What Is Range Anxiety? …& other Electric Vehicle Questions

Whatever way you look at it, the age of fossil fuel is coming to an end. Petrol and diesel won’t last forever and their use is having a severe effect on the state of the planet. But, whilst we seem to be hurtling towards both the end of oil and the destruction of our environment at breakneck speed, a much more eco-friendly, renewable solution has slowly been gaining traction and is now a regular sight on the UK’s roads.

Electric vehicles – the clean, green, plug-in machines – have enjoyed a breakthrough period over the past few years, with the Tesla Model 3 even ranking as the second-best selling car in the UK in 2021. Now, other automotive superpowers including BMW, Mercedes, Ford and Nissan are deep into the world of electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing and we’re even starting to see elite brands like Porsche and Lamborghini get involved (the latter has announced that their first EV will be launched in 2028).

Despite the fervour for electric vehicles that the industry is currently experiencing, these cars are not perfect – far from it in fact. From stories of EVs setting alight after a flood to viral videos of mile-long queues to use a charging station, there are many reported reasons that one would be put off buying an EV. Here, we’re going to look into those concerns and see which ones are legitimate and which aren’t worth worrying about if you’re considering the switch.

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Common Concerns About Owning Electric Vehicles

As we said above, EVs are already getting a bad reputation with some stubborn petrol heads who are reluctant to give them a chance, but are their criticisms sometimes valid? Let’s take a look, starting with the elephant in the room…

Range Anxiety: What Is It? Is It A Real Problem?

We’ve all been there; your fuel gauge is well into the red, the light is blinking at you and if you’ve got a newer car, there’s probably even a message on your infotainment screen telling you to ‘FILL FUEL NOW’. It can be a stress-inducing situation, but generally, the biggest concern comes from whether or not you have time to hop off the motorway and find a petrol station instead of pulling into the services just beyond the junction and paying the wrong side of £2-per-litre for fuel.

With electric vehicles, this scenario can be a lot more worrisome. The range (that being, the distance it can travel on a full battery) is a major talking point in the debate between EV and ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) owners. Some EVs, particularly those that are older or smaller, will barely have the range to get you from one major city to another and realistically, probably aren’t suited to motorway driving at all. In fact, most models are produced with ‘long-range’ variants that cost a substantial amount more than the base version.

Furthermore, you may find that some EVs feature a wildly inaccurate range calculator. Whereas your petrol or diesel car will point the fuel gauge needle with precision, the range limit that you’ll see presented on your dashboard can be around 25% more than what you’ll actually be able to achieve. Sure, your driving style will affect this just like it would with an ICE car, but the problem is so notable that the EV community has a name for it – “real range,” as opposed to the ‘official range’ reported by the manufacturer.

But, with that information in mind, you can just take a quarter of the range and plan accordingly, right? Not exactly. The biggest contributing factor of all towards range anxiety is actually the lack of charging facilities and infrastructure on UK road networks at the minute.

Above is a map of Central London courtesy of Zap Map, featuring every single charging location in the vicinity. Many of those marked locations are home to multiple individual charging points that can handle several cars at once. It’s quite a lot, particularly for an area that has the strictest low-emission regulations in the country… but perhaps it’s to be expected from the nation’s capital which is also one of the most advanced cities on the planet.

Below, on the other hand, is a map of the coastal town of Eastbourne. If many of those Londoners were aiming for a summer trip to the seaside in their EVs, they’re going to be in for some trouble, because the whole town (which itself has a population of 100,000) is only home to 18 charging locations in total – one of which is on someone’s driveway (owners can charge drivers to use them privately) and another is on the forecourt of a Renault dealership and likely only accessible to either Renault drivers or customers. This lack of widespread infrastructure is the primary cause of range anxiety and why the scenes of the viral video linked in our introduction, while rare, can happen.

Luckily, investment is on its way with the UK aiming to have 300,000 charging stations up and running by 2030, which incidentally, is the same year that the government is banning the production of new petrol and diesel vehicles. To put that figure into perspective, as of 2021, the UK had 8,378 petrol stations in operation.

Other Common Concerns Confirmed & Debunked

Expensive Battery Replacements – CONFIRMED

The battery in an EV is pretty sturdy and designed well enough to withstand thousands of charging sessions over a period, on average, of around 10 to 20 years. You may have had ICE cars with engines that lasted longer than this, or that failed much sooner. EV batteries can behave the same way, with some lasting much longer and others packing up faster than expected.

The real problem with EV batteries presents itself when it’s time for the device to be replaced. Think it’s expensive to replace a traditional car engine? Stick another zero on the end of the price and you’re looking at what you could be charged for a new battery. Of course, as electric vehicles continue to become even more prevalent and the technology involved in their production becomes more widespread, this cost will surely reduce but at present, it can be ludicrously expensive to switch out an old battery for a new one – it could quite literally be cheaper to simply buy a whole different car!

There is a manufacturer-recommended way of preserving your EV’s battery, though. It’s commonly advised that owners should avoid fully-charging their vehicles. In fact, the suggested level is just 80% and this advice is so widely accepted that fast-charging stations will often default to a slow charge (or stop completely) once the battery hits this level to avoid accidentally charging to completion.

Therefore, the above section about the number of charging stations around the country could really come in handy.

Water & Electricity Don’t Mix – DEBUNKED… sort of

By the time you leave school, you should be well aware that water and electricity should be kept well apart. So, it might seem strange that, on a planet where water regularly falls from the sky in great quantities, science would angle us towards driving cars that run on electricity. Of course, it’s possible to waterproof the volatile parts, but it could be argued that driving EVs in the rain is a bit like playing with fire.

Well, until recently this was easy to call ‘debunked’ thanks to, as we said, the extremely thorough waterproofing that every EV goes through during production. Driving in rain, whether it’s in a top-end Tesla or a little Renault ZOE, will be safe and you shouldn’t worry about receiving an electric shock.

However, when talking about flood water, things are a little bit different. We don’t need to tell you that driving down a flooded road is an awful idea – this is the case whether your car is electric or fossil fuel based. While there are some claims that certain EVs might actually perform better in flood waters than ICE cars, with a certain Mr. Musk even claiming that a Tesla Model S could function as a boat for a brief period of time and the Jaguar I-Pace stating a wading depth of 500mm, the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Florida has shown that in reality, electric vehicles are liable to set alight after suffering flood damage.

To summarise, electric vehicles are completely safe if the weather is poor, but if you’re part of the minority that live in an area prone to flooding, it might be worth taking extra time to consider a switch to an EV.

Worse Towing Capabilities – CONFIRMED

One for all Caravan Club members, now. The automobile market is currently being bombarded with brand-new models, most of which are SUVs or the slightly smaller ‘crossovers’ which are all capable of towing hefty trailers or caravans behind them.

Or are they? The electric varieties of these vehicles are able to tow large loads; that’s an undeniable fact. However, one concern about these cars is that pulling your portable holiday home behind you will drastically reduce the range that you can travel, meaning you might end up spending a night at a service station while your car is topped up with juice. It’s reported that towing a load could reduce the real range of your EV by up to two-thirds. This is a staggering drop-off from the unladen range and is likely to throw a spanner in the works during any holiday road trip.

For comparison, internal combustion engine cars are only expected to lose 30%, at most, of their fuel efficiency.
If this hasn’t put you off and you’re still thinking about switching to an electric vehicle, or if you’re firmly set in your ways but want something newer to keep up with the tech of an EV, sell your current car with Scrap Car Comparison and browse the forecourts with a lump sum of money in your bank account. Our scrap valuation calculator can tell you how much your vehicle is worth as scrap or salvage almost instantly, and if you accept one of our quotes, we’ll even arrange for the vehicle to be collected free of charge, no matter where you live!

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