I recently attended the launch of the new Ford Focus all electric car. Like the Nissan Leaf it has no gasoline engine and relies entirely on electric power. Unlike the Leaf, it is based on an already existing model and is almost impossible to tell apart from a gasoline powered Focus.

In addition, the Focus, in order to enhance battery life in terms of driving range and long term life, cools the batteries using an air conditioning compressor.

Both cars run nearly silently, and both cars are remarkable because they feel like regular cars.

Which they are.

Sort of.

There is one problem.

The Ford engineer referred to it as “range anxiety.”

Range anxiety is a term used to describe how people feel when they drive a car that they perceive has the potential to leave them stranded because it may run out of energy.

But, in that case, what makes an electric car different from a traditional combustion engine car? I mean, a car can run out  of gas can’t it.

Well, there are two things that make that range anxiety in electric cars different from gas or diesel cars:

1 – The range of electric cars at this point is quite a bit lower than most combustion engine cars.  The Focus and the Leaf have ranges somewhere in the 100 mile area. Or in other words, their full “tank” is like a regular car at a little under half a tank.

2 – Compared to fuel stations there are remarkably few areas at which you can charge up an electric car. And charging up an electric at this stage takes quite a bit longer than simply putting gas or diesel in your tank.

There is an irony in the behavior that is exhibited when people have that range anxiety. They realize that the commodity of energy is a finite quantity.  As such, they try and conserve that energy and make it last as long as they can.

It is a similar behavior to what you might do if your gas gauge were low and you weren’t sure of where the next gas station would be.

You would do the things that would be required to get the most mileage out whatever fuel you had left.

You would be efficient.

You would do things like be easy with the gas pedal because you know you’d be wasting energy if you hit the gas hard.

You would coast where it made sense and where some downhill areas could help you keep up that speed while coasting.

You would watch intersections so that you could read the traffic flow and get an idea of when your light was going to change – you would try to keep the car rolling and conserve or sustain that energy.

Effectively, you would be doing what we call Ecodriving, and if you did it right, you could increase that little of fuel to go another 25% further.

The irony of this whole thing is that when people have that range anxiety, they drive in a way that increases that range. Sometimes they can increase that range to the point where there is no need for the anxiety in the first place.

You get the point though.

It shouldn’t take range anxiety to make you realize that Ecodriving just plain makes sense. Imagine being able to extend the range of your car on a full tank of fuel another 25%!! Or, if you’re an electric car owner, image being able to get enough out of the car so that you could relax about how far you want to go.

It’s possible, and Ecodriving is the means to get there.

Ecodriving – it works.

About Mike Speck

Lead facilitator and Master Ecodriving trainer for Ecodriving Solutions.
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