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GM Trademarks the Phrase "Range Anxiety." Its Motives Are Suspect. GM Trademarks the Phrase "Range Anxiety." Its Motives Are Suspect.

GM Trademarks the Phrase "Range Anxiety." Its Motives Are Suspect.

by Andrew Price

September 4, 2010

General Motors has asked to trademark the phase "range anxiety," which refers to the anxiety one might have about the limited range of his or her electric car. Jalopnik speculates that this is preparation for a marketing campaign to distinguish the Chevy Volt from its all-electric competitors.

The application filed with the U.S. trademark office in July suggests GM wants every marketing weapon it can find when it finally starts selling the Jesus Car Chevrolet Volt — GM's Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV), basically a plug-in electric with a gas engine to charge the battery when needed — in a couple of months. That includes range anxiety — a fear of driving too far from your power plug.

"It's something we call ‘range anxiety,' and it's real," said Joel Ewanick, GM's head of U.S. marketing. "That's something we need to be very aware of when we market this car. 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."

Presumably—though we don't know for sure—GM would use the phrase to scare you about getting stranded on the side of the road with a dead battery in your all-electric Nissan Leaf.

There are good reasons to believe that the limited range of the upcoming crop of all-electrics isn't going to be a problem. Most people drive less than 100 miles a day (100 miles is the expected range for the Nissan Leaf) and there are ways to use dashboard displays to make it very easy for the driver to avoid depleting the battery.

If GM exaggerates the range problem to make people more anxious than they need to be, and ends up slowing the adoption and development of all-electric cars, that would be a bummer of a marketing ploy from everyone else's perspective.

Photo: General Motors.

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GM Trademarks the Phrase "Range Anxiety." Its Motives Are Suspect.