Thinking Tech

GM applies for a trademark on "range anxiety"

GM applies for a trademark on "range anxiety"

Posting in Energy

Just in case you're worried about being stranded in your electric car...

GM appears to be arming itself against competitors with all-electric vehicles before it starts selling the Chevy Volt later this year.

The Volt is supposed to run on battery alone for 40 miles before an "internal combustion engine generator" takes over to charge the battery and extend the Volt's range to 300 miles, GM says.

Its trademark application, which was filed in the U.S. patent office on July 6 (h/t Jalopnik), is for "promoting public awareness of electric vehicle capabilities" -- just in case we're not sure how electric cars work. Should we trust GM to tell us?

"Range anxiety is real," GM's Nick Pudar told me in May at Google's I/O developer conference in San Francisco, where GM was showing off a Volt. "Range is the balance between the battery's weight and cost and its integration with the vehicle. If you went 100 miles on battery, you'd have no room for anything else." (Not if you're going to pay GM prices anyway).

Range anxiety is real, at least in the U.S. The Consumer Electronics Association surveyed 950 people in May and June and found that 71 percent of them feared "running out of electricity while driving."

But maybe they shouldn't be so afraid. Remember U.C. Davis professor Andy Frank, who says that with hybrids to cycle energy between their batteries and the grid, plus lots of free chargers, we could achieve energy independence in 15 years?

He also said the average car in the U.S. isn't driven 40 miles a day -- and it sits idle for about 21 hours, which leaves plenty of time to charge the battery.

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Deborah Gage

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Deborah Gage has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Minnesota Public Radio, Baseline and various magazines and newspapers. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure