the long way home?

I’m sure one or more of those factors contributed to my friend’s dilemma, even though they never left the Bay Area.

And what about those longish drives? The studies say 90% of trips are in range (never mind the wide variance among vehicle ranges, driving habits, etc.). What about the other 10%? That doesn’t sound like such a small number to me. You either need another vehicle or have to plan in advance to ensure there’s a compatible supercharger enroute.

Come on now. The notion that none of that causes range anxiety is ludicrous. Of course it does.

I don’t know about you, but I have enough anxiety in my life. I sure as hell don’t need to spend upwards of $100K for the privilege of adding more stress to it. Besides, I like to drive. It’s fun. Does not being sure if you can make it to where you’re going without getting stranded on a freeway somewhere sound like fun to you?

A couple of years ago, Elon Musk announced a plan to eliminate range anxiety with a software update. Unfortunately, more accurate estimates of how far you can go on a charge and communication with charging stations doesn’t really change a thing, as my friend’s situation clearly demonstrates.

Then again, don’t try to confuse fanatics with facts and sound logic. Or bother pointing out that Musk’s plan is intended to fix a problem that the Tesla faithful swear doesn’t exist. I’m sure that’s why every news outlet on Earth covered it: because it’s not really news, or even a real thing. Right.

Nearly five years ago I wrote a column highlighting eight reasons why I wouldn’t buy an electric car if you paid me. Caught a lot of flak from the Al Gore crowd on that one. Well, if you check it out, you’ll find that every one of those reasons is still valid. And now you can add a ninth reason to the list: Range anxiety. No matter what anyone says, it is a real thing.

  • Alvaro

    You are right… But the thing is, do you want a greener, healthier, cleaner,… planet?
    If Yes, better supportinh electric cars, even if in their beginnings they are not so convenient that the conventional ones. I don’t usually drive 300km in a row without foreseeing it, and my car doesn’t usually spend the night out of my parking without foreseeing it… And this can be truth for a significant % of car owners… a significant % of the time… so..
    On the other side, the more electric cars, the more charging stations, the more evolution and improvement… So, in my opinion, let’s support the wheel keep moving forward

    • Steve Tobak

      I believe in free markets, lots of choices and consumers making informed decisions.

      • Randall Vincent

        I couldn’t have said it better, Steve, so I won’t even try.

  • Anurodh Sharma

    Agreed Steve !!!