“Waaah Waaah Waste”

Gas pumps unused? Gasp!

Gas pumps unused? Gasp!

Whiners and wankers complain that public charging points are going unused.  “Waste!!!” they cry.  What they don’t get- or refuse to get- is that this was the plan all along.  Maybe 90% of charging takes place in the comfort of your own home; public sites are basically for unusual days.

Turns out, I live in a gas station with a clean bathroom, which is as convenient as it sounds.  – Motorcycle USA

Years ago, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) did a field trial: some customers in one area drove pure electric cars (not plug-in hybrids), in exchange for having their habits studied.  Participants drove cautiously, complaining of a lack of public charging points.  TEPCO then installed those points.  The test drivers then went further, but… without actually using those new points.  Their complaint was actually psychological; the cars could have gone the distance, but drivers wouldn’t try.

This is called “range anxiety”- a hesitation to go further and possibly run out of battery, whether that fear is rational or not.  This fear exists for pure (100% battery powered) electric vehicles where it didn’t for, say, phones or laptops.  The consequences of a bricked phone are annoying; those for a stranded car are severe, and arguably life-threatening some people may claim.  I, like others, just learned.  After you’ve got many miles and trips under your belt, you lose the anxiety as you grasp what you can and can’t do.  Range anxiety then reduces to some bad trips and your bad planning.

It is just these nonstandard trips that public charging handles.  Should you get caught unprepared, some charging site along your path then gets your pure-EV home.  But how often does this happen?  Apparently little.  The United States has, to an extent, started off with range-extender EVs (like the Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius Plug-In), or more recently the Tesla Model S.  In either case, range anxiety fades away, as the plug-in hybrids have a backup engine and the Model S has 200+ miles of battery range.  Meanwhile, the average driving day is ~40 miles.  Pretty basic math there.

In both cases, public charging is a bonus, not an onus.  Plug-in hybrid owners plug in to save gas, not to save their hides.  But they still have the gas option just in case.  Tesla owners plug in because they can, not because they’re somehow restricted.  It’s Nissan Leaf drivers, and owners of similar pure-BEVs, who really like sites installed- and even a Leaf can do 70-90 miles, about twice the national average.

These charging sites cost a few thousand dollars for the hardware itself- the drilling, trenching, repaving, etc. costs more.  That wouldn’t get you even one gasoline tank and pump, with much more excavation involved, let alone the decommissioning costs.  In exchange, that one charging site psychologically enables numerous EVs throughout the area- and into the future- by demonstrating infrastructure support and alleviating stranding.  It’s insurance, really, and cheap insurance compared to gas stations (which are in decline).


3 thoughts on ““Waaah Waaah Waste”

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