Tesla Range Anxiety?


Do you know someone who bought a Tesla, and immediately started asking about a new electric car epidemic: “range anxiety?” Range anxiety is simply having anxiety that your car’s electric power will be drained before you reach a charging station. So, when range anxiety is a real concern, people who do buy a Tesla, still keep their other gas-powered cars.

Range anxiety can be abated, but not only with more public charging stations – it will require industries and technologies sharing and coordinating efforts in our new “sharing economy.” Let me explain.

As reported, the sharing economy is here.It is the first phase of sharing, or “Sharing 1.0.”

For example, many Americans are choosing car-sharing services instead of buying a new car. Airbnb can turn empty spare rooms into a hotel room for the night. Tradesy lets people share their clothes and “cash in on their closet.”

We are in a “less is more” economy. We discussed it last week when I was at the Department of Transportation. The discussion focused on the pressure points that are pushing real behavioral change in the way we travel.

For example, it was reported recently by CNBC that a study by Alix Partners, a consulting and business advisory firm, that 500,000 vehicle purchases in the U.S. have been avoided in the past decade. The catalysts are car-sharing programs like Zipcar. Further, the study predicted that by 2021 car sharing could subterfuge another 1.2 million purchases of new vehicles.

Also, services like Uber and Sidecar are apps that are propelling vehicle sharing.

Cities like Amsterdam, London, New York, and Boulder have bike-sharing programs lessening the need for cars.

Each new technology that eliminates traditional combustion-engine cars is chipping away at carbon reduction. And, while we are making inroads, it is clear that our technologies are working in silos.We have progress in uncoordinated efforts.

Our sharing economy is great, but we now need to go the next step to sharing technologies and industries to work together to accelerate progress — or “Sharing 2.0.”

In Sharing 2.0 we can address issues like range anxiety with coordinated efforts of technologies and industries. After all, range anxiety does not get people to give up their gas-powered vehicle. So, there are still millions of Americans that have at least two cars and rarely drive more than 40 miles per day.

Sharing 2.0 is important because car manufacturers cannot solve range anxiety through expensive public charging infrastructure alone – nor should they. At some point, charging systems could be installed/embedded in roadways where we never run out of “juice.” It will take city planning and coordinating an electrified road with the smart grid. So, this is where city planners, auto manufacturers, and utilities would not work in silos, but in a coordinated effort. This is the next phase of sharing.

Another example is that instead of buying a Tesla people would use their smartphone to share a Tesla. Your smartphone could eventually “learn” your preferences when you enter a shared auto. This can include seat adjustment, climate control, music and more.

Also Tesla is installing Tesla Superchargers that allow owners to travel for free between cities along well-traveled highways in North America and Europe. Superchargers provide half a charge in 20 minutes. With “fuel costs” at zero, you can envision how EVs could be more cost effective as a shared resource. You could rent a Tesla by the hour and link your phone.The car for that time period would be “yours.”

Another integrated technology in the not so distant future, is that your Zipcar could be a self-driving vehicle that will pick you up. Sharing 2.0 could include the further integration of smartphones into the smart car.

As I write this, I do think that we are at a tipping point for significant commercial breakthroughs in transportation. In electricity, I experienced this same kind of tipping point when the passion for solar power really moved the entire calcified utility industry towards distributed electricity generation. Key was that there was a way entrepreneurs could make money from a proven technology without asking the utility companies for permission. In solar, we turned excitement into sales and profits – $15B in the USA in 2013 alone.

In transportation, with new apps, and auto companies like Tesla, and cars like the Chevy Volt, there is the same kind of excitement.

A sharing economy is here – and car sharing is a huge start for better use of autos. Most cars are only used 3% of the time, sitting in park 97% of the time – one of the worst investments a person could make. While we deploy these new sharing technologies, we need to share technologies and cross-fertilize industries to find solutions for the transportation evolution – move to the next phase, Sharing 2.0.

Success will be reached when anyone who moves to a city in the United States will be able to live without a car and not miss one. It will happen because we will go beyond just being happy with increasing sales of EVs and throwing money at issues like range anxiety. We will need to be creative and find new approaches leveraging and coordinating proven technologies and cross breed industries.If we execute, we will solve the pressing issues of our time and further unlock a new $10 trillion resource efficient economy.

[Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

This post appeared on the LinkedIn Influencer page of Jigar Shah on February 13th, 2014 and can be viewed there by clicking here.
Jigar Shah is founder of SunEdison, the largest solar services company, and was the first CEO of the Carbon War Room (CWR), where he is a board member today. CWR is a nonprofit that harnesses the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change and create a post-carbon economy. As chief executive of Jigar Shah Consulting, he works with global organizations on business solutions to solve climate change. He is the author of Creating Climate Wealth (ICOSA 2013).