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Range Anxiety

I do see the odd electric car hanging around our neighbourhoods but I have yet to have one come in the shop for service or repair. I have seen a Nissan Leaf plugged in at one of the Trail charging stations

Tesla is in the automotive news a lot these days as Mr. Musk tries to make good on close to half a million orders for the Model 3. Things are not going as well as planned. The intricacies of mass production of a relatively low cost automobile are a challenge that many a startup automobile company has failed at. Rocket launching might be deemed a piece of cake in comparison.

As I follow with interest all things automotive I wonder if all those people who ordered electric Tesla model 3s actually know what they are getting themselves into. I imagine a good portion of the orders are from people who think an electric car is good for the environment and an affordable one will be good for them.

My feeling is that an electric car comes with a huge change in how you can use your vehicle. The biggest thing that I believe is going to surprise a lot of new owners is “range anxiety”. The Model 3 with the smallest (read affordable) battery has an advertised 344 kilometre range. Remember this is under ideal conditions. When that range is reached and the battery is depleted (running on E) recharging will require 10 hours from a 120 volt house style outlet or 5 hours with a special charging plug in. If you happen to be at a Tesla supercharging station (none around here yet) forty minutes will get you 80 percent of that 344 kilometre ideal range.

We do not live day to day in ideal conditions for an electric car. Cold temperatures reduce an electric vehicle’s range very significantly. Electric batteries do not like the cold (nor do they like hot). An electric vehicle must have a sophisticated thermal management system. The battery is the only thing onboard that can produce heat. Battery power must be used to warm up the battery when it is cold in order for the vehicle to drive efficiently. The battery must also be used to heat the interior of the vehicle, defrost the windows, heat the seats and the steering wheel.

Range typically drops forty percent at freezing temperatures (0 degrees Celsius). 344 kilometres becomes 210 kilometres. Mountainous icy driving, maybe 180 kilometres. Stopping an hour to wait for avalanche snow removal, do you want to stay warm while you wait? Keeping the interior warm will significantly reduce your range. Maybe you are down to 160 kilometres. Now you cannot make it to Creston and back without fear of finding a friend to visit in Salmo who will give you a warm cup of coffee and some of his/her precious Fortis electricity for a few hours.

Sure, your regular commute Trail to Rossland, or Trail to Castlegar and back will work just fine. Plug in overnight and you are ready to go again in the morning. When the weekend comes you will need a real plan. Spokane or Kelowna for the day? Not very likely.

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