Charge me up: Ru­ral elec­tric car driv­ers face ‘range anx­i­ety’

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION / AMERICAN SCENE - BY MICHAEL HILL

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. | Su­nita Halasz has tips for “driv­ing elec­tric” along lonely roads in New York’s Adiron­dack Moun­tains: Know the lo­ca­tions of charg­ing sta­tions, bring ac­tiv­i­ties for the kids dur­ing three-hour recharges, turn on the en­ergy-hog­ging win­dow de­froster in just 10-sec­ond bursts. And have a backup plan. “When we re­ally go any­where, I have a whole list of phone num­bers of friends who live all over the Adiron­dacks,” Ms. Halasz said dur­ing a charg­ing stop. “So that at a mo­ment’s no­tice I can call some­body and be like, ‘Hi, I’m go­ing to pull into your drive­way. And do you have an out­door elec­tri­cal out­let?”’

There are more than 18,000 elec­tric car charg­ing sta­tions in the United States, and the num­ber of out­lets at those sta­tions has more than tripled over five years to about 48,000, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral data.

But they’re of­ten few and far be­tween in ru­ral ar­eas. That can leave elec­tric ve­hi­cle pioneers in the back­coun­try with chronic “range anx­i­ety,” the fear that their bat­ter­ies will run out and leave them stranded.

Ms. Halasz coun­ters that with care­ful strate­giz­ing be­fore she and her hus­band take their fully elec­tric Ford Fo­cus on trips over its 75-mile range. On fam­ily trips to Burling­ton, Ver­mont, which is at the edge of that range, they know where they will charge and how they will keep their two sons oc­cu­pied for the ex­tra hours.

The 1,300-foot de­scent down the moun­tain­sides helps them re­cap­ture ki­netic en­ergy when they brake, but the trip back up can be a bat­tery killer, es­pe­cially on cold days.

“I re­ally think we are some of the most ex­treme EV driv­ers in the en­tire United States, liv­ing in the Adiron­dacks, be­cause of all of our ups and or downs and our very cold tem­per­a­tures,” Ms. Halasz said.

More than 600,000 elec­tric ve­hi­cles are on the road in the U.S. and Canada (in­clud­ing mod­els with gas en­gines), ac­cord­ing to the ChargePoint net­work. Charg­ing sta­tions are un­evenly dis­trib­uted, with con­cen­tra­tions in Cal­i­for­nia and pop­u­lous por­tions of the East Coast.

But back­coun­try elec­tric ve­hi­cle drives are get­ting eas­ier ev­ery year with more sta­tions and bet­ter bat­ter­ies.

Silke Som­mer­feld and Rolf Oet­ter, a re­tired cou­ple from Bri­tish Columbia’s Van­cou­ver Is­land, demon­strated that with a just-com­pleted 21,000-mile trip around North Amer­ica in their Tesla Model X. The lux­ury car has a listed range of 295 miles, much far­ther than most elec­tric cars on the road.

Tow­ing a camper that re­duced their range, they spent months trav­el­ing east across Canada, down to Florida, west to Cal­i­for­nia and back home to the Pa­cific North­west. They re­lied on Tesla’s in­fra­struc­ture of “Su­per­charger” sta­tions that can power a ve­hi­cle in less than an hour. They also used camp­grounds for charg­ing in remote stretches, like be­tween Cal­gary and Toronto.

“We had a few nail-biters, mainly in Canada, not so much in the U.S.,” Ms. Som­mer­feld said. “But we al­ways made it with at least one kilo­me­ter range left.”

While the Tesla Model X can cost more than $100,000, longer ranges are also be­com­ing avail­able in more af­ford­able mod­els, such as the 200-mile Chevro­let Bolt, which runs about $30,000, af­ter a gov­ern­ment tax credit.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Su­nita Halasz charges her elec­tric car at her home in Saranac Lake, New York. Ms. Halasz said know­ing lo­ca­tions of charg­ing sta­tions is one tip for driv­ing lonely roads.

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