Range anxiety refers to the fear that an electric car won’t have enough juice to reach its destination. It’s a concern that has crossed the mind of many EV owners at some point, even if only momentarily, but a study shows that it affects one group of drivers far more often than others.

Who suffers the most?

It turns out that range anxiety is highest for people who don’t yet own their first EV, and generally decreases with experience.

Range Anxiety Decreases Over Time

This may not be a surprise to long-time EV owners, since EV anxiety generally decreases over time. In fact, 78% of electric car owners report that feelings of range anxiety decrease the longer they drive - and learn about - their cars. While 76% of future EV owners worry about range, nearly 59% of current EV drivers report none

Recurrent polled 250+ EV drivers and shoppers in order to correlate range anxiety with duration of EV ownership. We also asked the EV-curious how many years from a potential purchase they were. All drivers rated their anxiety on a scale from 0-4, with 4 being the most worry, or "almost all of the time" and 0 being no worry. Future electric car owners were asked to use their best guess with the current technology and charging infrastructure.

We found that range anxiety peaked for people who were 1-2 years out from purchasing their first EV. After that, anxiety decreased through the purchase of an electric car, and generally trended downwards through 5+ years of ownership.

Interestingly, there is a slight jump in range anxiety for drivers who have had an electric car for 1-3 years. This is likely due to these drivers getting a bit more adventurous with their cars as they settle into the electric lifestyle. Maybe, they are taking their Kona EV on its first out-of-state road trip after relegating it to a commuter car for the first two years. Perhaps, they had their first run-in with a non-functional charging station on an interstate, having only charged at home before. After the first 1-3 years of ownership, range anxiety tapers off. 

Long Distance is More Anxiety Provoking

Unsurprisingly, drivers have higher anxiety about long distance travel with their EVs than daily drives. This makes a lot of sense, since long drives will often rely on a public charging network. For those drivers who don’t own a Tesla, reliance on public charging may be fraught, especially given headlines about poor upkeep and reliability. 

Nonetheless, more seasoned EV drivers seem to find their groove with even long trips after 1-3 years. By five or more years of driving an EV, almost all drivers rate their anxiety below a 1.

Why does range anxiety frighten people? 

In truth, almost no one gets stranded in their EV. In one study, while more than 60% of drivers “never get close” to running out of charge, only 8% of drivers ever have. Plug-in America has similar stats going back as far as 2015, when charging infrastructure was nearly non-existent and the only mass market EVs were the LEAF and Model S. Of these early adopters, only 12% and 3%, respectively, ever ran out of charge.

It's worth noting that of the drivers who have been stranded, there are some multiple offenders, which suggests that it’s more of a personality trait than a technological flaw. These drivers are probably like my dad: someone who also runs out of gas in their ICE car with some regularity.

Meanwhile, no one else in my family has ever had this problem (or come close). 

Part of the reason why it’s hard to run out of charge is that the car tells you how much range it has left. Unlike in many older gas cars, which have a vague gas tank meter featuring a wobbly arrow, EVs have pretty advanced and highly calibrated digital readouts, right there on the dashboard. Plus, they have features such as integrated navigation, which can include charging stops and sophisticated efficiency calculations. 

In Recurrent's own data, we have stats about about frequently people run their EVs to 0% state of charge. Lo and behold - it is extremely rare. We've only observed a SoC under 1% in less than .05% observations based on the ~10,000 Teslas connected to the Recurrent platform. To add some additional context, we've only observed a SoC under 10% in only 0.46% of our observations. (Roughly 30 million observations)

Nonetheless, the anxiety around unknown technology is still a factor for many prospective owners. But, according to new data from the Recurrent community, the fear and anxiety runs out pretty quickly after owning and driving an EV.