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Survey reveals one group of people suffer most from 'range anxiety' — here's how to overcome the fear

Recurrent polled more than 250 EV drivers and shoppers to gather the data.

Recurrent polled more than 250 EV drivers and shoppers to gather the data.

Photo Credit: iStock

Experts have long used exposure therapy to treat patients suffering from phobias like fear of spiders, but new evidence suggests that the same principle could apply to a lesser-known hair-raiser: electric vehicle range anxiety.

EV range anxiety is the fear of running out of juice before reaching your destination. A poll from Recurrent, a group of battery scientists and engineers trying to accelerate the adoption of EVs, has pinpointed that those who suffer from range anxiety the most are (unsurprisingly) people who haven't purchased their first EV yet. 

But, as with spiders, these anxious feelings get better with exposure. While more than three-quarters of future EV owners worry about range, nearly 59% of current EV drivers report none, according to the poll. 

"In other words, the best way to overcome a fear of EV range is to own one," Recurrent stated in an article about the findings.

Recurrent polled more than 250 EV drivers and shoppers to gather the data. The drivers rated their range anxiety on a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 being the most worry.

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

However, Recurrent also noted that there was a slight spike in anxiety for people who had been driving their EV for one to three years. The group thinks this jump is due to people getting a bit more adventurous in their driving habits — taking their car on its first out-of-state road trip, for instance. 

Meanwhile, the fear seems to be mostly unfounded. According to Recurrent, one study found that more than 60% of drivers never get close to running 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," researcher Liz Najman wrote in the article. "These drivers are probably like my dad: someone who also runs out of gas in their ICE (internal combustion engine) car with some regularity."

EVs are an important way to help reduce harmful pollution, which impacts our health and the planet. Traditional gas-powered vehicles release air pollution through their tailpipes. Exposure to these noxious fumes has been linked to stroke, premature death, low birth weight, and cancer. These toxins also contribute to the warming of our planet. 

EVs, on the other hand, have no tailpipe pollution. While they produce planet-warming pollution during manufacture, their cradle-to-grave impact is much lower. Plus, EVs are much quieter than traditional cars, which create a lot of noise pollution. In fact, traffic noise is a major cause of hearing loss, heart disease, learning problems in children, and sleep disturbances.

InsideEVs ran an article on the new findings, and one commenter could relate to the range anxiety.

"Agreed," they said. "I have a 2017 Volt and my wife has a 2018 Clarity PHEV. I'm looking at replacing the Volt with a 2025 Equinox EV with 320 miles of estimated range. Even though I've done the math on the Equinox range vs. my current 240 volt 20 amp home charging I still get nervous if I let my emotions get involved."

However, another person added, "Yeah, people don't understand EVs until you own one and have home charging. 95+% of the time you don't think about range at all. You only think about it on long trips, which are relatively rare."

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