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Range anxiety: Real EV drivers weigh in to separate fact from fiction

What is EV range anxiety, and how does it play out in the life of a typical driver?
A woman reading trip information in an electric vehicle

We are a car culture. A car is freedom, adventure, and independence. It’s a coming-of-age ritual and a symbol of identity. Cars even define our environment through grids and asphalt.

It’s no wonder, then, that we are slow to invite change when it comes to what and how we drive. North America lags behind Europe in electric vehicle (EV) adoption, and the gap will not close soon. While it’s true that the US and Canada must ramp up EV charging infrastructure, consumer behavior also must shift if we hope to address the climate crisis.

One abiding concern is range anxiety. In this article, we’ll take a look at why. 

What is range anxiety?

Range anxiety is the idea that electric vehicles lack the power to get you where you need to go. This anxiety is compounded by worry over charger availability and reliability. These concerns are valid—we need more functioning chargers to support and accelerate an electric future. Still, over one-third of drivers could comfortably get by with vehicles like the Nissan Leaf (40kW battery and 143 mi range). That figure tracks when considering that the average driver travels 13,476 miles in a year.

Range anxiety is serious for people who regularly travel long distances or live in rural areas. But by and large, the issue is overrepresented in North American media and culture. To tip the scales, we must address range anxiety from both sides: We need more chargers in the ground and more level-headed perspectives on owning an EV. 

Why does range anxiety persist?

Based on the figure above, the average American drives approximately 260 miles per week. Meanwhile, the average EV has 216 miles of range, and models like the Lucid Air boast 500 miles or more. So why is range anxiety still among the top three reasons consumers cite for sticking with fossil fuels?

A psychology of scarcity

One explanation is that media attention can create a psychology of scarcity. We saw this play out in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic when a surge of “panic buying” led to global stockpiling of toilet paper. Researchers later linked the behavior to conscientiousness rather than selfishness: Diligence, sentimentality, and dependence were a few personality traits that correlated to more toilet paper stockpiling. This fact makes it easy to understand why conscientious would-be EV shoppers could get caught up in the range anxiety narrative. 

Commercials for the new all-electric Chrysler Pacifica attempt to paint a “zen” picture of EV life to combat this perception. The company’s “Vanlightenment” campaign shows a couple meditating at an EV charging station—a direct rebuttal to range anxiety.

Break-neck breakthroughs

Another factor is the rapid evolution of electric vehicles themselves. The earliest EV prototype appeared in 1837, but even by the 1970s, electric cars hadn’t gained a foothold in the market. The 1974 Sebring Citicar topped out at 25 mph and had just 40 miles of range, making it a poor alternative to gas-powered models. While the first 150 years of EV history showed slow progress, we’ve seen transformative improvements in the last decade. The 2013 Nissan Leaf had a 75-mile range, while today’s top-selling EV, the Tesla Model 3, gets up to 333 miles. That’s a 344% increase. If you’re not actively keeping tabs on the industry, it’s easy to underestimate the capability of EVs. 

Fact versus fiction

EV myths are multi-faceted. Here are a few common takes and what real EV drivers from ChargeLab and our partners’ businesses had to say about them. 

“I’m always going to be looking for a place to charge.” 

The reality: EV drivers don’t rely on public chargers.

“I've had a number of friends who are frightened by the idea of owning an EV because they assume that public chargers are the only way to charge their cars. They also hear horror stories about the unreliability of public chargers—those are the stories that get in the news, unfortunately. 

But actually, home charging is really accessible. If you need to, you can plug directly into an outlet on the side of the house, but I've also introduced my friends to the concept of L2 home chargers. These friends are now all intending on purchasing EVs in the next year or two because that mental block has disappeared.”

– Kristin Stroobosscher, ChargeLab Lead Program Manager & Chevy Bolt driver

“Driving an EV has never been more convenient. Every morning you leave home with a ‘full tank,’ and today's long battery ranges obviate the need for charging on all but the longest journeys. If you do have to charge en route, the new wave of high-powered DC fast chargers being installed on interstates at locations that are safe and popular, such as service plazas and convenience stores, makes charging quick and reliable.”

– Michael Krauthamer, Managing Director of EV Advisors & EV driver

“If I buy an EV, I can’t go on any road trips.” 

The reality: EV drivers take road trips and find the experience enjoyable.

“Most major highway stops in the US and Canada have DC fast chargers now. The charging sites you’ll encounter are generally cleaner, newer, and nicer than most gas stops. It’s true that filling up takes a bit longer, but if you stretch your legs and get some food, your EV is almost full by the time you’re done. Road tripping takes a tiny bit more effort to plan, but is not really a hassle.”

– Zak Lefevre, ChargeLab CEO & Chevy Bolt driver

“I drive a big pickup truck that’s one of the least range-efficient vehicles on the road. Despite that, I drove a 3,000+ mile cross-country road trip in peak winter months, including remote places off the beaten path. With just a bit of planning, I’ve never felt limited driving electric. In fact, it’s made trips less expensive and a heck of a lot more fun, while keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”

– Greg DiMattina, ChargeLab Head of Product & Rivian driver

“On the road, I’ll spend all my time charging.” 

The reality: EV drivers find that charging adds a bit of time, but the ride is more enjoyable.

“We recently drove from Ottawa to Vancouver and back in the middle of winter—a roughly 6,000-mile trip in full. We started every day with a full charge because we chose hotels with chargers on site. A typical day had three charging stops, probably 60-80 minutes total, which would easily get us another 500 miles. The stops made sense for us: Getting lunch or a coffee is nice on the road. I’m convinced that the time we spent at chargers is almost the same we would’ve spent at gas stations for an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle.”

– Dave Lefevre, ChargeLab Technical Specialist & Tesla driver

“If you have kids, scheduling times for fast charging on a road trip is a great way to make sure your kids get their wiggles out. I've literally never had a problem driving long distances with two young kids.”

– Kristin Stroobosscher, ChargeLab Lead Program Manager & Chevy Bolt driver

“Winter weather will cripple my EV range.” 

The reality: Cold weather can shorten your EV range, but a little planning keeps you on track. 

“I've done quite a few winter road trips with my parents’ Bolt and found it's just about strategic planning. Most chargers are also set up close to restaurants or other places where you can warm up and stop as needed. I would often plan my trips based on distance, including a viewpoint, grocery stop, etc.”

– Andréa Couture, ChargeLab Account Manager & Chevy Bolt driver

“I live in Colorado and love getting off the grid to ski, hike, and run all over the west—and I drive my Mach-e everywhere. It’s done multiple cross-country adventures and is always reliable, comfortable, and fun to drive regardless of the weather conditions, elevation changes, or the length of the trip. I’ve even charged it above 10,000 feet!”

– Megan Guy, outdoor enthusiast & Ford Mustang Mach-E driver

“A big benefit of EVs in cold winters and hot summers: It’s super nice to pre-heat and pre-cool them. Every modern EV has an app where you can pre-heat and pre-cool. Since the engine is electric, you don’t have to worry about starting your car with the door closed filling your garage or house with fumes. In my experience, the heaters in EVs also work faster than waiting for the engine to heat up in ICEs.” 

– Zak Lefevre, ChargeLab CEO & Chevy Bolt driver

“Going to a gas station is convenient.” 

Reality: Most EV drivers don’t miss the gas station and prefer home setups.

"The reality is that charging at home or work is way more convenient than planning a gas station stop. Plus, more retailers are adding chargers every day—what's more convenient than charging where you park?”

– Isaac Klein, metroEV Vice President & EV driver

“Of course, around town, we never go to gas stations anymore. It’s really nice not even to pay attention to the price of gas—this, from a guy who always knew all the cheapest stations within a 200-mile radius!”

– Dave Lefevre, ChargeLab Technical Specialist & Tesla driver

“Battery degradation makes owning an EV a bad investment.”

The reality: EV batteries can take more miles than the typical ICE vehicle.

“Batteries degrade at a reported rate of 1-2% annually. This means that after 10 years of saving on fuel and maintenance costs, I'll still have a car that runs 80-90% as well as it did the day I bought it. I don't see any downside there.”

– Aidan Sheridan, EVSTART Technical Manager & Hyundai IONIQ 5 driver

“My Tesla has almost 100,000 miles on it so far—an estimated 7% of its capacity. I fully expect to be able to drive it for another 15 years, to at least 300,000 miles. Also, as vehicles age, they become secondary cars used for city driving. To my mind, even an ancient EV is equipped for city driving.”

– Dave Lefevre, ChargeLab Technical Specialist & Tesla driver

“A home charger will break the bank.”

The reality: Level 2 chargers are a good home solution, but you can use a simple plug. 

"I went into it assuming I absolutely needed a Level 2 charger at home. My big eureka moment was seeing that a regular home outlet was totally viable for most people. For my driving habits, I could easily get away without even running a NEMA 14-50 to my garage."

– Patrick Smith, ChargeLab VP of Engineering, prospective EV driver

“The average American spends more than enough money on gas in a year to pay for the installation of a home charger, and that charger will likely pay for itself within its first year. It's also worth noting that there are many rebate programs available across North America that provide further incentives to install chargers at home.”

– Aidan Sheridan, EVSTART Technical Manager & Hyundai IONIQ 5 driver

"I recently switched to Level 1 charging as I was not able to relocate my Level 2 charger. With my average usage (including an increased distance to daycare!), we have not yet needed to use public charging. Level 1 is a viable option for anyone who wants an EV today"

– Emma Gold-Utting, ChargeLab Director of Customer Success & Kia Soul EV driver

Making range anxiety history

It’s clear that EV ownership might not be as difficult as our culture paints it. Whether you’re an electric enthusiast, in the market, or on the sidelines, you can join this conversation. We can all be a part of ending range anxiety by sharing our stories or asking questions. 

At ChargeLab, we’re building EV charging solutions that scale. Every day, our partners deploy new commercial charging stations backed by our software—unlocking features like maintenance alerts, diagnostics, reporting, and more. We’re helping end range anxiety by improving charger access and committing to field reliability through rigorous testing. Contact us to learn what we’re about.

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