The biggest obstacle to more electric-cars: 'charge fatigue'

Tesla Road Trip 2016Matthew DeBord/Business InsiderEven Tesla Superchargers take a while to recharge an electric vehicle.

When it comes to electric vehicles, we’re about to exit the age of “range anxiety.”

Mass-market EVs, first from Tesla and Chevy, but later from pretty much every other major automaker, are going to provide numerous 200-mile-range cars, at reasonable prices.

Range anxiety had been a big concern; car companies favoured various hybrid designs because they correctly assumed that consumers wanted better fuel economy and lower emissions, and didn’t want to deal with EVs that could deliver only about 80 miles per charge, max.

But now they’re going to be up against a new problem. I’m calling it “charge fatigue.”

We’ve gone, in about two decades, from having to charge almost nothing to having to charge everything. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, speakers, various batteries, watches. Soon, those new Apple AirPod earbuds.

I probably have 50 chargers around my house. Currently, as a family we have five phones, three laptops, three tablets, and three speakers to keep juiced up.

It’s frankly refreshing to get into the car, see that I only have an eighth of a tank of gas, then drive over to the filling station and in five minutes have enough range to cover me for a few weeks of errand-running and grocery shopping and drag racing (just kidding about the drag racing).

Gas prices gas stationJoe Raedle/Getty ImagesNo fatigue here.

Only one good option

I’ve driven quiet a few electric cars at this point, and the only time I’ve ever had what I’ll term an easy charging experience was when I pulled a Tesla Model S up to a Tesla Supercharger and fully recharged in about an hour. But even then, I had to take the time, eating lunch while I waited. With other vehicles, I’ve need to find charging facilities or deal with ultra-slow home charging.

One of my friends in Los Angeles owns an electric Volkswagen and simply plugs his car in every night when he gets home. But he of course has a covered garage and a faster charging setup. However, if his power goes out or he forgets to plug in, he has issues.

It could just be me, but I find the charging part to be the least appealing thing about EVs. I own a Toyota Prius, and one of the brilliant things about the arrival of that vehicle for many owners was the realisation that they had to go to the gas station about half as often as with a non-hybrid car, saving both money and time, but more importantly lessening their cognitive load. I rarely think about whether I need to get gas.

2016 Toyota PriusMatthew DeBord/Business InsiderThe new Toyota Prius.

Meanwhile, I’m constantly reminding myself to juice up my phone, and my family’s combat over chargers got so bad that I recently assigned everybody their own, going so far as write names on them. The whole thing is exhausting. And if I leave home to commute to New York City by bus or train and I have forgotten to charge my phone, I’m in a pickle. Then the whole thing is exasperating.

Some solutions have been proposed, on the electric-car front: inductive charging via the roadways, wireless charging. But these technologies are decades away.

So for now, as we slide deeper and deeper in chronic charge fatigue, I’m fairly certain that this is yet another factor holding back more widespread and enthusiastic EV adoption.

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