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Range Anxiety: Will New Technology Finally Make an Electric Car Viable for your Commute?

7/8/2013
Electric vehicles (EVs) are here, and it appears that they are here to stay. Now that early adopters of the technology already have their EVs parked in their driveways, automakers are trying to make EVs more appealing by slashing prices and offering low lease payments.

These solutions, unfortunately, do little to cure "range anxiety," which is a symptom caused by an EV's inherent limited driving range. Automakers are working to address range anxiety, with Fiat going so far as to offer free car rentals to 500e owners who might want to take a road trip. However, meaningful solutions may include adding range, providing more places to recharge the batteries, and speeding recharging times.

Like any new technology, EV powertrains are benefitting from advancements that are making the batteries smaller, more powerful, less expensive, and able to provide greater range on a single charge. For example, just two years after its debut, the Nissan Leaf has been upgraded for 2013 to provide improved range and faster re-charging using a 220-volt outlet. At the same time, Nissan has added a less expensive base model that saves EV buyers thousands of dollars.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has agreed upon hardware and software configurations that will speed the development and construction of DC Fast Charge stations. Able to supply 80% of maximum battery charge in just 20 minutes, DC Fast Charge stations are seen by some automakers as critical to the global adoption of electric cars.

In a related move, EV manufacturer Tesla is building a network of Supercharger stations around the country that will ultimately provide owners of the company's products with the ability to travel coast-to-coast on electricity. In 20 minutes, a Tesla Supercharger can provide half a charge. Because Tesla batteries already possess long driving range, that's enough juice to travel up to another 200 miles before plugging in at the next Supercharger. The company expects 98% of North America to be accessible to Tesla owners by the end of 2015.

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