In 2012, 52,835 plug-in electric vehicles were sold in the United States. While that may sound like a decent number, in reality it represents only three tenths of a percent of all vehicles sold last year, according to a report from the Electric Drive Transportation Association. The good news is that 2013 numbers seem to be trending sharply upward with 4,376 plug-in electric vehicles sold this January compared to just 1,427 for the same month last year.
Range anxiety is one of the major factors affecting the acceptance of electric vehicles according to a recent five-part study financed by the Department of Energy. The study was written for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Georgetown University Transportation and Climate Initiative, and it outlines recommendations for building out a network of charging stations, or Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), in the Northeast that would begin to offer the same reach, convenience and speed as gas stations do now.
Adam Lubinsky, the lead author and a planner with WXY Architecture and Urban Design, the firm that headed up the regional planning element of the report, told The New York Times, “The idea is to make sure that E.V.S.E. begins to proliferate as a result of these efforts which will help people overcome range anxiety and, as a result, encourage EV usage and ownership.” The report contains detailed guidelines on how to design the stations for maximum efficiency.
Another recent story in The New York Times from John M. Broder focused on his test drive of the Tesla Model S along the Northeast corridor in winter. Broder found himself nearing New York City on Interstate 95 in the far right lane with cruise control on 54 and climate control to low in a last-ditch effort to conserve power while trying to find a charging station. He writes, “I made the first of several calls to Tesla officials about my creeping range anxiety. The woman who had delivered the car told me to turn off the cruise control; company executives later told me that advice was wrong. All the while, my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white.” Broder barely made it to the next charging station after the car turned off his heat entirely and flashed in red to “Recharge Now.”
Broder’s experience is a testament to the challenges that face the electric vehicle industry. Proponents point out that city driving and other shorter distance commuting is easy with these vehicles. But in order for real, widespread acceptance of plug-in electrics to happen, some sort of charging infrastructure will be needed.
The 11-state Northeastern region covered by the DOE study currently has a charging infrastructure that is less developed than in some areas of the West and Northwest and a population density that could seriously propel sales of electric vehicles. Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, argues that simple steps can be taken to encourage EV purchases, like employers installing 110-volt engine block heaters in cold states so employees can charge their cars while they are at work. And he says that the public sector should encourage development of charging stations by altering planning, zoning and permitting regulations to allow for building of the needed facilities.
Sustainable America believes that electric vehicles are an important part of our overall campaign to reduce oil usage in America 50% by 2035. A concerted focus on reducing range anxiety by creating viable charging corridors is one important way to encourage and support wider adoption of electric vehicles in America.