By on April 14, 2015

2015 Nissan Leaf white

When you live in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area, owning or leasing an electric vehicle is fairly simple to justify. The state allows you to use HOV lanes with only one person aboard. Some cities allow you to park in metered parking spots for free. Charging your electric vehicle at the mall can be free. Some businesses might offer electric vehicle charging. There are additional rebates on top of the $7,500 federal tax credit for buying an electric car. Electric companies provide discounted power rates for electric car owners for charging in off-peak hours. Some counties offer rebates for installing 240V home charging systems for electric vehicles.

But sometimes, an electric vehicle may not be for you. Range anxiety is a big issue. Another large issue depends on where you live, either if you live in an apartment complex in Berkeley or a ranch in Killeen. It also depends on what you do for a living, whether you’re a high-tech worker in Silicon Valley or a homemaker in Kansas City. Some of the reasons below might not apply if you own a Tesla Model S, with its 200 mile range, a home charger, access to Superchargers, and its $60,000+ price. They also might not apply if the office is only 10 miles away and offers charging stations.

You live in an apartment complex.

Unless you live in one of those high-end condominium complexes that have garages in their underground parking garages for their residents, it’s difficult to own an electric vehicle when you live in the typical American apartment complex. Usually, a resident is allocated one spot in the carport and there are no other parking amenities. To install a 240V home charging station or using the charger that came with the car, it helps to have a dedicated power outlet nearby. You could plug in the charger to an extension cord leading from your apartment, but that would be unsafe. If you live fairly close to your workplace with charging facilities or have a nearby downtown with dedicated electric vehicle charging spots, having an electric vehicle is workable, but will require plenty of planning.

Your workplace doesn’t have (enough) charging stations.

This is big issue in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of the large companies like Google and Facebook have many charging stations for their employees. It minimizes range anxiety for their employees, makes sure the employees can drive in the carpool so they spend less time in traffic, gets the company some good PR coverage for being environmentally friendly, and also nets the company a healthy tax break. Now, even if your office does have charging stations for the employees, there might not be enough of them, leading to what the San Jose Mercury News calls “charge rage.” Since some people need to charge their electric car is make sure they get home, they might unplug another car in order to charge theirs. This has led to company-wide e-mails on charging etiquette and people angry that their car was unplugged. So if you can’t guarantee that you can charge the car once you arrive at the office and you wouldn’t be able to get home on what was left, an electric vehicle might not be the best choice.

Your daily errands consist of driving over 70 miles.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent with at least two kids who aren’t old enough to drive, covering over 70 miles in one day is possible. Even though most electric vehicles have at least 80 miles of range on a full charge, it’s helpful to have 10 miles in reserve. If you need to drive two kids to different schools and many different activities (“I think doing fencing, robotics club, karate, and volunteering at the hospital should be enough to get into Harvard these days”), drop off dry cleaning, pick up groceries, maybe a doctor’s appointment, and a trip to the mall, you might be pushing the limits of your electric vehicle range. Since a new errand might come up at any time, unless there is an SAE Combo or a CHAdeMO fast charging station nearby (even if you live in the Bay Area, there usually isn’t), an electric car isn’t the best vehicle in spur-of-the-moment tasks come up and your daily driving is already straddling the daily range.

You live in a rural area.

If you live in Wyoming on a 1,000+ acre farm, an electric vehicle probably isn’t for you. The nearest shopping center might be 50 miles away. The local high school likely isn’t as local as most Americans might think. Macy’s might be an authentic travel destination. Using the Plugshare app, when I look for charging stations in Sturgis, South Dakota, only one station is available, and it’s a 120V outlet at a local hardware store. But Sturgis is a town of less than 10,000 people. Meanwhile, northeast of Sturgis, in Fargo, North Dakota, a place with a population of over 100,000 people, the Plugshare map shows only one public electric charging station in the entire city, and it’s at the Nissan dealership. So most rural areas might not be the best environment for electric vehicle ownership.

Your state doesn’t have electric vehicle incentives.

Most American states provide some sort of benefits to electric car buyers in the form of additional tax credits, use of the HOV lane with a single passenger, and/or sales tax exemptions. The websites of Plug In America and the National Conference of State Legislatures provide a good breakdown of electric vehicle benefits by state, with some state providing income tax credits as high as $5,000. However, if you live in states such as Wisconsin, Kansas, or New Mexico, there’s much fewer reasons to buy an electric car, as they offer no incentives for electric vehicle buyers. There are no HOV lane benefits or tax credits, two benefits that would really push people towards electric vehicles. As a result, buying a gas-powered vehicle makes more sense in those states.

You don’t own another, gas-powered car.

Sometimes you need a vehicle to travel 100 to 200 miles in one day. Short of a Tesla Model S, there are few other electric vehicles that can accomplish the task. In my opinion, most electric vehicles currently on the market are good second or third cars. For many people, an electric vehicle is a good alternative for 80% to 90% of the driving they do every year. However, that 10% of high car use occurs on road trips or round-trip drives to the nearest international airport. FIAT has tried to address the issue by offering 12 days per year of free rental car access with its 500e, which is 3% of the year. Therefore, having a gasoline-powered car as a back-up or recreational vehicle provides the certainty that you’ll can drive long distances when you absolutely need to.

You’re on edge whenever there’s 50 miles’ worth of gas remaining in your car.

These are the people most susceptible to range anxiety. At any given point, there must be at least 100 miles worth of range in their car no matter where they go. To them, whenever their car shows them the range is 50 miles, they immediately head for the nearest gas station. That’s usually because 50 of miles of range in a normal car means a reserve of 1 to 2.5 gallons of gas left in the tank, which means it’s time to fill up with both gas and regain some peace of mind. Even though there may be a charging station at their home, these people with range anxiety might panic and possibly suffer a nervous breakdown.

Ultimately, an electric vehicle might be not for you. Any of the above could force you to look at fuel-efficient gas-powered cars, hybrids, or plug-in hybrids, the last of which might be the best compromise. As long as you live in a single-family home with a garage and nearby shopping malls in a state that provides many electric vehicle benefits, have access to a gas-powered vehicle, and don’t drive over 70 miles per day, having an electric car can be very convenient. But if you live in an apartment in Iowa where the nearest McDonald’s is 40 miles away with no other cars to use, your new car shouldn’t be electric. In fact, you’d better have range anxiety in those circumstances.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. Though he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, he knows electric cars aren’t for everyone, something he learned the hard way when his Spark EV had 22 miles of range when delivered and couldn’t use it for a lunch date.

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95 Comments on “A Few Reasons an Electric Car Might Not Be For You...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    PHEV is the only answer. It will be several GENERATIONS before Americans trust EVs wholesale. Things are nowhere near ready for prime time.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      ‘Things are nowhere near ready for prime time.’ Whatever that means.

      For 30k Leaf buyers this year, they are.

      An Accord isn’t a ‘prime time’ vehicle, either, if you need an AWD snowplow.

      • 0 avatar
        ilkhan

        Ford sells more F150s in half a month than Nissan sold Leafs all year.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “Ford sells more F150s in half a month than Nissan sold Leafs all year.”

          That can be said about a lot of cars, so I’m not sure what it has to do with anything.

          An EV is a tough sell as an only vehicle, but for the millions upon millions of multi-car households w/garages they make almost too much sense. It’s really a paradigm shift about what a car should be be more than anything.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @ilkhan:

          And the Leaf outsells every model made by Infiniti and Porsche. Lots of nameplates wish they could sell as well.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “An Accord isn’t a ‘prime time’ vehicle, either, if you need an AWD snowplow.”

        I’m guessing the slice of the public who need more than 70 miles of range in a day is far bigger than the slice who want an AWD snowplow.

        Could be wrong though.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          You might be wrong.

          Nissan’s research before launching the Leaf indicated that something like 80% of people’s commutes are under 50 miles, or some such number.

          So a short-range EV has plenty of ‘prime time’ market available to it.

          The ‘prime time’ straw man argument is bogus. There is no universal vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            I might be, I often am. But there are other real world limitations of EVs that will likely bring that 80% down quite a bit.

            I’m not an EV opponent, the concept could work for a lot of people, including me. But if the ‘prime time’ argument is simply a straw man, than the Accord AWD snowplow argument is a bit reductio ad absurdium.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “Nissan’s research before launching the Leaf indicated that something like 80% of people’s commutes are under 50 miles, or some such number.”

            Yup, I remember reading that study. It made the perfect case for a PEV.

            But it also made the case that people needed a second vehicle to travel longer distances.

            And many cannot afford that second vehicle or the fees, taxes and insurance to make it street legal.

            I’m not against PEVs. I just don’t like the taxpayers to subsidize them. And without the subsidy, EVs are just a toy for the idly rich.

            What the OEMs need is a PEV for $20K, without subsidies, in order for Joe Sixpack and Sally Homemaker to be able to afford one.

            There’s a place for PEVs in America.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I will bet all of them live in California, and most are in San Francisco.

        And I drove a LOWERED Accord in NYC for about 7 years.

        • 0 avatar
          stevelovescars

          “I’m not against PEVs. I just don’t like the taxpayers to subsidize them. And without the subsidy, EVs are just a toy for the idly rich.”

          You mean in the same way taxpayers subsidize cheap gasoline, oil companies, and the infrastructure we all use to drive? Please.

          I don’t like the taxpayers subsidizing hedge fund managers so they can idle in their Aston Martins in NYC traffic because they pay little to no tax (OK, mostly jealousy in that case). I didn’t like it when my CPA next door neighbor bought a Hummer H2 because it weighed enough to qualify for an immediate tax write off as farm equipment for his work-at-home LLC. I don’t like a lot of things our government subsidizes but it seems to me that encouraging the adoption of alternative-fuel vehicles is actually well aligned with some important priorities.

          As for the “Idly rich” part, I see so many families with two expensive SUVs in the driveway. If one of those is used primarily for daily commuting, why not replace it with an EV or PHEV? One doesn’t need to be “rich” in this country to have a two-vehicle family. It’s a necessity in most cities with two working adults.

          Personally, I think the Chevy Volt style PHEV makes a lot of sense and counteracts many of the hassles mentioned above.

    • 0 avatar

      You know, I recommend the Volt and the Ford Energi vehicles far and wide for people who want a single fuel-efficient car. Most of them end up getting the car for California carpool lane privileges though and perhaps don’t plug in their cars as often as they should to maximize fuel mileage.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    All true, in the same way a Miata doesn’t work for everybody even though it’s the best car ever made. Fortunately, a car doesn’t have to work for everybody to justify its existence, unless you’re discussing it on the internet.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      It does have to sell enough to recoup the costs of its development and manufacture, and unfortunately most of what enthusiasts like can’t. Similarly public skepticism and legitimate concerns like a lack of infrastructure and high cost of purchase eliminate the feasibility of mainstream EVs in the here and now.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Certainly true. But I don’t think any Miata owners try to convince the general public that they need to save the world by driving one, and thus the Miata is the one-size-fits-all car of cars.

      I think at this point electric cars have an excellent fit for a particular niche market – mostly dedicated commuter cars. If I still had a commute, I would possibly spring for a $99/mo lease of a Smart. Save my good cars from having to sit out at work, and with a lease it is utterly disposable. But I can’t see spending $100K on an electric luxobarge that requires a little too much thinking about where you want to go.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        Are dedicated commute cars a small niche? I get the feeling that every multicar family has one, sometimes two. Bizarrely, I’ve met individuals who buy a $15k commute car to avoid putting miles on their $25k-$40k nicer car (I was surprised because the nicer car is often a sedan that seems perfect for commuting, even a Camry in one case).

        It’s only with electric cars that you get a million, “Oh, it doesn’t work for EVERYONE so it works for NO ONE,” comments.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Well, you kind of spoke to the “everone/no one” point in your post. In your experience, every multicar family has one or two dedicated commuters. But depending on where you are, I’ll bet some of those folks have decent commutes and no chargers at their job. Game over. Plus most people can’t afford multiple cars, and EVs are expensive but nowhere near as luxurious as other cars in their price range. So you REALLY have to want an EV to buy one. Too many things stacked against them.

      • 0 avatar
        smartascii

        krhodes1: The only reason $99/mo EV leases exist is that we’re all paying for the people who lease them to have that cheap rate. I don’t care if you want an EV. I don’t care if you want to roll coal in your chipped diesel Ford Excursion. I just care that you pay for it yourself, and the fact that we’re creating artificial demand for EVs through subsidies tells everyone just how unconvincing an argument they make for themselves as a standalone proposition. There are enough people who care about the environment and/or like the characteristics of electric propulsion that a market exists for EVs when some of their current challenges are overcome, and they probably will be. But let’s let them get there on their own.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “All true, in the same way a Miata doesn’t work for everybody even though it’s the best car ever made.”

      Except now that spring is here I could actually get through my week with a Leaf if I had to. Come tomorrow morning I couldn’t even leave the house with Miata.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    If you are more than just a drone that only goes to work and back everyday, it’s a bad idea. Wanna take a road trip in one of these? Too bad, you can’t. It takes hours and hours to charge, Joe Camry takes 5 min to gas up.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Hours? Try 30 min.

      http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Which is still 6X as long as a Camry, and you need to do it more often. And there is not a single one in my state, and unlikely to be one any time soon. And what if you get to one and it is already fully in use? There won’t be another one across the street.

        Given that gas is not even rounding error in the costs of running a $100K car, ANY hassle is too much.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Guess you haven’t heard about the Edmunds team who drove a Model S coast to coast in 67 hours:

      http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/2013-tesla-model-s-coast-to-coast-road-trip.html

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “I reckon we can squeak by if we run this leg at 50-55 mph. Kurt and I are on our own, you see. We don’t have a support van”

        “Through the night we establish a routine where one of us drives while the other snoozes, the only interruption being the 40-minute Supercharger stops that come every two hours or so.”

        Wow, you’re right, sounds like a great road trip vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Uh, they were describing a marathon trip. If that’s how you normally travel, then maybe a Model S isn’t for you.

          It’s sadly amusing when someone like Edmunds performs this stunt to prove it can be done, and there are still detractors who say it isn’t good enough.

          Let’s see your description of how easy it is to drive ANY vehicle 3332 miles in 67 hours.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            SCE, how is the marathon aspect remotely relevant? Neither of the things I quoted are inherent to a marathon trip. Does being on a marathon magically decrease battery range? No? Then you’ve still got 40-minute supercharger stops every two hours. Or you could be “poking along at 52 mph in the slow lane” on a 75mph freeway because the next charging station is just about out of range.

            The other way to look at this is that you need to drive overnight with rotating drivers to just to keep pace with a gasoline car due to all the 40 minute charging stops.

            Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a complete PITA compared to a ICE vehicle.

            “Let’s see your description of how easy it is to drive ANY vehicle 3332 miles in 67 hours.”

            Okay, here we go:

            Easier than any EV.

            Almost John 11:35 concise.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        What if i wanna take a detour? What if I don’t want to plan my life around superstations?

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Then you’re not worthy of EV. Go home.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          There were similar “it’ll never work” arguments made when the newfangled horseless carraiges started to appear.
          “Ya cain’t buy gasoleen in my town, but there’s always plenty o’ grass fer the horses!”

          • 0 avatar
            clivesl

            +1 @RHD

          • 0 avatar
            InterstateNomad

            There are also many things that were supposed to be the next best thing, which turned out not to be so great. I think firewire was one of them (we still use it, but USB was the real deal). We still have time to wait and see what happens.

          • 0 avatar
            multicam

            @InterstateNomad:

            The Segway comes to mind.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Weak comparison. There was no infrastructure to build around back then, it was a clean slate. Plus even with a clean slate infrastructure projects are a lot more expensive now with more roadblocks. And if we are switching for the environment we have to be more aggressive about clean power.

  • avatar

    Most people want to get the Model S, but the Model S sits at the top of the pricing pyramid.

    Problem is, it’s the only non-compromising EV in size – when you need room for 4.
    i’m NOT willing to make the sacrifices for an EV.
    Especially when a loaded HELLCAT costs thousands of dollars less than a BASE Model-S.

    A P85D costs more than a decently equipped S-class and that car’s the greatest luxury ride on the road.

    • 0 avatar

      This is true. I noticed today that my supervisor drives a late-model S600.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      My issue with the Model S is that it would be an extreme pain to park in some of the parking garages I have to park in. It’s tight fit even with a Leaf.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Scarily I agree with you completely. $100ish/mo commuter electrics make perfect sense. Teslas are toys until they can solve the recharge issue. Or add a range extender. Because no way on Dog’s Green Earth am I spending that kind of money on a luxury car and not using it for what luxury cars are best at – continent crossing. If you are only going to drive it for an hour at a time, what’s the point?

      • 0 avatar
        mrcool1122

        Toy? News to me, since I use mine every day to do everything I need to do, with 45,000 miles on the odometer.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          I’ve driven my ‘toy’ 23k miles, but I only do loops around my neighborhood because it’s so untrustworthy and stuff.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            A Leaf, at $25K <$200/mo makes a lot of sense as a commuter mobile (and still makes zero sense as a road trip vehicle). You CAN actually save money potentially.

            A Tesla at $70K to $125K is not a money saving proposition in any way. It's a toy. That's cool if you want a toy. My new M235i is just as much of a toy, I just don't begin to pretend that it will save me money or save the planet. I bought it because it's cool. At least in a few places a Tesla will get you in the HOV lane, which is a major plus (and has to be a boon to sales). But there are still major compromises entailed that IMHO have no place in a $70-100K luxury car.

  • avatar

    “You don’t own another, gas-powered car.”

    Oh come on. Just rent for those trips like the rest of it us. Its not hard. They happen rarely, and it allows you to get something bigger and more comfortable should you want it for the trip but not need it on a daily basis.

    • 0 avatar

      Especially considering how cheap they have become.

      Chevy is offering the Spark EV for $139 mo. with $0 down. Considering if you live in California the total price of that lease is less than $3,000 for 39 mo. That’s go cart cheap! I wouldn’t mind having one just to perfect popping backward wheelies with all that torque its got!

      • 0 avatar

        I have an issue with subcompact cars that size, but if they could get similar performance out of something Cruze-sized (but not Cruze-weight), I’d be all-in.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        Wait what? Are you saying they offer three years of new car ownership for 3k$?

        • 0 avatar

          when you consider that California writes you a $2,500 check for leasing an EV, it drops the total price to less than $3k.

          I have a 500e in LA and I love it. I thought the deal I got was cheap but I would bet that you cannot find another new car lease that is cheaper than this!

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Smart EVs lease for <$100/mo in high subsidy states. And electric fixes the single worst thing about the Smart, the automated manual tranny. It's a car that sucks on a roadtrip anyway. Perfect dedicated commuter pod for a single driver, at a price that makes sense.

            But I like the 500e as well, for obvious reasons. :-)

  • avatar
    slance66

    I agree with everything on the list. Here is another…it snows where you live. Sorry, I don’t think there’s an EV made I’d want to drive in snow, and talk about range anxiety, I never go below half a tank in the winter, so I can run the heater if needed if I’m stranded.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Which is why EVs are best-sellers in Norway (seriously, they are).

      Since the Leaf is a commuter car, you’re very unlikely to end up in the wilderness with it anyway.

      As for driving on snow, just use good tires. The Leaf is an excellent snow car. People misunderstand how EV torque works – just because the motor CAN supply full torque at 0 rpm doesn’t mean you’re asking it to do so. That’s why it’s fitted with a throttle.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I made it through Boston’s snowmageddon this winter without a problem. It even made it 50 miles one-way at highway speeds in sub-zero weather on a day when co-workers ICEVs were refusing to start. I actually have more confidence in my EV in bad weather than my ICEVs. It’s plugged in and toasty warm by the time I leave for the commute. If there’s a problem, it will show up on my cell phone before I go. Rainy day performance is better than an ICEV due to the lack of belts.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “Your daily errands consist of driving over 70 miles.”

    No. If ANY trip of yours requires over 70 miles distance ANY day or any amount of days in a week, or a month, for that matter, this will never work for you.
    Any of the above requires and additional car.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Never heard of zipcar or Enterprise I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Zipcar nor Enterprise are not a good options at 7:30 pm when your kid needs to go to the emergency room, your boss calls you back into work, you need to make an unexpected run to Target, or any of the other unexpected curve balls that life throws at grownups all of the time, at very inconvenient times, especially when you have a spouse and/or kids.

        Electric cars can work for a few people some of the time, but many of the EV fanbois come across as single engineer types who have not experienced the automotive chaos that females and kids create.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          So the problem is females and kids, not electric cars…?!

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            If you see females and/or kids as an obstacle keeping you from getting an EV everybody is probably better off if you choose the car.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @Toad:

          Admittedly, you are correct – although I am a married engineer with kids.

          And that chaos is why I have ICE cars. There have been some instances where the EV just won’t cut it (discharged at the end of the day, too far even if charged, etc).

          This is where a Tesla would make a lot of sense (if you have the coin and really want an EV), because it would have a lot more reserve after a normal days’ routine.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> No. If ANY trip of yours requires over 70 miles distance ANY day or any amount of days in a week, or a month, for that matter, this will never work for you.

      Again, I’m doing 100 mile days at least twice a week. In fact, I’ve gone about 85 miles in one shot at 32F. Newer Leafs have different batteries than the early models.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I have a couple of friends who have Leafs and they have used them for ~100 and ~200 mile each way trips multiple times. One of them is single and it is his only car. The other is a couple and they have 3 cars but all of them are EVs, a first gen RAV 4 EV, Tesla Roadster, and the Leaf. around here there are a number of level 3 chargers that makes that possible for the Leaf and a couple of the early style Tesla rapid chargers.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        maybe I missed something. So your trip is 50 miles each way…no?

        the big deal here is not your trip. it is the trip that we ALL have that requires us to go farther.
        And I am suggesting this comes up so much that in fact an electric car demands you own 2 cars.

        Yes…many, most, have these lives.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I wouldn’t get a plug in vehicle if I didn’t have a dedicated parking space with a plug for a charging station. I also would think twice about getting a BEV if I lived somewhere with lots of sub 20 degree F temperatures.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ll add some other reasons:

    A. Depreciation, at least for the Leaf. After deducting the Federal incentive, my Leaf will have lost 65% over 3 years. You can buy an 11 Leaf today for $13k retail, which means it probably fetched $10k on trade.

    B. Battery degradation. In 3 years, my Leaf’s battery will have lost 15% of its capacity. In the same time, a Tesla will have lost only 5%.

    As for range anxiety, here is my advice: NEVER buy an EV thinking your round trip commute can be equal to the advertised range. I’d suggest buying an EV whose range is 4 TIMES your round-trip commute. The advertised range of my 12 Leaf was 73 miles, which it never achieved. My Leaf’s actual winter range fell to 36 miles this winter. My round trip commute is 18 miles. There were several days that running a short errand would require some thought. It’s much better now that spring is here.

    I had the foresight to consider these possibilities when I got the car, so I’m glad it’s a lease. However, I don’t think the EV mfrs (OK, Nissan) are honest about this stuff with their buyers. It’ll bite them eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Is half of expected maximum range within the projections of the manufacturer? Or would your winter experience, technically, allow you to give the car back?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Um, I actually visited the dealer for this issue this winter, since the range was becoming ridiculously low.

        In Leaf-speak, the vehicle is still a “12-bar” car, meaning the battery capacity gauge still shows a full 12 digital bars of available capacity. You lose a ‘bar’ of capacity when you hit 85%. This is independent of how full the tank actually is at any given moment.

        Anyway, the dealer declared my car to be A-OK (excellent, actually), and provided me no data. Incredulous, I purchased a Bluetooth OBD-II reader which gives me lots of information, and I learned that my battery’s SOH (state of health) is 87% (2.5 years old). Nissan will not replace a battery until it loses 4 bars, and I won’t lose the first bar until around the time I trade it.

        A handful of people have had batteries replaced (mostly hot climates, mostly 11-12 MY batteries), and the newer chemistry is supposed to be better – along with a more efficient heat pump HVAC system.

        To be fair, the EPA range is for a new battery, no HVAC demands, level ground, 75 F temperatures, and 45 mph speed. Every change from those ideals hurts range. I was at 36 miles range during sub-zero temperatures, half of my commute is 55 mph with hills, and my battery is 2.5 years old.

        I design portable commercial-grade telecommunications equipment for a living – including lithium ion battery packs. So I understand the challenges, but I think Nissan could be more honest about setting expectations for consumers.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          One should also consider topography when electing to purchase, would your Leaf fair slightly better in battery life/usage if it wasn’t climbing the mountains of Pittsburgh on a daily basis?

          But of course the real $64,000 question is this: would you consider leasing another battery only EV, or consider a hybrid, GM’s Volt style EV, or conventional ICE instead?

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            The Leaf would be happier without the hills, yes. Regen isn’t 100% efficient.

            I don’t want another 80-mile EV. I want the next gen, which won’t be here for a couple years. The nice compliance EVs aren’t available here, such as the Soul and 500e, although the 500e is too small for more than 2 people.

            Our home economy may mean we go back to 2 cars for a while, but I would consider all the options you mention except another short-range EV.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually looked into the depreciation argument, but it largely goes away if you lease so I didn’t include it. For those who end up buying and dealing with battery degradation, I’m sure at a certain point it’ll become a local errands car or a spare car at some point. It might even make a perfect first car if you have kids.

      It’s interesting about the varying ranges with your Leaf. When I had the Spark EV (albeit for a week), I more or less had at least 70 miles on hand after a charge which was enough. (Then again, I’m in Northern California.)

  • avatar
    mcs

    I regularly make 100 mile trips on my Leaf – at least 2 a week. I charge at my destination. Takes less than an hour and a half to replace the power used for the first 50 mile part. It sits waiting for me fully charged waiting for me for the next 5 hours. What’s the problem?

    If that charging location has an issue, there is a second level 2 on the property. If that’s a problem, there are now 5 CHAdeMO quick chargers on my route home.

    Two hundred mile trips are doable in a Leaf. It’s rare that I would travel that far in a car, but plenty of CHAdeMO chargers along the route to the place I visit the most – I’ll just be a little better caught up with my email and better fed than when I used an ICEV.

  • avatar

    I think the biggest hurdle for a lot of people is the idea of having to plan one’s day around a car. Gasoline-powered cars, have, for years, allowed people to simply jump in and go wherever they need to, without any kind of range anxiety. For many people, even the thought of having to find a fuel-station selling diesel (P.S., that’s at least 1 of every 2 stations in a given area, on average) is off-putting. Needing to make an occasion out of refueling, then, is out of the question.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      exactly.

      well…this and I wonder what would the NEW problem be if we all did have electric cars.
      What if, within the next 5 to 10 years, we all got electric cars.
      What would the new problem(s) be?
      Grid?
      Electric power plants?
      Nuclear?

  • avatar
    carguy

    I will add two more reasons:

    It makes no economic sense
    While driving without gas is cool, the running costs of an EV will not make up for its purchase price premium. Once you factor home charge stations and rentals for long trips it makes even less sense.

    It may not make environmental sense
    The electricity you use comes from somewhere and some state’s grids are so old that they efficiency is no better than 70 MPG equivalent. There may be a small advantage but you’re ain’t saving the planet.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Many EV buyers aren’t concerned with ROI or saving the planet. I am one of them.

      However, my Leaf does save me $100/month (more like $50/month now with cheaper gas) in operating costs over my 05 xB1 I traded in, and it got 30 mpg. And there are other savings, such as no state emission inspections, no oil changes, no fluids to top off, no concerns about belts, exhaust pipes, filters, hot radiators, sensors, etc.

      The driving experience can’t be beat. The quietness, smoothness, and responsiveness of an EV is unmatched by anything else. For me, this will make it hard to trade in.

      As for the environmental impact, that argument seems endless. The one which made the most sense to me indicated that even the dirtiest coal power was break-even with a 30-mpg car – environmentally speaking.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    One of the silliest op-eds I’ve ever read. Are you going to follow this up with why a Ford F-150 may not be the car (truck) for you…
    – You don’t need to haul a lot of stuff around
    – High gas mileage is a priority

    It is a well-known fact that electric cars are not the ideal car for everyone – no car is. But that does not mean they should not be made or that people shouldn’t buy them. With any car you should take into consideration your wants/needs and the car’s strengths/limitations.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      +1.

      The simple fact is most people have never considered one or as many of the comment show are looking for any reason to justify not buying an EV. No-one is forcing you to by an EV or a PHEV, so if it doesn’t work for you don’t, but for some / many of us it actually makes a lot of sense.

      I was very anti hybrid/ EV / PHEV until I put aside my prejudiced and discovered my total operating cost of a leased Volt was less than a 10 year old Mercedes that I owned out right. 2.5 years later I’m confident I made the right choice.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Very true.

    I was very close to leasing a Leaf because of the HOV sticker and almost $199 / mo deal until I realized how many leaves are already at work and there aren’t enough port to charge, so I would be stuck at work (far enough to deplete the battery in one round trip).

    For cheap HOV sticker, Civic GX is a better deal, and for slightly more (may be not even that much more if you can get free charging at work), a Volt is ideal.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    i could probably handle an EV. my commute is 16 miles round trip, and i dont really travel much. i also have 120v in my detatched garage, that the association pays for. theyd probably frown on it being used on an EV, though.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My commute is 18 miles round trip. Given the other miscellaneous errands I do, I’m consuming about 250 kWH/month, but I use a 240 V charger.

      The 120 V charger consumes about 12 Amps, so it’s like running a hair dryer or toaster.

      Nissan recommends charging with 240 V, but there are many people who use the 120 V trickle charger. I got impatient with that after a month. It’s nice to be able to run the car around on weekends with a couple charges per day. The 120 V won’t permit that.

  • avatar
    mrcool1122

    For what it’s worth, some of these considerations never factor into my daily life. My workplaces have never had chargers; it doesn’t matter to me because I only charge overnight.
    My only other gas-powered vehicle is a motorcycle, which I don’t consider a real alternative. I’ve never had to “resort” to using it because my battery was dead.
    I don’t plan my life around my car. I can do everything I want to do in Los Angeles in a day without caring at all about how much battery I have left. It does require more planning for certain road trips (I just did an 1800-mile trip which required some pre-planning about where I would stay each night). But trips to other major cities require no great planning.

    Also, this doesn’t help renters, but in California, condo boards are legally required to allow you to install an electric car charging station in your parking spot, whether deeded or otherwise. See California Civil Code § 6713.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t really matter if your personal life will work with an EV; lots of people can’t make it work. But I recently ran the numbers on a Leaf, because in British Columbia the combination of incentives and expensive gas (C$1.20/litre, so US$/gal?) and some money on the hood made the math really interesting.

    For data, we’re a one car family but neither of us consistently commutes to work by car (I ride my bike, she takes the train). We live 30 km from the big city centre, which is also the distance of our most routine trip. Almost everything we want to do happens within an 80 km radius (or else we’re taking an airplane there).

    The irony is we don’t quite drive ENOUGH to justify an EV. We put about 15000 km on a Versa (the gasoline Leaf) every year, and if we were driving more like 25000 km/year, the Leaf would make a ton of sense.

    Hm…maybe I can convince the missus to start driving to work…

    (My personal reasons for wanting an EV have very little with saving the earth. I’m mostly interested because they’re cool, and because the powers that be are putting enough money out there that the EV would be cheaper to own than a gas car over 5-7 years.)

  • avatar
    dal20402

    We have two cars. I’d have no reservations whatsoever about replacing one of them with an EV, except that the EV I want isn’t made. (I’d want something cheaper than a Tesla and more enthusiast-oriented than a Leaf/Spark/etc.)

    But replacing both cars with electrics would be a big challenge. And there’s the rub — as more families go down to one car, full-EV adoption will actually get more difficult, at least in the short term.

    I’d be fine with renting for road trips — except that for an 11-day trip, the usual length of our trips, it gets very expensive. We’d have to take the cost into account when buying the second EV. We have one garage, where it would be dead simple to install a 240-v charger, and one carport in a common area, where installing a charger without provoking neighborly ire would be very difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The EV I want isn’t made yet, either. I’ve truly enjoyed the Leaf 1.0, but my lease is up in September and Leaf 2.0 / Tesla Model 3 / Chevy Bolt won’t be available then.

      We are undecided about the next step, but it may involve going back to 2 cars rather than 3.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Good article for Good Housekeeping. Surely the typical TTAC reader has had these basic “questions” answered for years in his/her mind. If not, they were asleep.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    With the 70D the Tesla is now starting to look more reasonable, however until there are more superchargers and the charging times are still slow the car still has a lot of issues. For instance I did a 264 mile roundtrip yesterday where there were no superchargers anywhere along my trip and I really did not have time to stop for the amount of time it would take to charge the car if I had a Tesla, so if I had one yesterday, I would have been in trouble and likely stranded. A 2 to 3 year old 70D will make a great runaround car down the road.

  • avatar
    css28

    38 mile round trip daily.
    My Volt handles it 9 months of the year without gasoline.
    5 gallons/month the other 3 months.

    42 mpg on summer road trips.

    Honestly folks, it isn’t that hard!

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      css28, I have never stored gasoline for 9 months. Do you have to add a gas-preserver to the gas-tank to keep the gas “fresh”?

      • 0 avatar
        css28

        No, the car keeps the tank pressurized and the car will force you to burn a tank’s worth per year (less than 10 gallons).

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          css28: Thanks.

          That question came up at our last poker night — a bunch of old codgers playing poker and shooting the sh!t about cars, trucks, motorcycles, three-wheelers, etc.

          Well, one of them is considering a Volt, or a Plug-in Prius, since he and his wife also moved into town to be closer to the Medical Center.

          Biggest hang-up is the price of the Volt. Their income is less than $22,700 this year, so, once again, they do not have to file an income tax return.

          IOW, they don’t qualify for a tax-rebate.

          They currently own a 1993 S-10 for him, and an Avalon for her/them to travel in. They had an Impala before the Avalon but at heart he really is a Chevy kinda guy.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Well if he isn’t stuck on buying a new car then the lease will have that tax credit already factored in since the owner of the car and not the lessor that qualifies for tax credit. If he keeps his cars longer than the lease he can always buy it at the end. The other option is to buy a slightly used one since the original owner will have presumably received the credit and that credit is reflected in the price of used Volts (and Leafs).

          • 0 avatar
            css28

            There are used Volts out there for a little less than their annual income :-O.
            Obviously, the cheapest route is to keep the vehicles they have. A Volt purchase could only be justified by its fun factor.

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