EV Four Corners

Detailed: Range Anxiety and Charging

Range Anxiety #1: The Dealer Told Me EVs Only Go 40 Miles

First a word of caution. Local dealerships may feel threatened by EVs, as local dealerships make their revenue not by selling vehicles but by repairing them. EVs have about 2,000 fewer moving parts than gas or diesel vehicles (also known as ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles). Therefore they are less prone to breaking down. They need no oil changes. Also, EVs are new. Many salespersons are not yet up to speed about them. The is especially true of the legacy American car manufacturers (GM, Ford and Stellantis (the company now responsible for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram trucks)), who have an incentive to keep selling high-profit gas cars.
That said, the salesperson might be correct. The 40-mile range they speak of refers to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) rather than “pure” electric – battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Gas (ICE or internal combustion engine)Hybrid (or hybrid electric vehicle: HEV)Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)Battery Electric Vehicle or BEV
Example from Toyota:CamryPrius (original.)Prius PrimebZ4X
Electric Range0044252
Gas Range5066445960

Plug-in EVs often have an all-electric range of around 40 miles, but BEVs typically have an all-electric range of 225-400 miles. However, PHEVs also contain a gasoline engine with a 250-400-mile range. They are designed to shift automatically over to gasoline propulsion whenever it is needed. A PHEV will keep going after the battery is drained, as long as you have some gas in the tank.

A BEV will not keep going after the battery is drained, but it will produce no pollutant emissions whatsoever as it its being driven. On average, PHEVs have about half the lifetime emissions of a gas or diesel car.  

To make things more confusing, some cars come in an ICE version, a hybrid version like the original Prius (which has no all-electric range), and a plug-in variant (like the Prius Plus, which has about a 40-mile all-electric range). If you step up to a BEV, like Toyota bZ4X, it has around a 250-mile all-electric range.

Range Anxiety #2: I Worry About Running Out of Juice on The Road

Thanks to Kathleen O’Connor (FourCore) for this artwork.

If none of these three solutions works for you (home charging, workplace charging or public chargers), it would be best to stick with your regular car until your EV infrastructure catches up.

Most EV drivers use their cars in two ways:

  1. for local and commuting trips
  2. for longer distance road trips.

When you make the decision to buy an EV, you should have a plan for where you will charge up on a daily or weekly basis. Road trips are another matter. Both PHEVs and BEVs can accommodate road trips, but only BEVs can supply emission-free road trips.

  • For those who have a garage or an outdoor parking space reserved for their own use, such as a home driveway, the easiest way to charge is to have a home charger installed where you can plug in any time you are at home.
  • If you don’t have a home base you can charge at, look for chargers at your workplace or public chargers located along your daily routes.
  • With or without a charger at your home, if your commute is less than 40 miles round-trip a day, you will only need to charge a BEV about once a week. PHEVs would need to be charged each day. For both BEVs and PHEVs, it will likely be more convenient to find a charger you can use for 2 hours each day to keep your charge stops short and your battery close to full.

Charging at home is effortless. Turn off the ignition, get out of the car, plug in and walk away knowing your car will be fully charged the next day. Because BEVs have about a 225-400 mile range and most commuters only go around 30-40 miles per day, commuters never have to worry about running out of fuel (electrons). Recharging a daily 30-mile commute takes 1-2 hours with a typical home charger, which turns on and off automatically and minimizes your local utility’s electric cost by time of day. Off-peak juice costs about 1-2 cents per mile driven (way cheaper than gas).

PHEV or BEV – You can make your commute.

Range Anxiety #3: What Are My Options If I Can’t Charge at Home?

Some apartment complexes install chargers in their parking areas. If you live in an apartment, let the management know you’d like them to install EV chargers. Some EV-drivers have a charger at their place of work (e.g., Durango’s Mercy Hospital) and can charge during the day, when electricity is in surplus due to our region’s ample opportunities for solar power generation.

Other EV-drivers live so close to a public charger they can plug in there and walk home. If your commute is short, and you have access to an ordinary AC outlet, it will provide 2-6 miles of battery range for every hour the car is plugged in. Keep in mind public chargers may not want people to park at a charger all night or for multiple days. They often add an extra fee if you keep your car there longer than needed to charge.

Range Anxiety #4: What About Road Trips?

Charging an EV is not yet as easy as traveling using gas. While gas stations are everywhere, America has been slow in creating its EV fast-charging system. However, as of early 2024, you can travel from the Four Corners area coast to coast from east to west, but states to the north and south of us have lagged in building their fast-charging infrastructure. The Federal government has made 7.5 billion dollars available to speed the build out of more EV fast charging stations. Hopefully these states will get busy using the money.

Many of the newer EVs provide route planning software. You enter your destination and they will provide a map showing which chargers you’ll need to stop at and how long you’ll need to charge at each one. Plugshare.com is a route planning app available to anyone. If your car doesn’t have route planning included, Plugshare.com can provide all the information you need to plan your EV trip.

In the Four Corners area, prospects for getting a quick charge at the right place are greatly enhanced if:

  1. You are traveling in Colorado, towards Salt Lake City, or to southern Arizona. These places have fast chargers every 50 miles along all major highways. There are around 1,000 public fast chargers in each of Arizona and Colorado. Colorado’s chargers are nicely spaced:
Map of Colorado’s 986 fast charging stations (March 2024)

b. Remote areas in northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, or around Lake Powell are not so good (see following maps):

Map of fast charging stations to the NW of the Four Corners (March 2024)

It is easy to reach Salt Lake City, but tougher to get into the back country around Lake Powell.

Map of fast-charging stations to the south of the Four Corners (March 2024)

It is not yet easy to reach Albuquerque or more remote locations in the backcountry south of the Four Corners.

What constitutes fast?

That depends on the car and the charger. For example, I recently drove a big, heavy electric pickup truck (Rivian R1T) from Denver in Durango in the middle of winter. The navigational software in the truck directed me to a charger in Salida, where I should charge for 9 minutes, and would reach home with 100 miles of range to spare. I didn’t trust the software, so I charged for a few extra minutes while I ate my lunch. It was, however, correct. I did end up with about 100 miles of range to spare.

On the other hand, some EVs – like the Chevy Bolt – have smallish batteries which are capped at a slow charge rate, and some of the older chargers are limited to very slow charge rates, so it might take an hour instead of 9 minutes. These slower charging vehicles are less expensive than faster charging models. They are great for commuting. It’s possible to do long road trips in them if you don’t mind waiting up to an hour to recharge at each stop. You can make these trips seem shorter by stopping more frequently for shorter charging sessions. With these cars, learn what the car’s fastest charge rate is. There is no need to find a 250 kW fast charger if the most your car will accept is 50 kW, as the Chevy Bolts do.

The degree to which you tolerate short breaks in your travels depends in part on your expectations and personality. Being forced to stop more frequently helps you be more relaxed, better fed, and healthier.