Range anxiety, that creeping sensation that you'll run out of battery charge in your electric vehicle before you reach your destination, is real. Hypermiling, the practice of changing your driving style to reduce fuel (substitute 'power') usage, can actually help reduce range anxiety.
Surmounting range anxeity is key to EVs gaining acceptance. In Denmark and Israel, where Better Place has begun to roll out infrastructure and all-electric Renault Fluence Z.E. sedans, an on-board management system called OSCAR is a useful tool to hypermile...and soothe drivers' fears.
OSCAR is a dashboard system that keeps track of trips and how individual drivers handle the car – constantly tracking style, speed, road conditions, and battery level to give an accurate prediction of remaining range. It also automatically reminds and directs users to the nearest battery-swap station when the battery goes low.
Instead of saving gas, electric vehicle-style hypermiling gives drivers more range.
According to Better Place, OSCAR is based on intelligent algorithms, but needs some data to work with as it keeps close track of the last 200 kilometers driven, so users are encouraged to key in all trips they make. (Oscar isn't able to suggest battery-swap stations unless a trip is keyed in.)
Not surprisingly, 'lead foot' is the leading variable drivers can control to increase their range. Oscar gives direct feedback on how many kilowatts a driver is using at all times. By using the accelerator lightly the car can take maximal advantage of regenerative braking – Better Place says it is possible to recoup 40% of energy used in a single acceleration* by driving wisely.
Lead foot drivers can expect to get 80 kilometers to a charge, while eco-drivers will get in the 100 - 140 range. (The Fluence has a 22kW battery and an official range of 185 kilometers.) Update: Susanne Tolstrup says the 100 - 140 kilometers per charge is normal - Better Place 'eco-drivers' have achieved up to 225 kilometers in a charge.
Additionally, driving the speed limit rather than speeding increases range, Better Place said.
Next, in electric vehicles, drivers should learn to also tread lightly on the brake pedal, learning how to slow the car without it.
And of course, using the heat sparingly is even more important for good range than in an ICE (internal combustion engine) car, as an electric vehicle isn't peripherally warmed by the engine. In fact, Better Place suggests putting the heat on a timer to pre-warm (or pre-cool) the car while it is still attached to the charger, rather than draining the battery during trips.
Anders Eldrup, CEO On Danish utility DONG, has a new Fluence, and he sees little difference in his driving. In an e-mail interview, Eldrup said:
“I have had positive experiences with my Fluence ZE. It has a satisfying acceleration and comfort, a modern design and the noise is reduced to an absolute minimum compared to a standard motor car. The battery change is as easy and fast as refuelling, so yes, I will recommend the Fluence ZE to others.”
Gorm Lykke Østergaard, another Fluence owner who is waiting for delivery of his Fluence, said his many test drives included absolutely no range anxiety. He'll take his new car on a 450 kilometer journey later in the summer, he said, to see how well it does with long freeway driving.
"I can move everywhere in Denmark with the battery-swap stations that will be in place by this summer,' Østergaard said. "About the longest trip I can do is 450 kilometers, and that's just three battery swaps."
Østergaard, whose new Fluence cost one-third the price of his six-year-old Audi due to no taxes in Denmark on electric vehicle purchases, said he can't see any reason at this point not to buy an electric vehicle.
"If you have the opportunity, why shouldn't you change?" he said. "In my mind it's like quitting smoking."
*Susanne Tolstrup, Better Place Denmark spokesperson, says the key in this sentence is that energy can be recouped from 'the individual acceleration' and that no figures have been given for overall range extension possible, but she would guess it is closer to a 20% improvement.