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Connected Driving 6 min read

EV does it: how we can overcome range anxiety

A dashboard view of an electric vehicle being charged.

Electric vehicle sales continue to rise globally, but there are still some significant hurdles. HERE VP and Business Unit Head Chris Handley explores a way forward.

Electric vehicle (EV) sales grew about 36% year-on-year in 2022 and continue to rise globally despite some supply and economic setbacks.

However, one big obstacle remains for many consumers: range anxiety.

“Range anxiety is still the biggest barrier to adoption," Chris Handley, HERE VP Dynamic & Spatial Content Business Unit told HERE360. “And that is, do I have enough charge to get to the next charge point?"

The reasons for that are various. As the HERE-SBD Automotive EV Index shows, there is still a scarcity of EV charge points, sometimes described as EV charging deserts, in some regions. Big disparities continue globally in EV infrastructure despite government incentives. Some cities, states and countries are clearly more equipped for EV drivers than others.

A woman plugs in her electric car at am EV charge point.

However, Handley pointed out that some of this anxiety goes away once people buy an EV. “As an EV user goes through the life cycle of getting used to the vehicle, they become more comfortable with it and range anxiety isn't quite as big a deal," he said.

But one of the big remaining problems is that vehicle manufacturers' EV range forecast has been inaccurate until now. That leaves drivers unable to plan their journeys and often tempted to leave at least 20% charge on the battery in case it unexpectedly runs out. This is especially a problem when they deviate from typical, local trips.

“Probably the single biggest user complaint right now is that the range is not accurate," Handley said. Typical remaining forecasts overestimate by about 20%. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have generally used vehicle sensor information to drive their algorithms, leaving out important factors that can affect range, such as temperature and terrain.

Three friends pack their electric car's trunk on a sunny day.

Why is EV range so tricky to predict?

Of course, most EV drivers want more reliable, EV fast chargers available for long and short trips. While early adopters charged at home and tended to use their EVs for short trips, the pressure on public charge points has grown since EV sales have risen, and mass adoption is starting to become a reality.

“If we don't get enough charge points, the net effect is that consumers will always leave 20% charge on the battery, effectively not using much of it," Handley said. “We want them to be confident that range is an accurate number so they can accurately plan to recharge and use the full capacity of the battery."

Range is greatly affected by certain factors, including temperature. Once you get above 35 degrees Celsius, the range is reduced by about 15%. Below zero degrees, it is reduced by about 40%.

Elevation and headwinds have a sizable impact, as does speeding. “A 10mph headwind will have the same effect as driving 10mph faster," Handley said. 

This can be even more significant on larger commercial vehicles that are boxy in shape as opposed to some of the more sleek, streamlined cars on the market. Traffic affects range too, but makes EVs more efficient, in contrast to how it affects the performance of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

The result is that many consumers do not feel secure that they have enough charge to get to the next charge point. Even when they do, with 20% of charge points in the US out of service (and about 16% out of action in Europe), charging can be an unpredictable undertaking.

A map illustration of the European Union

Achieving range thoughtfulness?

Even if ambitious targets for infrastructure are met, all these factors mean drivers need an awareness of range that is unnecessary in ICE vehicles. 

Could this become range thoughtfulness instead of range anxiety, where EV drivers are aware of all the things that impact range but not inconvenienced by them, and, critically, not put off purchasing one? Only with the right tools to help predict range and plan journeys.

HERE's historical datasets power machine-learning algorithms that produce a more accurate range forecast. “Because we are one of the biggest acquirers of probe data in the world, and we already acquire weather and traffic data, we are uniquely placed," Handley said.

A woman charging her electric vehicle at a charging station.

Automakers can already use our map layer which includes information about surface smoothness, curvature and elevation along the route. A predictive temperature algorithm is being trialed by some HERE customers. And a prototype is now available of HERE EV Charge Points' prediction capability, a tool that shows which charge points are most likely to be available based on historical data.

“In terms of addressing barriers to adoption, it's not enough to have an accurate range forecast," Handley said. “You also need to know the likelihood of a charge point that you're planning to stop at being available when you get there." Having this information should go some way to addressing EV drivers' complaints.

“We're also working with a number of partners to create charge point planning analysis around where charge points might be optimally located."

Technology is the best solution since even bigger EV batteries will not eliminate the issue of unpredictable range. “There will still come a point when the driver is trying to understand how much charge they have, or how much distance they have left on their existing charge. And they're going to have the same problems and challenges," Handley said.

Even in the future when more charge points have been built, technology that predicts range accurately and tells you where to find an available charge point will be needed.

“The number of charge points going live is still vastly outpaced by the number of EVs being sold," he added. “The scarcity factor means even if it takes less time to charge per vehicle, you're going to have a proportionately increased demand in those charges."

Beth McLoughlin 2023

Beth McLoughlin

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