Study: Chevrolet Volt Drivers Suffer From 'Gas Anxiety'

October 19, 2012

One of the biggest hurdles facing electric car manufacturers is range anxiety -- that is, the public's fear that the battery on an electric vehicle will run out of juice, leaving them stranded.

But an intriguing new study has revealed a different sort of anxiety that afflicts owners of the Chevrolet Volt, which has jokingly been called "gas anxiety".

That's not a fear of running out of gas, it's a fear of having to visit the gas station at all.

The study

According to the New York Times, the study was conducted by ECOtotality, a San Francisco-based company specializing in electric transportation. Not only does ECOtotality create and install charging systems for homes and businesses, but it's also partnered with the Department of Energy to track how electric car owners use charging stations. The hope is that this information will help the public and private sector develop the charging infrastructure more quickly and efficiently.

Though ECOtotality's study is ongoing, the company has released some preliminary data on the roughly 6,000 vehicles it's tracking, most of which are Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts. (ECOtotality offered participants free chargers and a discount on home installation in exchange for participating.) Here are a few of the key bulletpoints to date:

1. Electric car owners who have charging stations at home use them far more often than charging stations in public places. That's because owners tend to plug in their vehicles overnight, so they're fully charged in the morning. 

2. That doesn't mean, however, that public charging stations at hotels and fast-food restaurants aren't used. Owners of the fully electric Nissan Leaf, for example, plug in when they're on the go about 11% of the time.

3. What's interesting, though, is that owners of the Chevy Volt -- which has a gas engine to supply power after the Volt's battery depletes its 40-mile range -- plug in nearly twice as often as Leaf owners. In fact, Volt owners plug in 21% of the time when they're out for work or running errands.

4. And yet, owners of both vehicles make a point of visiting shops where charging is available. In fact, they visit those places three times as often as non-EV owners and stay twice as long.

ECOtotality wouldn't say why Volt owners might be topping off their batteries more often than Leaf owners. Based on some of the owners we've seen profiled in Volt commercials, though, we have a hunch that some see dodging the pump as part of a game. The fact that they could rely on gas sets the stage for a self-imposed challenge: "How long can I go without filling up?"

If you have thoughts on the matter, we'd love to hear them, especially if you're a Volt or Leaf owner. Leave a note in the comments below -- and be sure to read a lengthier write-up on the ECOtotality study at Green Car Reports.

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