Let me start by saying I’m a huge proponent of electric vehicles (EV’s). I’ve been driving electric for the last twelve years, starting with a Chevy Volt and now in a Tesla.
Range anxiety is still a big issue for electric vehicles. Despite massive developments EV’s charge relatively slowly vs. a gas powered vehicle fill-up and charging stations for non-Tesla vehicles are few and far between. A bulk of the publicly available EV chargers are mostly “feel good” installations that charge quite slowly. My local grocery store’s charger for example will get me maybe 5 or 6 miles back in the tank after 30 minutes in the store.
For the last decade most EVs have been cars or crossover SUVs built on car platforms. Over the last year manufacturers have introduced electric pickup trucks and SUVs to the market, with Ford, Rivian and GM shipping their vehicles right now and Tesla’s Cybertruck right around the corner. These vehicles are much larger and heavier than the typical electric car, which means they need larger batteries to get the same range as a comparable electric car would. And those big batteries take longer to charge – if you can find a charger at all.
This is something Rich Rebuilds encountered on his recent purchase of a Rivian pickup truck. He took road trip from his home in Massachusetts down to South Carolina to call out a dealer falsely marketing a Rivian on their lot, but I think the trip was really about visiting his brother :).
The buried lede in Rich’s video was how hard it was for him to actually get down there. Check out his adventure here, like all of Rich’s videos it was very entertaining:
Because Rivian doesn’t have its own charging network, Rich had to rely on publicly available chargers. Some were very slow. Others were not where they said they would be. At one point he had to ask the owner of a bed and breakfast if he could plug in for a little while to get to his next destination. And when he did find a faster charger the cost to use it was often the equivalent to a tank of gas in a traditional vehicle.
Tyler Hoover from Hoovie’s Garage didn’t fare much better with his purchase of a Ford F-150 Lightning EV pickup. Tyler is actually the prime candidate for an electric pickup – the type of driving he does is typically not far from his home. But he found even short trips back and forth to his mechanic towing a vehicle left him pretty close to empty.
His range anxiety was exacerbated by the cold weather in his home state of Kansas that reduced range even further. It was so bad that Hoover and a friend who co-owned the vehicle decided to sell it and try something else.
They ended up choosing an electric Hummer that Hoover says addresses many of the range issues by using a much larger battery pack with twice the capacity of the Ford. We’ll have to see how it fares after Hoover has had more time in the Hummer.
These range and charging issues indicate that just building and marketing an EV is not enough. Without a charging network that makes the vehicles practical it’s really just half a car.
Tesla addressed this issue a decade ago when they started building out their super charger network. After 8+ years of Tesla ownership I’ve never come close to running out of juice, mainly because there’s always a supercharging station nearby wherever I may be.
Tesla has experienced growing pains with the network (especially in areas like Silicon Valley where there’s a lot of Tesla ownership) but in my experience I’ve always been able to get charge when I needed one here in the Northeast US. Charging is still a bit slower than filling up a gas tank but much faster than even some of the fastest chargers available for other vehicles.
Tesla typically charges drivers market rate for the electricity but they occasionally use the supercharger network as an incentive to clear out vehicle inventory. When I purchased my car, a prior model-year leftover, they gave me “free gas for life” in an effort to get me to sign on the dotted line. Not a bad deal!
At this point I don’t believe the national goal of EV’s representing 50% of vehicle sales by 2030 to be realistic unless some major efforts are made to improve both charging speed and availability – especially for those who do not have the convenience of being able to plug in at home.