According to a Consumer Reports Car Brand Perception Survey, 77 percent of U.S. adults do not believe that an electric car could meet their current driving needs. This fear originates from both the lack of significant travel distance on a single charge of an electric car and the lack of charging stations in less densely populated areas. This creates a disparity between public perception and reality in some way, since a study conducted by two Columbia doctoral students concluded that 95 percent of all driving needs of U.S. citizenscould be met by electric vehicles. However, this study, while taking in a large amount of data, does not seek to comprehend how this public perception has formed and how to remedy it successfully. If current electric cars were to be used by most people for their driving needs, it would be a necessity to install new charging stations. Additionally, other methods could be used to charge the cars, such as roads that send electricity into the cars’ batteries as they travel.
In the study, “driving needs”, refers to the daily travels of an individual, specifically during a work commute. The evidence indicates that 95 percent of single trips that drivers make involve traveling less than 50 miles each way. This raw data demonstrates that the majority of trips that drivers take in automobiles are often very short, but to claim that this proves that electric cars could satisfy the needs of all drivers at this time is somewhat of a stretch. If this were true, people would only be able to drive short distances (which they often do), but they would not even have the possibility of traveling somewhere far away. In our prior post on electric cars, we discussed how internal combustion engine automobiles gave consumers the opportunity to travel long distances, which made them much more desirable than electric cars. Technologically it would be a bit of a step backwards if cars could only travel distances comparable to those in the early Twentieth Century.
Simply stating that drivers do not actually travel long distances, does not end the problem of range anxiety. According to a survey by Chapman University, the five greatest American fears in order are walking alone at night, being the victim of identity theft, safety on the internet, being the victim of a random shooting, and public speaking. While there is some variation in the outcomes of these different fears coming to reality, they ultimately are based off the fear of the unknown. People are truly terrified of what they do not know, and the result is to make preparative efforts to manage any kind of risk that we might be exposed to. In the case of automobiles, this involves many different safety guidelines to reduce injuries in case an accident occurs. Additionally, drivers tend to keep enough gasoline in their car to ensure that they do not run out before they reach a gas station, something that is supported by the capacity of a car’s gas tank. Ideally, to follow this same trend with electric cars, there should be either sufficient battery to allow people to travel long distances on a single charge enough places for drivers to charge their cars.
Having charging stations at both the homes and the destinations of the electric automobile drivers does not address the issue of long distance travel. As a solution to this, in late 2015 the U.K. will be testing out roads that charge electric cars as they go. This will be done through closed trials, in which each vehicle will be fitted with a wireless device, and special equipment will be installed beneath the roads to replicate motorway conditions. Buried electric cables will generate electric fields that will be picked up by a coil inside the device and converted into electricity, continuously charging the automobile as is it travels along the road. While this is simply an eighteen-month test, it also poses questions about how exactly these charging roads could be introduced. For example, what would their costs be, and what would this mean for old roads that will not be able to upgrade?
Another issue that could be raised with these charging roads is concerns with safety. The Car Brand Perception Survey also uncovered that 42 percent of drivers are worried that electric cars might lead to home fire damage while they charge overnight. If home charging is an issue for people, it might be hard to imagine them being perfectly fine with streets constantly charging their cars as they drive them. However, the possibility for fire to occur will likely be observed during the testing process. At the same time, the fear of an electrical fire from an unmonitored charging electric automobile could derive from the fear of not knowing much about the technology. Charging roads could either contribute to or put an end to this concern, since drivers could fear the constant charging of their car battery or feel at ease knowing that they can keep an eye on the charging process. Ultimately, any understanding of charging roads that we possess right now is riddled with speculation, so we will have to wait eighteen months to gain some knowledge on this technology and how it could potentially be used throughout the world.
Standards for electric vehicles are available on the ANSI Webstore.