Electric Vehicles, GIS, Mapping, Spatial Analytics

How GIS is being used to help alleviate “range anxiety” in the use of Electric Vehicles (EVs)


The first fully electric car was unveiled in Montserrat on August 16, 2019.  A truly historical moment which has been captured and shared on this youtube link by Montserrat's Government Information Unit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjENIlHGWBI&feature=share.

At the unveiling ceremony, a number of discussions surrounded the length of time that a fully charged battery would last and whether or not the electric vehicle (EV) would be able to traverse the winding, steep roads of Montserrat (case in point, Forgarthy Hill) on a full charge.

I have recently come to the understanding that this mindset is referred to as “range anxiety”.

The Oxford Online Dictionary defines range anxiety as “worry on the part of a person driving an electric car that the battery will run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached”. It has been further noted that this is one of the major hindrances to large scale adoption of all-electric vehicles (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/range_anxiety).

Four major strategies have been implemented to alleviate range anxiety among electric car drivers:

  1. The development of higher battery capacity at a cost effective price
  2. Battery swapping technology
  3. The use of range extenders
  4. Accurate navigation and range prediction

The utilization of Geographic Information Systems  (GIS) however, and its capability to employ multi-criteria location analytics, provides a solution which would help to alleviate range anxieties for electric car users. Moreover, these tools can assist decision makers in developing a strategic plan for the establishment of a well distributed electric vehicle charging station infrastructure.

In identifying optimal geographic locations for new electric vehicle charging stations, a number of factors should be considered.

  1. Location of likely users of electric vehicles. This can be determined by utilizing census data which contains information on age groups and socio-economic information.
  2. Locations which are high attraction venues to the public. This includes identifying the location of places where persons tend to spend a great deal of time such as, airports, ferry ports, government offices, health care facilities, libraries, places of worship, schools, supermarkets and rum shops.
  3. Availability of GIS data based on appropriate themes - Information contained in datasets such as digital elevation models, land use maps, road networks are pertinent in conducting this type of location analysis.

The output would be a map which displays varying degrees of suitability for the most appropriate locations to install charging stations.

Overall, Electric vehicles (EVs) are both economic and ecological vehicles, since they get their power from rechargeable batteries inside the car. They are advertised as zero emission vehicles, less noisy and more cost effective in the long run.

With the utilization of GIS and location analytics, the main disadvantage of recharge related problems will be curtailed, as vehicle charging stations would be carefully located to maximize electric vehicle usage. The end result would be the reduction in range anxiety of its users.

To put the icing on the cake, it would be absolutely amazing if these charging stations can be fully powered by a source of renewable energy, such as, solar, wind, hydro or geothermal. Then we would be truly making strides to saving our planet!

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

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