Tesla Owners Say Goodbye to Range Anxiety

Electric vehicles, or EVs, just can't go the distance, critics used to argue. Range anxiety will prevent many consumers from making the jump to electric, they said.

Sure enough, range anxiety remains one of the common excuses consumers have for not buying an all-electric vehicle. But is it a worthy excuse? Not anymore. And especially not for prospective Tesla Motor's (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) customers.

A soothing stat
Even without Tesla in the picture, range anxiety may not be as big of a problem as people think. A 2012 study from two doctoral students at Columbia University's school of Engineering and Applied Science upped the ante for EVs with some interesting stats.

Based on data from the Department of Transport's 2009 National Household Travel Survey, Garrett Fitzgerald and Rob van Haaren discovered that 93% of 179,848 cars examined drove less than 100 miles on a given day. Among the urban-based drivers, the average was just 36.5. Rural-based drivers, on average, were on the road for 48.6 miles each day.

Given these statistics, electric cars are, in fact, suitable for the majority of typical daily driving in the U.S. Consider the range on some of the latest electric vehicles on the market:

Source: Tesla Motors Sept. 14 corporate presentation.

Tesla Supercharger. Source: Tesla Motors.

And like it or not, charging stations will be popping up all over the place over the next few years. Well, at least for Tesla customers.

Tesla has the resources to expand its charging stations aggressively. After the company's stock priced soared, Tesla's ability to raise capital skyrocketed. On the strength of a strong stock price, Tesla raised about $1 billion in new capital earlier this year. Even more, the stock has continued to soar (doubling, in fact), giving the company even greater ability to raise capital, if necessary.

And Tesla certainly isn't letting investors down. Shortly after the company's capital infusion, it laid out plans for an extremely aggressive expansion of its Supercharger stations. By 2015, the company said, 98% of the U.S. population and parts of Canada will live within the Model S rated range of a Supercharger station. And a few weeks ago Tesla revealed equally aggressive plans for its European expansion of Superchargers.

While Superchargers are currently exclusive to Tesla owners, a Tesla representative said in an email that the company will remain "open to the idea of making Superchargers accessible to others [at some point in the future]...".

Model S charging. Source: Tesla Motors.

The Tesla way
Though other manufacturers may still be addressing the issues of range anxiety for all-electric vehicles, Tesla may have put that fear in its grave for good.

New technology at Tesla's Superchargers juices its vehicles up to a 50% charge in just 20 minutes, and to a 80% charge in just 40. That's 20 times faster than most public charging stations. Even more, the company's batteries already boast up to an unprecedented rated range of 265 miles. And to put the icing on the cake, the company is piloting battery swapping, which takes less than half the time it takes to fill a gas tank.

The last hurdle
Tesla has almost certainly killed any cause for range anxiety, and other manufacturers may eventually follow suit. Apparently, Tesla's approach to full-electric vehicles is sparking demand, as the company sells every car it can make.

But with range anxiety now potentially a problem of the past, Tesla investors have their eyes set on the next big problem: supply chain bottlenecks. Despite growing demand, Model S sales remained nearly flat from the first quarter to the second quarter and the company guided for zero sequential growth in sales in the third quarter, too.

Tesla may have sparked demand by squashing range anxiety. Now, can it deliver on the rest of its potential?

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 12:09 AM, coll1951 wrote:

    Remember when Henry Ford built his first gas powered cars, and then built gas stations all over the country, to give away free gas to everybody that bought a new Ford. He soon became one of the world's wealthiest men. Buy a car, and get free fuel for life. Most people don't remember this because it never happened. So, Musk is going to build thousand of electric fuel stations all over the world to give away free electricity, at $250,000 per station. Those stations have to be maintained, plus the cost of electricity, when the solar power is not enough, because it's night, or raining, or snowing, or cloudy. It's great publicity, but not based on reality or economics.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:05 AM, matthewluke wrote:


    It isn't actually free. It is $2,000-$2,500 for the life of the Model S. That $2,000-$2,500 being the cost of having Supercharging enabled on the Model S with the 60 kWh battery (an optional feature). The "free" charging for the 85 kWh Model S is just included in the cost of the car.

    Also, most electric car owners charge their cars at home. So while these Superchargers are "free", people are not going to be using the stations for their everyday charging needs. If you look at a map of the Supercharger stations, they are mostly located along highways, not near typical residential areas. The stations are there to give Tesla owners the extra confidence to travel worry free between cities.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 4:23 AM, weaponz wrote:

    @coll1951 - Remember when humans first walked the earth and they built a spaceship to travel to the moon? Just because something was done one way in the past does not mean it always has to be done the exact same way. Times change.

    Also, a response to your question. Most people don't remember it because they weren't alive at the time and didn't bother researching. Ford did actually build gas stations.

    As others have mentioned, the cost of the stations is already built into the price of the car. But your a little confused how electricity works and how musk is doing what he is. First of all, the solar powered chargers take in sunlight at peak hours and generate credits. Then Tesla buys electricity at a much cheaper rate and stores them in the batteries. So even the small solar canopies provide more then enough based just on that.

    Second of all, solar panels still work when it is cloudy or raining.

    And third of all, people don't realize that SolarCity is not only an installer of solar panels but also a utility.

    That said you don't need as many superchargers as gasoline stations because most charging will be done at home. All he has to do is cover the highways.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:33 PM, jamesdan567 wrote:

    The Superchargers serve multiple valuable purposes. For $2000, you can drive 200K miles (the live est of the car), thats $0.01 per kwh (12X less expensive than gasoline).

    Solar City is Definitely a Utility. Few people realize that.

    The Supercharger stations are "in your face" advertisements for hot electric vehicles. Great tool for spreading the word.

    Range anxiety is largely a red herring, but the SC stations definitely help in the short term until EV's dominate the roads. That future is coming fast. The EV is 400% less expensive to operate than the ICE car. That spells extinction for gas cars, gas stations and gas infrastructure (no more oil changes, no more engine repair shops, no more transmission shops, no more auto parts stores.) This takes time. By 2030, all kids will ask their parents why people used to drive gas cars...

  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2013, at 10:49 AM, damilkman wrote:

    Greetings. My problem is the definition of coverage. Looking at the TSLA map a region is defined as having coverage if you are within 265 miles of another charging station. This works great if your destination is along the path of the charging station. However, if you are going somewhere else it might as well be on the moon. In my opinion for EV to really erase range anxiety there has to be a way at the end of the day to charge up at our destination. I cannot afford to have a commuter car and a separate travel car. Even if a supercharger station is along the way, I still only have 130 miles of range for spending 20 minutes of my time. EV coverage has to be a dense as any normal ICE network, else the cost is not worth it to me.

    Here are some nice raw numbers. My little Colorado gets 25 mpg. I never exceed 20K miles a year. Presume gas costs 4 dollars a gallon. Currently 3.35 for me. That is 3200 dollars a year. So to justify a second commuting car, the cost is evaluated in multiples of 3200. So if TSLA comes out with a 32000 dollar car, I have to wait ten years before I break even. Or I choose to change my lifestyle and not travel.

    However, if I can plug in at the campsite, hotel, or friend that I am at, then I do not have problem 99% of what I do is within 265 miles. Its just getting to a station that is going to be the problem.

  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2013, at 7:51 PM, matthewluke wrote:


    Supercharger stations can only be used with Teslas, but Teslas can be used with public charging stations other than Supercharger stations.

  • Report this Comment On October 09, 2013, at 11:37 AM, damilkman wrote:

    Until you have a critical mass of public charging stations I am still in the same situation. Else I am only limited to locations that have a charging station.

  • Report this Comment On October 10, 2013, at 4:19 AM, matthewluke wrote:


    Give it a few more months and you can travel cross-country using only a Tesla and Tesla's Supercharger stations.

    When Tesla completes its Winter 2013 station build-out, you'll be able to drive northeast from LA through Colorado, up to South Dakota, around the Great Lakes, into New York and stopping at Maine.

    Sometimes next year you'll be able to go cross-country though the Southern states as well. And in 2015, you'll be able to add a nice chunk of Canada to your road trip (and a tiny slice of northernmost part of Mexico).

    And that's just Tesla's charging infrastructure. There is also public charging stations at restaurants (such as Cracker Barrel and the NRG Energy eVgo stations it is hosting), retailers, hotel chains and random public charging station along highways and byways.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 11:33 AM, ffbj wrote:

    Tsla is the spearhead of the ev revolution, maybe nissan is the vanguard. Anyhow:

    ev engine are 2/3 more efficient than gas engines.

    The electrification of mass transit is just a matter of time, but Musk and others just did not want to wait around for it.

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