Eliminate Electric Car Range Anxiety With This One Dumb Trick

©. Sami Grover

Yes, the headline is clickbait. But I highly recommend trying it.

I had a day of running errands the other day, and I half thought about stopping to fast charge my used Nissan Leaf before heading to a holiday party in a neighboring city. Indeed I would have done so a few years ago. Even though I knew that I technically had enough range to get home, the nature of electric vehicles and the relative lack of charging infrastructure would have left me decidedly nervous, wondering, "What if my estimates of range are wrong?"

Luckily, I had done something stupid not too long ago: I drove my Leaf 200+ miles into the mountains. And, by doing that, I had experienced more than my fair share of "near misses." While they were nerve wracking at the time, I now have a very good understanding of exactly what the car's range estimates do and don't mean – which means I'm extremely comfortable operating with very little wiggle room in terms of range. I no longer find myself plugging in, even though I know I've likely got 10 or 15 miles of range to spare.

That doesn't mean that everyone needs to take a road trip in a car which—let's face it—wasn't really built for road tripping. But it does mean that it's a good idea to, at least once, drive your car until the guess-o-meter goes blank and you really do need to pull in somewhere to charge up. (I remember one commenter telling me they drove around and around their neighborhood to do just that.)

Whenever I write an article like this, I'm reminded that it's important to emphasize a simple fact: The vast majority of column inches dedicated to "range anxiety" are as overblown as they are counterproductive. Electricity is almost everywhere, and running out of charge is no different from running out of fuel. Indeed the proliferation of public charging stations has been such in recent years that I now travel significantly further than I would have otherwise, safe in the knowledge that I can most likely charge up before turning around and heading home.

And yet, electric cars are new and range anxiety is real—even if it's usually psychological, and based on some faulty assumptions and/or an excessive need for a comfort zone. I myself have charged when I didn't need to 'just in case', and other members of my family are known to avoid using the Leaf even though they would most likely be just fine in terms of range. Actually pushing the limits of what can and can't be done is about as good a method as any to put that anxiety to rest and move forward. So go ahead: Plan a day or two where you can safely run your battery down and charge up only when you absolutely need to.

I suspect it will significantly increase your actual, real-world range in terms of how far you are comfortable driving before you need to plug in.