01.01.2012 - by Plug In America
Separating Gas Anxiety and Range Anxiety


“Gas Anxiety” is very common among plug-in vehicle owners. Although most of us still have access to gas propulsion, we would rather not use it. Not when cheaper, cleaner, quieter, smoother, responsive and torquey electric drive using domestic fuel is available! So we go through all sorts of gyrations to maximize our time driving electric.

While simple enough for short trips, it can take some work to make this happen for longer trips. Some of us like to get together and to discuss tips and tricks to avoid driving on gasoline. We discuss many complicated issues:

  • Hypermiling issues like regeneration, coasting, speed, HVAC and other electrical accessories, hills, rain, traffic, acceleration rates, pre-conditioning
  • Charging issues like volts, amps, AC vs DC, charger and car limitations, charge connectors, adapters, charge protocols, deployment programs, manufacturer clubs, locator maps, charging efficiency, protocol cards
  • Battery issues like chemistry, format, swapping, degradation, temperature, replacement costs and means

Of course none of this is necessary; we could just charge at night in our garages, drive short electric trips during the day, and take the gas car for longer trips. We don’t try to maximize our electric driving because owning a plug-in vehicle forces us to; we do it because driving electric is so much better that we want to.

How Gas Anxiety Can Provoke Range Anxiety

This distinction is lost on most gas drivers, who just assume that driving electric is an inferior experience (or else why wouldn’t everybody already be doing it?). When a person just starting to consider a plug-in purchase hears us discussing our gas anxiety issues, they may get the idea that driving a plug-in is complex, and worry that if they don’t have it all down pat before they start driving a plug-in, they will end up at the side of the road waiting for the mythical tow truck. That is, they don’t see our gas anxiety as a sign of just how much we prefer driving electric; instead, they think it is a necessary part of the electric experience so it ironically increases their range anxiety.

I think it’s fantastic when plug-in owners talk about gas anxiety issues among themselves. I have learned a lot from other owners, and almost never have to use gas. But I am concerned that it may be too much information, too soon, for many gas drivers just starting to think about plug-in vehicles.

Simplify to Reduce Range Anxiety

The fastest way to put people new to the idea of plug-in vehicles at ease is to remove the complexity. We don’t have to discuss how we wring the most miles out of every charge in the first conversation. They may well want that information later; but until they’ve decided to buy a plug-in vehicle, it’s overwhelming and unnecessary. Our initial goal should be to show them how easy and fun they are to drive.

A simple point to get across is this: you don’t have to do ALL of your driving on electricity just think about converting SOME of your driving. They can still use gas for long trips! They will either have another gas car in the household, or can buy a PHEV. They will be able to drive anywhere they can now, and they will never have to wait for a charge. This may seem like an obvious point, but many skeptical gas drivers miss it.

It sometimes takes a little while to soak in, but once they take this point to heart, they should be willing to think seriously about what kind of plug-in would work for them.

4 comments on “Separating Gas Anxiety and Range Anxiety”
  1. Anonymous says:

    what range anxiety?
    first Thing i tell people is costs me 80 cents a week to ride my electric motorcycle to work all week.
    instead of $30 a week in my gasser. 20 miles a day would be $2 in EV car.
    everyone is impressed even more so are people with SUV’s that pay $80 a week just to go to work
    I tell them my EV is an utility vehicle its utility is to save me $28 a week
    i drive to work more than anywhere else so the EV saves me the most on transportation costs.
    20 miles to work and home, 25 mile range no problem. in 4 years i made a $4,500 profit what i did not pay for gasoline minus cost conversion , electric cost. A savings in you monthly household budget is a profit in this depression we are in now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have “oil anxiety”.

    When I read of the thousands of dead, and tens of thousands of wounded soldiers in the Iraq war, I get anxious.

    When I read that thousands of Americans die every year from the effects of pollution from internal combustion vehicles, I get anxious.

    When I read of the immeasurable damage done to the environment due to oil spills and the like, I get anxious.

    When I read that 45% of our trade deficit comes from buying foreign oil and that we spend over $350 billion for this resource every year, I get anxious.

    I’ve found that buying and driving an EV cures this particular type of anxiety.

  3. Richard says:

    “They may well want that information later; but until they’ve decided to buy a plug-in vehicle, it’s overwhelming and unnecessary.”

    Good point, Chad. It’s difficult to “get” a new technology until you’ve dipped your toe in the water. And you certainly don’t have to dive in headfirst.

    Are you a fossil fuel driver that’s thinking of switching to electric? Consider keeping a journal of your daily driving for a while so you can more accurately assess your needs. You may be surprised by how many short trips you make, and what percentage they make up of your total miles driven.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good distinction. When people inevitably ask how far an electric car will go, I tell them it’s a great regional car and name several cities or areas I can drive to comfortably on one charge (where I recharge while I’m there, for the return trip). Like you, I recommend that for longer trips they consider getting a plug-in hybrid or a backup gas car, but I tell them we’re a one-car family. We belong to City Carshare for times when we need a second car. And for occasional very long trips we either swap with a friend or neighbor who’s happy to have our EV for a few days in exchange for their gasser, or we rent a gasser with all the money we’ve saved from not buying gas in our EV.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *