The media likes a catchphrase and the motor industry makes for easy pickings. I’m thinking ‘road rage’, ‘Chelsea tractor’, ‘bailout’, that sort of thing. Be prepared for another, because if electric cars take off, ‘range anxiety’ will be on all our lips.
Range anxiety is worrying when your electric car will run out of juice. Specifically, whether it’s before you reach your destination. In this week’s Autocar we’ve road tested the all-electric Tesla Roadster, the first time in living memory we’ve road tested an electric car. Initially the Tesla brought with it the kind of range worries that car owners usually only experience crossing Australia’s Nullarbor Plain, but the fear passes quickly.
The day the Tesla arrived, fully charged, it was taken for a few quick thrashes up the road and back, then went on a photoshoot; all adding around 100 miles. I then had the task of driving it 35 miles home. So I trickle charged it from a 13-amp mains plug for a couple of hours and braved it. The Roadster would have breezed it even without the charge. And that was the end of my range anxiety. I charged the Tesla overnight and next morning drove 85 miles to MIRA test track. I lost somebody five quid by arriving on time, and not on the back of a trailer. The Tesla had only used half its juice. To be fair, we then charged the Tesla overnight again to make sure it had full beans before our performance tests. But it completed our entire 60-mile road test cycle in one hit. And thrilled us with its power delivery. Yes, going fast cuts the Roadster’s range, but that’s no shocker. We had to refuel a Subaru Impreza during testing once. The Tesla still has issues. Time constraints meant we trailered it home from MIRA and that’s not terribly practical. And its motor overheats under hard lapping and reduces power (though in no less time than it takes for most cars’ brakes to fade). So battery power probably isn’t the future (certainly not with the current generation of batteries). But the Tesla Roadster isn’t meant to change the world. It’s meant to prepare us mentally for cars that might. And show us that electric oomph can be every bit as cool as petrol oomph. If that also involves introducing us to (and getting us over) range anxiety, all credit to it.