Easing EV range anxiety
The automotive industry is going through an exciting transition at the moment. The rise of electric cars has given room for new and exciting start-ups to enter the market while the car makers of old scramble to reorganise themselves. The pace of development is rapid, with each new model announced offering more miles for less cash. In fact, the pace is so fast that some consumers seem to have been caught out and haven't had time to adjust. A lot of people criticise the lack of charging points, the difficulty of travelling huge distances and the demand on the power grid. But for me, none of these problems are insurmountable and the positives of electric cars still outweigh the issues.
It reminds me of when the first iPhone ushered in the smartphone era. At that time, we were used to 3-4 days battery life from our phones and the iPhone could barely do a day. The same goes for smart watches. But as consumers, we change our habits, because the benefits are clear and worthwhile.
Range anxiety is a real problem holding people back from buying electric vehicles (EV's). They are used to a world where they fill up once a week and never have to worry about the supply of fuel. But the reality is, most people commute less than 10 miles a day (source). The worry seems to be that they have much less capacity than they are used to and anxiety around the availability of chargers. Most people who drive EV's charge them at home overnight. It becomes a routine like charging your phone at night.
With smartphones, there are products to extend battery life. Could this be applied to electric vehicles?
The only cause for genuine worry would be if you needed to travel more miles than your car is capable of. In this case you are at the mercy of public charging points, in the same way that you would be if you were away from home for more than a day with your smartphone. With smartphones, there are products to extend battery life. Could this be applied to electric vehicles?
I looked at the problem from a design point of view and came up with some solutions with the aim of easing range anxiety and therefore making EV's more attractive to the mass market.
My first concept is a roof mounted battery pack. During the week, the car would operate as normal without the battery extender. At the weekend, the battery pack could be added to the roof-rack for long journeys. This would provide additional range when required, without hampering performance the rest of the time. The flaws with this concept are the weight of the battery pack which would make it nearly impossible to lift onto the roof and degrade the performance of the car.
A trailer mounted battery extender would eliminate the issues of the roof mounted design. A trailer is much easier to attach/remove and as an addition bonus, provides storage that could be useful on a long journey.
Ultimately, I feel the best solution could be removeable battery batteries. This would eliminate the problem of waiting for the car to charge and it would suit those that don’t have a driveway to install a charging point. As well as having ChargePods at service stations, they could also be located at supermarkets to provide a convenience that would be superior to petrol/diesel. I imagine a deposit would be paid on the battery packs and a charge paid for the fuel (like gas bottles). The downside may be the stifling of innovation in battery technology as a standard would have to be adhered to for many years to come.
The ChargePod seems to be a great solution to range anxiety, and also addresses some other concerns such as charger availability, and EV ownership without a driveway. In order for this to work however, all manufacturers would have to agree on a standard, which seems unlikely - although they do all use the same fuels currently?