By on September 2, 2010


People have a lot of fears with electric cars/extended range electric cars. Will the government subsidies distort the market? Can manufacturers be able to sell them profitably? Are they really that environmentally sound? But the one which gets everyone is “range anxiety”. Will I have enough juice to get me home? It’s an issue which manufacturers are dealing with in their own ways. GM has come up with their own way of dealing with it; they’re trademarking it: With range anxiety being trademarked, someone just dreams the word, and GM’s lawyers will be on top of him, and make him surrender the illicit dream.

The Register reports that GM has applied to trademark the term “range anxiety”. A GM spokesperson (via Jalopnik) said “It’s something we call ‘range anxiety’ and it’s real…That’s something we need to be very aware of when we market (the Volt). We’re going to position this as a car first and electric second…people do not want to be stranded on the way home from work.” Even Joel Ewanick had a few words to say about this. “We’ve been here before,” probably referring to GM’s EV-1, “We have first-hand experience with what the issues are.” GM-Volt.com also quotes Mr Ewanick as saying “We’ve got a lot of education to do with Volt because it’s a whole new category of vehicle”.

The NY Times reports that Rob Peterson, GM spokesperson said of the application “We’ve been told the process will take nine months or so…but I’m not an attorney so I can’t say for sure.” A good trademark attorney will lecture his client on the “first use” principle. I mean, “range anxiety” already has a Wikipedia entry, and no “citation needed.” Quick! Everybody fire up Google! Who said it first? Now if GM can produce a 50 year old calendar that has “range anxiety” on it, they have a good chance of prevailing.

And what says Tesla about GM gaining the monopole on range anxiety? Ricardo Reyes, spokesperson for Tesla said “By all means, GM can have ‘range anxiety’. To Roadster owners, the term is as irrelevant as ‘gas stop’ or ‘smog check’. We are, however, looking into trademarking ‘Tesla grin’”. Trouble is when a Volt runs out of juice, it can pull into a petrol station and fill up. When a Tesla runs out, it needs to find a power outlet and charge for days. Not hours, DAYS. Could this be the start of a war between GM and Tesla, with Nissan (and their Leaf) getting involved later? I hope so. That means there will be plenty to write about.

Gotta go. I’m searching my posts for range anxiety.

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25 Comments on “Range Anxiety®...”


  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    I passed 2 cars on the side of the road this week with people putting gas into their tanks from a can. Before the EV’s get here, maybe I should invent & patent a hand crank car charger like those emergency flashlights.

    My x used to drive below the “E” all the time and paid for it several times. They made part of a Seinfeld episode about how far you can go below the “E”. I ran out of gas once when I was 16…..about 50 yds after leaving my parent’s driveway. Never did it again.

  • avatar
    ash78

    How about a spare battery or two (say, car battery size) that could function as an emergency backup?

    “But why not just include that capacity in the regular batteries?” you might ask, perhaps citing Nigel Tufnel’s concept of changing the overall scale.

    Psychological. If people know they COULD get 10-20 extra miles after running the car dead–but they have to get out, go to the trunk, and hook up electrodes (a minor, yet real inconvenience)–they might think a little harder about their range while adding a layer of peace-of-mind for contingencies.

    Because while gasoline is very dangerous to carry around in a container, a sealed Li-ion battery strapped into the trunk wouldn’t add much additional danger or hassle. It’s one of the few advantages of batteries over flammable liquid as a source of energy.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      It’s not a bad idea.  A car battery can store about 1KWh, and a decent electric car can get 4 or 5 miles off of that. (I don’t know if it will provide the throughput, however.)

      Could you get it a smaller price/size/weight if you gave up the ability to recharge it?

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    As a former owner of 2 previous trucks from Government Motors, I’d be worried about “reliability anxiety” if I owned a brand new, unproven vehicle like the Volt.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    GM, as Government Motors, got the bankruptcy court to give it special treatment. Now let’s see if the US Patent and Trademark Office does the same. No way should this trademark issue. And it wouldn’t, for any company not government owned.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    As a former Delphi employee that was dumped on by GM, I might trademark the term "Pension Anxiety".

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    Welcome to the psychology of humanity.  Anxiety rules the roost and GM knows it.
     
    Also…
    “Can manufacturers be able to sell them profitably?”
    Ugh.  This makes the Yankee grammar nazi in me turn green and yell, “HULK SMASH!”
     

  • avatar
    mcs

    Oh well, there goes Phizers marketing campaign for selling XANAX to cowboys.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Before, IIRC, 1963, the famed VW Beetle had no fuel gauge. Instead, it had a lever on the firewall that switched between a drain near the bottom of the gas tank and one at the bottom. So, when the engine started to sputter from running out of gas, the drive just flipped the lever to the bottom drain and started looking for a gas station. I believe, you had about 30 – 35 miles range before you were totally empty. Of course, when you re-filled the gas tank, you had to remember to re-set the lever to the “high drain” position. Maybe the EVs could have something like that. Problem is, recharging — even from a 240V source — is hardly as quick as filling up even a large gas tank.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Just like most motorcycles. When I refill my cars I usually reset the trip odometer. Our Honda gets +/- 20 miles every tank. Not hard to plan around that. If my lifestyle has me driving within 10 miles of a dead battery with an EV regularly then I’ll gladly drive a turbo diesel VW or perhaps a regular gasoline car. As it is with my commute I could drive the best part of a week on one charge.

  • avatar
    mcs

    “Range anxiety” is a common reaction among new EV1 users, said Levin. He added that the industry is working on new battery technology which holds the promise of a 100-mile range.
    —Richard Acello, “Getting into gear with the vehicle of the future,” San Diego Business Journal, September 1, 1997

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “Range Anxiety” would be an excellent name for a psychological thriller Western movie.

  • avatar

    disgusting of GM. No way should this issue.
    I can’t imagine driving an EV. Not only do you have only about as much range as I have when I refill my tank, if you do run out of juice, you have to wait and wait for the damn thing to charge–if AAA can tow it to a recharging station. yeah, I know, if you do nothing but commute, it would be fine, and for those who need a second car for nothing but commuting, as long as you’re not in a >50% coal-fired electricity region of the country, more power to you.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I don’t know about you but my wife and I generally drive about the same mileages every work week. It’s only on the weekends and holidays that our mileages vary much. It ought to be pretty easy to set our trip odometers this coming week and see how close we get to 75 miles each day. 75 miles is supposedly the worst case Nissan Leaf range using a/c.

  • avatar
    Lokki

     I still think it’s funny that GM copyrighted “Hummer”.

  • avatar
    carve

    Maybe owners will start carrying around 3000W Honda portable generators.  It’d take forever to build enough charge to drive on, but they wouldn’t be stranded.  It’d be nice if you could mount one on a hitch and have it run while you’re driving.  If you know you’re going a long way, You could turn it on as soon as you start the car and have it run all day to keep the battery from discharging as quickly, and to top it up while stopped.

    10-15 KW generator (~14 to 20 HP) aught to keep a Prius size car going all day at 60 mph.

    I think that’s the real key to range-extended hybrids.  Have a cheap, light, tiny motor, but kick it on well before you’re entirely dependent on it for all your power.  Just use it to keep your battery from discharging so quickly, and to charge it while stopped if necessary.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Build the generator into a trailer with some extra luggage space. Commute all week without it in EV mode, then go with the generator and trailer for long weekend trips.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      Have a cheap, light, tiny motor, but kick it on well before you’re entirely dependent on it for all your power

      I’ve asked before but not gotten much of an answer from the best and brightest: just how small, light, and/or cheap could you make a generator?  Even 10 miles of gas (or other fuel?) range would be great.
      Plus, it could provide heat during the cold months.  The ICE loses about 80% of the energy in gasoline to heat, but for the small part of your commute while you are warming up the car, it would be amazingly efficient.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    GM might be closing the door on themselves ever selling a pure EV, which seems foolish given the enviropolitical climate in which we live.
     
    Their real concern should be ‘sales anxiety’, since the Volt will be crushed by… the Cruze.

  • avatar
    beken

    Given my previous GM car experience, I have “GM Car Owner Anxiety” and will likely never buy another GM car again no matter how many more times they tell me the next one will be different.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    While they are at it, they could trademark “50 new ways to fail”.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Electric cars will just be another class of car that some consumers will avoid just like four cylinders. These consumers claim they need a V-6 for the “poweh” when they don’t use more than four cylinder power levels. These same people will claim they need the ability to suddenly drive 500 miles while their car hasn’t left the county in the past year.
    Oh well. To each his own. I’ll be perfectly happy with an electric car for a first and second car. The third car (we currently have four) can be a turbo diesel powered VW for trips.


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