Overcoming charge anxiety

Valentina Neri Serneri Nov 5, 2020 · 4 min read

In more mature EV markets, the familiar term range anxiety also has a cousin: charge anxiety. In this article, we will explore what charge anxiety is, its relation to range anxiety, and what EV drivers can use to overcome it. Let’s start!

What is charge anxiety?

Charge anxiety is the negative feeling of uncertainty whether you will be able to charge at a charge station. This may be for several reasons, such as waiting lines during peak hours or unreliable hardware.

Charge anxiety is emerging in mature EV markets such as in Norway, California, and New Zealand. In many cases, drivers in these highly urbanised countries don’t own private charge stations as they live in apartment buildings. Therefore, they rely on public chargers.

However, sometimes public infrastructure lags behind growing EV sales. This can often mean crowding at charging stations, resulting in longer wait times.

In California, Thanksgiving and Black Friday are two of the busiest days on the roads, creating long queues at fast chargers. In February 2019, Tesla drivers queued for hours at Supercharger stations in Germany, on their way to Austria from Holland.

These instances may sound scary to prospective EV drivers, but there are several things that both charge point operators (CPOs) and drivers can do to relieve charge anxiety.

How to overcome charge anxiety

A well-developed charge station infrastructure

The availability of public charge stations varies across Europe. EV drivers in the Netherlands and Luxembourg enjoy a larger network of chargers and are thus less likely to suffer from charge anxiety. But in Cyprus, Finland, Greece, and Sweden, there are more than ten electric cars per public charge point.

Unsurprisingly, the most direct way to ease charging congestion is for CPOs to install more charge stations and charge points in busy areas. CPOs, pushed by market demand and policy pressure, already have such plans in place.

Even so, keep in mind that CPOs must strike a balance between installing enough charging stations for drivers without creating inefficiencies in the form of underused stations.

Rerouting EV drivers

Another measure against charge anxiety is smart EV routing. To optimise how a charging network is used during peak hours, CPOs should use available EV routing technology to redirect drivers to nearby charging stations that are free or less congested. Furthermore, EV-specific navigation tools with routing features add tremendous value to charge station maps. It enables EV drivers to know in advance what the optimal charging stations are along their way. This takes into account their specific EV model, driving context, preferences, and battery state of charge (SoC). Doing so eliminates the uncertainty of driving an EV over longer distances, lightens the stress on the charge network, and improves the overall user experience for EV drivers.

As a driver, plan your charging sessions in advance

Want to drive from the Netherlands to Austria on a busy weekend, or drive to your family for Thanksgiving? Plan your charging sessions in advance and follow these tips:

  • Charge your EV on the night prior to your departure;

  • Make sure to download a specific EV routing app that will suggest the optimal charge stations on your route;

  • If you need a break, stop at a rest area equipped with charge stations so you can charge while having a coffee;

  • If you go on a long trip and you stop at a hotel overnight, verify in advance that you will be able to recharge your car at the hotel.

By doing so, you’ll enjoy an effortless trip with your EV!

Is charge anxiety the new range anxiety?

According to the Nordic EV Barometer 2020, a survey carried out among 5,000 people in Scandinavian countries, 13% of respondents perceived range anxiety as a barrier to purchasing an EV. The percentage of respondents with range anxiety increased to 19% in Norway, the country with the highest EV market penetration in the world. Range anxiety remains the number one reason why people don’t switch to electric cars.

Nevertheless, when we compare the data from 2019 and 2020, we see that the percentage of people with range anxiety decreased over time. So as EV sales continue to grow in the next decades, charge anxiety will likely become the new range anxiety, as some industry experts already claim.

In conclusion

CPOs have to stay ahead in order to combat charge anxiety for EV drivers. They will have to grow the number of charge stations and offer smarter tools to better utilize their charging network. From a driver’s perspective, queueing at charging stations is annoying. In California or Germany, this might only happen a few times per year. In Norway however, it is a weekly problem. The good news is that it can be avoided entirely with a good EV routing application and some prior planning.