EV renter encounters range anxiety on Thanksgiving road trip



Driving an electric vehicle home from visiting family for the holidays, one hopes for accessible and working charging stations.

Bobby Tuli and his family have traveled 302 miles from the Chicago suburbs to Metro Detroit to celebrate Thanksgiving with family for nearly 20 years. After breaking his vehicle’s side mirror, he rented a Tesla Model Y to drive around Lake Michigan, just outside the mileage range of most EVs.

“I can go nonstop, but this time, we had to stop twice,” Tuli said… “Even though we had fully charged it at home before we left.”

The route follows the Lake Michigan Circuit, a 2021 partnership between Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin to build EV chargers along the 1,100-mile drivable coastline to calm EV “range anxiety” – the fear of getting stuck roadside with a dead battery.

Tuli drives the distance in an internal combustion vehicle without stopping or planning fuel stops hours ahead. He found Tesla charging stations without bathrooms attached, and the restaurants near the chargers were closed because of Thanksgiving.

He likes the car but said range anxiety is real for EV road trips.

“You have to stop more often, you have to stop where they want you to stop – not where you want to stop – those are some of the challenges,” he said. “With a gas station, I can stop anywhere. Even if I’m on fumes, there’s always a gas station within a couple of miles. Charging is not close, so you have to be prepared.”

Lauren Magirl, a senior environmental engineer of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, told The Center Square that grant applications are still open for the first round of Lake Michigan Circuit EV chargers.

“Therefore, we haven’t funded any chargers yet,” Magirl wrote in an email. “We are anticipating grants to start in April 2024.”

A 2023 Anderson Economic Group report found 200 public DC fast charging stations and 908 Level 2 charging stations statewide, mostly in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing.

J.D. Power reports that 88% of EV owners often charge vehicles at home.

Tuli says EVs work well for short, regular commutes such as driving to work. In all, Tuli charged the EV six times but driving his gas-fueled vehicle, he would have stopped for just fuel twice.

The trip may show why Michigan has fallen more than 1.9 million EVs short of reaching its climate goal of 2 million EVs driving on Michigan roads by 2030 as automakers hit the brakes on EV production. To reach its EV goal, Michigan must register 23,400 EVs every month for seven years.

Michigan has 34,380 EVs registered statewide.

The upfront price of EVs is also a major barrier to adoption. As of September 2022, Kelley Blue Book says the average EV price was $65,291 compared to $48,100, the average price for a gas-powered vehicle. Many used gas-powered cars cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

Michigan will spend $110M over five years to build EV charging stations.

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