Every EV Driver is Afraid of Running Out of Charge – It’s Human Nature

At this time, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are a relatively new part of the transportation fleet.  A small but growing group of people and businesses are trying EVs for a variety of reasons.  For consumers, some want to reduce their carbon impact, others like new cool things, some want to save money and a few want a way to get into the HOV lane.  For businesses, it’s a combination of being seen as being “green” and saving money.  The nice thing is that today’s EVs can deliver all of these features.  However, there’s one nagging fear – range anxiety – the dread of having a dead battery when you need to go.

Everyone (both current EV owners and prospects) has their own range anxiety nightmare.  My car’s not charged and I need to: get the kids, go to the hospital, go on vacation, etc.  While all of these scenarios could happen, the AAA reports that very few of their calls are from stranded EVs.  While the fear may not match the reality, humans are wired to let their fears guide the daily actions.  The important part for EV PLM (Peak Load Management)  is that running low on juice impacts how drivers’ willingness to participate in charge management strategies.

My experience is exclusively with commercial fleet EV deployments, but the same human factors extend to all EVs.  We find that EV drivers’ first action upon returning from a route is to get vehicle charging started.  This occurs even if the vehicle is nearly fully charged.  EV drivers will connect to an open charging station just in case.  New longer range battery packs should allay these range fears, but so far we still see drivers topping up.

Our focus is charge optimization, and no matter how you spin it that means controlling when or how quickly a vehicle is charged.  When operators notice that charging hasn’t started, they get nervous and contact our office to inform us that the system’s broken.  Even after we’ve explained the system’s purpose, we’ve had intrepid operators find ways to move their vehicles up in the charging order so that their vehicle charges first.  To reduce this fear, we’ve found it’s better to reduce the charge speed (“trickle charge”) or allow a vehicle to charge long enough for the operator to walk away before initiating charge control strategies.

We use detection and notification tools to ensure that every vehicle is ready every day.  Human psychology makes charge control seem frightening, but it need not be.  However, when looking at charge control remember to match your strategy to the customers that you plan to serve.

This post is part of a series explaining how fleet electric vehicle operators can save money charging their EVs.  I’m breaking the concepts down into smaller pieces to introduce them to both new and experienced energy managers.  For some, these concepts will seem overly simplistic, but I hope to offer easy to understand pieces to help all readers. In upcoming posts I’ll discuss different methods of EV Peak Load Management (“PLM”), operator specific needs and wants, impact of battery chemistry, Demand Response and how Control Dynamix toolset control the cost of EV charging.

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