EVs driven to their limits

For years before the industry’s new electric vehicles launched, carmakers and government planners worried about the infrastructure drivers would need to replenish the batteries in their cars, write John Reed and Bernard Simon.

Cities around the world invested in public recharging points. General Motors coined a phrase for EV drivers’ fear of running out of power with nowhere to recharge: “range anxiety”.

The issue is an important one: carmakers and industry analysts say EVs’ shorter driving range limits their mass-market appeal, especially given their high price. Toyota is among the manufacturers that think few drivers will want pure EVs, and its signature plug-in car is a hybrid Prius that launches this year.

However, the dawn of the EV era has brought at least one pleasant surprise: carmakers say that most people who drive EVs quickly adjust to the limits, and can find places to recharge, usually at home.

BMW last year completed one of the biggest real-life road tests of EVs on an electric Mini with a 100-mile driving range. The carmaker, which in 2013 will launch a sub-brand devoted to plug-in cars, found that most drivers of the car in Germany had to recharge only three times a week, and were able to do it at home.

Sharif Marakby, Ford Motor’s head of electrified vehicles, says that range anxiety has been a lesser concern for drivers than many expected. “Most of the people who drive (EVs) know their limitations,” he says.

Nissan, whose Leaf cars are connected to the internet, says that more than 50 per cent of the car’s customers drive less than 30km a day. “When people buy the car, they tend to use it on short journeys,” says Andy Palmer, the Japanese carmaker’s head of business strategy and corporate planning.



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