GreenCars 101

How Often Do EV Owners Have Charging Anxiety?

Laurance Yap
May 2024
In the beginning of the electric revolution, potential buyers had range anxiety – worrying about how far they could go on one battery charge. With the average range of EVs increasing significantly, range anxiety has been replaced by charging anxiety, particularly for drivers taking trips. How does charging anxiety affect the EV ownership experience?
man plugging EV charger into white vehicle

EV Sales Grow Faster Than Charging Infrastructure

The rapid growth of electric car sales over the last few years has raised a lot of questions about whether charging infrastructure can keep up. EV sales are growing much more rapidly than the public charging network – even with massive investments from manufacturers and charging companies in growing the number of ports. While, on the one hand, most drivers charge at home cheaply and conveniently, drivers worry about what they might encounter if they take a long drive, or end up in an unfamiliar area away from home.

A recent survey conducted by Ideal Power, a semiconductor switch company that serves the renewable energy and energy storage sectors, and Quantum Research Group took an in-depth dive into the topics of charging and range anxiety – with real-world data provided by real EV owners. The findings show that while public charging infrastructure still has its challenges, overall satisfaction with the EV ownership experience remains high – and the issues that drivers encountered while charging on the road tended to be minor inconveniences.

quantum research group graph on navigating charge anxiety

70 Percent of EV Drivers Charge at Home

Ideal Power’s survey, which polled over 300 EV owners, found that the vast majority of them did the vast majority of their charging at home. 70 percent of respondents plugged in overnight – meaning they not only got the benefits of a full charge every morning, thus massively reducing range anxiety. Overnight charging also gives access to the lowest rates for electricity, maximizing the benefits of going EV. Most electric cars, when charged during off-peak hours like 11:00 pm to 7:00 am, can get a full charge for just a few dollars – giving drivers the biggest savings.

Of the remainder of EV drivers surveyed, 14 percent of them split their charging time between home and public charging stations, such as at work or in public places like malls, grocery stores, and other convenient locations – as well as occasional charging on the road. Interestingly, 16 percent of respondents relied primarily on public charging stations, a likely consequence of not having a garage, driveway, or dedicated parking stall in which a home charger could be installed.

Shared accommodations, such as apartment buildings in large cities, remain a major opportunity for the expansion of charging infrastructure – especially when you consider that urban-dwellers, with their shorter commutes and more predictable driving habits – are the best fit for electric cars.

What About Range Anxiety?

Unsurprisingly, the Ideal Power/Quantum survey showed that EV drivers’ charging access is connected to range anxiety. The more drivers depended on public charging, the more anxiety they felt. Still, only 9 percent of drivers reported that they “often” experienced fear of running out of charge before reaching their destination, or the next charging station; 44 percent said they “rarely” felt range anxiety, and 18 percent said they never felt it at all.

Long trips were the greatest source of range anxiety, troubling 69 percent of respondents. While long trips aren’t frequent occurrences for most drivers, they come with the anxiety of the unknown – new locations where the infrastructure is unfamiliar. Driving in unfamiliar areas was the second-most frequent cause of range anxiety, at 42 percent. That was followed by the battery level being unexpectedly low (37 percent), followed by extreme weather conditions (29 percent) and driving in heavy traffic (24 percent). Ironically, driving in heavy traffic is where EVs are at their most efficient, as they do not need run their electric motors if they’re not moving.

quantum research group graphic on range anxiety among EV owners

What Happens When the EV Battery Dies?

Interestingly, 16 percent of the 300-plus respondents said they had, at one time or another, completely run out of charge, though the survey doesn’t report whether that left them stranded. An EV that has completely depleted its battery would likely have to be towed to the nearest charging station. Some electric vehicles, like the Ford F-150 Lightning, actually have the ability to charge other EVs in a pinch with the right adaptor cable.

Very few respondents – just 2 percent – said they would wait until the battery was at under 10 percent remaining before charging. 26 percent charged at between 10 to 24 percent charge; 46 percent between 25 to 49 percent, 21 percent charged when their battery was between 50 and 74 percent full; and 5 percent were constantly topping up their battery.

EV Drivers Willing to Pay More to Reserve Public Charging

Particularly on holidays and other occasions where there is high demand for public charging, drivers might have to wait to get a quick charge: 75 percent of EV drivers surveyed have had to wait for a charger to become available at some point, with 38 percent having experienced lines at chargers more than once.

Fortunately, the wait at a public charger is usually short: almost half of those who have had to wait for a charger to become available waited less than 15 minutes, with just 8 percent reporting they had to wait for over half an hour. Still, if you’re on a road trip with your family, this can be a major inconvenience.

One way to provide reassurance to drivers who are taking long trips or driving in unfamiliar territory would be something already common in EV-heavy markets like China: the ability to reserve a spot at a charging station. 42 percent of EV owners reported that they would be willing to pay extra to reserve a spot at a charging station in advance – and they’d be willing to pay dearly for that privilege, up to $15 on average just to reserve a spot. While that sounds like a lot of money on one hand, it’s an infrequent cost to save time and improve convenience – and drivers still realize substantial savings overall when charging at home.

Overall EV Satisfaction Remains High

Despite continuing anxiety about range and charging – 44 percent of respondents said that range anxiety had, at some point, affected their overall satisfaction with their electric car – 91 percent of respondents to the Ideal Power survey said their next car would still be electric. The cost and convenience advantages of home charging, the smooth, quiet, and swift driving experience, and the environmental benefits still outweigh the smaller inconveniences drivers had on long trips or when driving in unfamiliar areas.

Front view of a Tesla Model 3 driving through canyon roads

Join the sustainable transportation evolution.

Subscribe to receive the latest GreenCars news, products, and updates

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.