GIL TAL LIVES in Davis, California, where winter daytime temperatures are in the mid-50s and annual rainfall is well below the national average. But the Sierra Nevada mountains are two hours away, so Tal made sure his latest car had four-wheel drive. “One day, I will go to the snow,” he says.
It turns out that’s how Americans think about buying vehicles. They purchase trucks because they might have to haul something one day—or SUVs because, what if every kid wants to bring a friend on a trip? The same goes for electric vehicles, says Tal, director of UC Davis’ Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center. Despite leaps in battery technology, which allow some EVs to travel hundreds of miles between charges, surveys suggest that range anxiety still freaks out prospective buyers. Which means, Tal’s survey participants tell him, that people want to know there will be chargers on every possible route, even if “they’re usually not stopping,” he says.