What is driving 'Range Anxiety'?

Are you reviewing whether electric vans are suitable for your business? You may be among the many businesses with ‘range anxiety’. Let’s explore the suitability of electric vans for business use.

17/10/201910 minutes read

‘Range Anxiety’ is a big concern for businesses considering electric vans

Are you concerned that an electric van will run out of battery or need constant charging? You are not alone. It is an issue so common that the automotive industry informally refers to it as ‘range anxiety’.

The fact is that a fully charged battery-electric van has a far shorter range than a diesel van, with most having driving ranges between 50 and 150 miles.

Worse still, electric vans take far longer to fully charge than filling a fuel tank, with the fastest available chargers taking around 30 minutes for an almost full charge.

On the other hand, KPMG found that 99.3% of UK journeys are within current EV ranges. So, when we look at the typical business uses of vans, how justified is ‘range anxiety’?


‘Range anxiety’ is a bigger problem if you don’t fall within the ideal use-cases

Except for a small number of use-cases, electric vans are not the obvious choice. The ideal conditions for operating electric vans would be: 

  • Driving in built-up cities or towns – Electric vans are less polluting and are more efficient on shorter journeys. Public charge points are also a lot more likely to be available in built-up areas.
  • Going on short journeys – The limited range of an electric vehicle is likely to become a problem over multiple long journeys. Driving on the motorway is also known to deplete the battery faster.
  • Predictable or frequent downtime – The more natural pauses in a driver’s day, the more charging opportunities there are, especially at night when electricity is cheapest. Any downtime could be a charging opportunity if there are accessible charge points – or could be used to push that energy back into the site or grid. Large storage batteries are also a potential solution to recharge vehicles during the day and recharging overnight.
  • Carrying light payloads – Heavy payloads will require extra power and reduce an electric van’s battery life. If you know that your vehicle will be carrying lighter loads, you can likely get closer to a vehicle’s maximum range. The added weight of heavy batteries was recently off-set by changes to the category B licence.  

 Unless you are one of those rare businesses that meet all of the criteria above, transitioning your fleet to electric vans is unlikely to be a straightforward decision.  



‘Range anxiety’ isn’t such a problem if you have convenient access to charging points

Whether electric vans fit perfectly with your business needs or not, you will likely have to tackle problems with charging them. Here are some of the possible charging options and the challenges around them: 

  • Domestic – This requires your drivers to have access to a charging point at home. They will usually require off-road parking to install a charging point at home.
  • Public – One helpful tool for finding charging points is Zap-Map. Many charge points have proprietary systems for payment – usually requiring different apps to make a payment.
  • Installing your own charge points – This is reliant on the availability of a sufficient power supply and will often involve a significant investment. You may be able to subsidise some of the costs with government grants but it is important to understand the capability of your local substation and how you can optimise the drawdown, storage and use of electric energy.

 Depending on your fleet, one solution or any combination of solutions might be suitable. Since each charging option is not without its challenges, it is worthwhile working with a fleet consultant to explore what is the most effective option for your fleet.


No standardised way of charging can make ‘Range Anxiety’ an obstacle  

Whether you will be looking to install your own charge point or access a public one, the lack of a compatible power supply can stop your plans to switch to electric vehicles altogether.


Let’s look at a scenario where you will be installing your own charge point:

Firstly, electric vans can have varying charging requirements, from the type of power an electric van can use to the type of adapter it needs.

In turn, charge points also have different configurations. The electrical current (DC or AC) that a charge point uses will determine what vehicles they can charge and at what speed.

Further, the type of charge point that can be installed will be decided by the power supply available. 

In other words, installing a charge point requires the right permissions and access to an adequate power supply, again, understanding your local substation capacity and storage options are key


The other scenario is that you are using public charge points: 

As with the above scenario, you will often have to check the compatibility of a charge point with the electric vehicle you will be using it for.

The added problem here is that you do not have control over which charge point is installed where. This might mean having to remap your route or go on a detour to find a suitable charge point.

If there are insufficient public charge points and installing your own is not an option, this might even be a blocker.

As you can see, it is a bit of a ‘chicken or egg’ scenario on what decides what. For our purposes, this just shows that charging electric vehicles requires planning in advance.


‘Range Anxiety’ is often not a deal-breaker but it does require planning

We are still at a stage where charging an electric vehicle requires planning in advance.

Whilst the range limitations of electric vans will make them a less obvious choice for some fleets, there are many options available to businesses to overcome any ‘range anxiety’.

The benefits of electric vans can still outweigh the challenges of ‘Range Anxiety’, with electric vans being more eco-friendly and potentially more cost-effective to run to name just a few.

Depending on your fleet, one solution or any combination of solutions might be suitable. Since each charging option is not without its challenges, it is worthwhile working with a fleet consultant to explore what is the most effective option for your fleet.


How can Northgate help?

Hiring your vans through Northgate gives you the flexibility to quickly transition to new technologies, such as electric vans, as they become viable for your fleet.

We have already helped many fleets introduce electric vans to their fleet and are well-placed to do the same for your business.

If you’re ready to start weighing up the benefits of electric vehicles for your business, our fleet consultants are on hand to provide expert advice and talk you through our range of vehicles.

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