Mentioned Companies: AVAV, BAMXY, GM, NSANY, TSLA

Range Anxiety: Is It Too Soon to Buy a Tesla?

July 21, 2014
5 min read
By: Tasha Keeney, CFA

Range anxiety —the concern that an electric vehicle (EV) will become stranded because it has run out of electricity—is becoming a non-issue. With today’s infrastructure, the map below should instill “range confidence” in any consumer considering an electric vehicle (EV).

The main issue with today’s charging infrastructure is not the number of chargers. The problem is that public charging stations are impractical because they require four to twelve hours to fully charge an EV battery. Luckily, Tesla [TSLA] opened up its supercharger patents and its fast charging technology has the chance to become the industry standard, eliminating range anxiety altogether.

Range Anxiety, tesla EV Charging Map Fixed

The United States currently has about 20,000 [1] EV charging stations serving roughly 93,000 [2] registered electric vehicles. Companies such as Chargepoint, Tesla, Aerovironment [AVAV], and General Motors [GM] continue to build out charging infrastructure to support EV demand. The number of EV charging stations will never be as high as the 150,000+ gasoline stations in the US today, because EV drivers use public infrastructure far less frequently than traditional car owners. [3]

Most EV users charge at home and travel fewer than thirty miles per day. Consequently a full battery will cover a day of driving more than adequately. Nissan [NSANY] LEAF batteries have the smallest capacity among EV brands, and can travel about eighty miles on a full charge. At the other end of the range, Tesla cars can travel 240 to 300 miles. Charging stations are a back-up for drivers who forget to charge their cars, or who live in apartment buildings without chargers, or who take long-distance trips.

For those who need public chargers, waiting up to twelve hours for a battery to fully charge is an outrageous amount of time. Unfortunately most charging stations in the US are slow chargers that use alternating current (AC) and can take four to twelve hours for a full charge. Less than 5% [4] of chargers are fast chargers that use direct current (DC) and only take half an hour to two hours. DC chargers are less common because they cost five to seven times more to install than AC chargers. A single station DC charger costs an average of over $50,000 for installation, while an AC charger is less than $10,000. [5]

While EV stations today have varying charging speeds and are not compatible with all EV brands, a shift toward more industry standardization and collaboration is underway. For example, Tesla recently announced that it will share patents for supercharging technology with other manufacturers. Partner companies will share in the cost of the network. Eager to take advantage of Tesla’s superior technology, Nissan and BMW [BAMXY] already have expressed interest in participating. [6] With Tesla, companies will pool R&D budgets to build out more advanced fast charging technology, benefiting both consumers and the EV industry as a whole.

As battery capacity improves, customers will demand more convenient charging options. Interoperability and standardization of fast charging stations will become increasingly important to EV owners. And Tesla’s superchargers could become the industry standard. If so, the already illegitimate concern of range anxiety will disappear, and EVs will proliferate.

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