There are no falcon doors, there is no Ludicrous Mode, and the company isn’t run by a man fashioning himself after Tony Stark. The center console isn’t comprised of a mega-iPad, and there are no rear-facing jump seats in the trunk. The Nissan Leaf is no Tesla Model S—a brilliant car, made by a fascinating company, and the first image to come to mind when one thinks of electric cars. But in the end, the Leaf may be more likely to succeed.
I have a range problem.
I didn’t realize I had a problem until a spate of recent road trips in two different cars blatantly slapped me in the face with the realization that my car doesn’t go very far on a tank of fuel. Since I’d really rather not drop $60 every 300 miles, I have a decision to make.
I can go between 270 and 320 miles on a tank of fuel in my car. My average is about 300 even, which translates to about 22 miles per gallon. Not bad. But with premium fuel and more road trips on the horizon, I have to admit that I have a problem. Especially compared with the 2013 Subaru Legacy I borrowed that can easily top 400 miles on regular fuel.
MSN posted yesterday a list of cars with the longest range, and my 10-year-old car, which is smaller and lighter than the Subaru, can’t compare with any of them.
Yup, I have a problem.
Buying a car that can go only about 50 miles from home is a scary thing. In typical day-to-day driving, the range of an electric car is more than adequate, but there is still the fear of running out of juice somewhere far from home.
Free access to a traditional gas-powered loaner vehicle.
Remember when you were a kid and all you wanted for your birthday was a remote-controlled car?
When the day finally arrived, your heart raced as you ripped open the wrapping paper and saw the gleaming red car under the clear plastic of the box. You, at long last, were the proud owner of a real remote-controlled car.
After tearing open the packaging and having your dad free the car of its inner restraints, a horrible realization occurred. Your car wasn’t a real remote-controlled car, it was tethered with a wire from the remote to the car. What fun is that?
The disappointment was intense, and you hung your head as you followed the car through the kitchen, maneuvering it around adults’ feet, trying to keep the wire free.
Now you’re all grown up and have finally purchased the electric car you always wanted, only to suffer the familiar disappointment of realizing you can’t go far without attaching a wire.
Range anxiety is treatable.
While I’m not sold on the serious need for electric vehicles, I acknowledge that we’re likely to see more gas-less motor cars swishing through our cities in the coming years.
I see three big problems with EVs:
- They have an extremely limited range (which varies according to many factors, including temperature, traffic conditions and speed).
- There is no mass infrastructure to recharge them.
- The electricity they use still must be produced somehow. (Coal? Nuclear?)
Infrastructure can be built and more nuclear plants can go live to pump more electricity into our failing grid. But there’s not much that can be done to change the fact that batteries in electric cars will empty much faster than they recharge. So how can you deal with the anxiety of not making it home once you venture out in your new electric car? Keep reading, friends.
Yesterday the always intellectual jgoods again made his case for the abolition of tax credits for electric cars and alternative fuels. He’s right about that. He’s also right that the best way to spur the growth of alternate fuel is with higher gas prices.
That’s not what I’m writing about today, though.
For EVs to work in this world they have to, you know, work. Forget tax credits and gas prices, people have to be able to get in their cars, drive 300-400 miles, stop for 10 minutes to refuel, whether with electrons or fossilized dinosaurs, and get back on the road.
In gas-powered cars, there’s no excuse for running out of fuel, because the next filling station is always close. In EVs, range anxiety is a huge issue, so much so that the few on U.S. roads are used as city commuters and rarely venture more than 10 miles from home. Any further and there’s a serious risk of ending up on the side of a highway watching gas-powered brethren happily motor toward home.