If the use of electric cars still appears rather low in Italy compared to other countries in the world, one of the reasons can be found in this so-called "Range Anxiety”. In reality, the term refers to the concern that you will not be able to reach a charging station before your vehicle’s battery runs out. This negative perception runs alongside the fear of spending too much time waiting for a charging station to be free and the actual charging time that is required.
It is estimated that range anxiety affects almost six out of ten Italians. It is clear, therefore, that this is a crucial issue when it comes to electric mobility. But how are we moving beyond these limits, which inevitably affect the uptake of electric vehicles?
Charging stations in Italy: the current situation
As part of the latest European development, Italy is now organising itself with a good network of stations. Recent data (https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/rete-auto-elettriche-l-italia-avanza-50-punti-ricarica-settimana-ACMdzgj) shows that Italy is the European nation with the highest ratio between charging stations and electric vehicles in circulation. The average figure is about one charging point for every two registered electric vehicles. Moreover, the number of stations is constantly growing: installations form part of the National Electric Mobility Plan, whose objective is to create widespread and efficient charging infrastructure throughout the country, from North to South, including the islands.
Range Anxiety: what are the solutions?
Meanwhile, efforts are also being made to find additional technological solutions to address the thorny issue of Range Anxiety.
Smartphone apps, such as Google Maps, already indicate charging stations as Points of Interest (POI) and it is expected that in the future they will even report availability or the presence of a vehicle charging.
Last summer an all-Italian innovative system, Res (Range-Extender System) was announced, facilitating a significant increase in the autonomy of electric vehicles already on the market and in circulation.
This project is covered by the European patent and developed in collaboration with Robby Moto Engineering, the Politecnico di Milano, Acm Engineering and Meta System. The Range-Extender System acts as an auxiliary generator, recharging vehicle batteries and thus increasing their autonomy in terms of mileage.
The charging points are not all the same: in addition to the standard domestic ones, which typically deliver between 3 and 6 kWh, public ones have different charging capacities (below 22 kWh they offer the normal charge type, beyond this value they are fast charge) and may also take several hours to “fill up” your electric vehicles.
To prevent range anxiety, we are therefore experimenting with High Power Charging (HPC), the ultra-fast charging station. This solution allows drivers to recharge electric vehicle batteries over a period of three to five minutes, for an autonomy of approx. 60 miles. With High Power Charging, the charging time for an electric vehicle is comparable to refuelling an internal combustion engine.
Even in Italy, in 2019, some super stations were installed that are capable of fully charging electric vehicles in 15-30 minutes.
In the scope of solutions to counteract Range Anxiety, there is also room for dynamic proposals, such as the fast charging service for electric vehicles, on request and on the move. The operation is as simple as it is efficient. In this case, the on-demand petrol station service is provided by equipped vans that can travel to wherever the vehicle is located. Any owner of an electric vehicle can book a charging session through the dedicated app, available for Android and iOS.
The service is currently available in Rome and Milan, but will become available in other European cities, selected on the basis of the high growth rate of electric mobility. These include Paris, London and Madrid.
The future is yet to be written
A great deal more work is therefore needed to overcome the range anxiety obstacle. The future of electric mobility is in the hands of fast charging: users need it to be as fast and practical as refuelling traditional engines, or as long as it takes to grab breakfast at a service station.
We should not forget the continuous research being carried out by the global automotive industry to ensure faster charging times, without revolutionising the technologies of the current lithium-ion batteries. We therefore look forward to future developments.