Nissan LEAF

Answering the 10 biggest objections to electric cars

For the next wave of electric car buyers, the early followers who buy because early adopters say it's okay, they have questions and doubts about electric cars that must be satisfied.

If the early adopters of electric cars are quickly being sold their electric car, who will make the next wave of electric car purchases? The early followers, or those who are the most influenced by early adopters to buy electric cars. There is a list of common ideas around electric cars that need to be answered for the early followers to grasp, and see that the water is fine, or that maybe next years models will be good enough for them.

Too expensive: The up-front purchase cost of electric cars is clearly more than for the equivalent gasoline car. There are several counter points to consider. The most clear point is that the operational cost for an electric car is much less than the operational cost for a gas car. Electricity, as a fuel, is much cheaper than gasoline, and electric cars require much less maintenance. There's also an altruistic goal that will appeal to some, that buying an electric car encourages the car companies to manufacture more electric cars, increases electric car production volume, and if enough do so economies of scale should bring down the cost.

Limited range: Today's electric cars offer a 100 mile or so range, and the automotive style to which we've become accustomed is the illusion of infinite range that's available at the corner gas station. Electric cars simply do not provide that experience today, but is that a reason to discount them? First, understand your real driving needs, and choose a car to fit those needs. The majority of people drive 40 miles or less per day, making electric cars quite suitable for most people.

With most electric cars the long road trip isn't practical, so do not drive the electric car on long trips, yet. Most families own two or more cars, and could have one electric car and one gas car they use on long trips. Alternatively, the Chevy Volt is a quite fine plug-in hybrid with a 40 mile or so electric range, and many Volt owners are driving all electric the vast majority of the time, visiting the gasoline station every couple months or so.

Some people honestly do have daily long range drives, for example the sales or service people are out in the field every day all day long.

It takes too long to charge: The key thing to satisfy common longer range driving needs is a robust public charging infrastructure, especially public fast charging stations. Fast charging stations refill the battery pack at the rate of 160 miles per hour of charging (or more), but fast charging stations are only now beginning to be installed in the public in Chicago, the SF Bay Area, and other parts of California. Unfortunately there is a political battle brewing around fast charging standards, that could delay deployment of fast charging stations.

Currently charging stations (fast or not) are being built in urban areas. This is a necessary phase that will make each city a comfortable place to drive an electric car. The next phase will be fast charging stations along the highways between major metropolitan areas, to support long range trips.

Also consider the charging rate of the built-in charger on the car. Some have 3.3 kilowatt chargers on-board, which just is not a very fast charge rate (12 miles per hour of charging). Some electric cars, especially in the 2013 model year, have 6.6 kilowatt chargers, which give 25ish miles of range per hour of charging. The J1772 connector is designed to accommodate a 19.2 kilowatt charging rate, and if that is ever fully exploited would place the charging rate at the low end of the fast charging protocols.

The key point to understand is that the faster the charging rate, the more flexibly you can drive your electric car, and the farther you can drive in a day.

Where to charge? Can't charge at home or work? If the solution for limited range is a public charging infrastructure, its necessary to know where that infrastructure is. It's not like the infrastructure is as ubiquitous as gasoline stations. Fortunately we're not stuck blindly driving around hoping to accidentally bump into a charging station. There are a range of smart phone applications like Recargo, or PlugShare, or CarStations and the like which displays charging station information on a browseable map. Additionally the electric cars tend to have in-dash infotainment systems that include a browseable map of nearby stations.


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It's all well and good to point out the few negative aspects of an EV, but the bottom line is the feedback from those who drive them now. The Volt and LEAF are the highest rated vehicles in history based on consumer satisfaction. There is a reason for this. Actually, many reasons, and they all have something to do with the three main benefits of EVs: Much less impact on the environment; Beneficial to our economy; Good for our national security. Any meaningful conversation with a LEAF or Volt owner will leave rational people knowing that plug-in cars are superior to ICE and that's just a matter of time before everyone drives them.
To Mr. Scotts Point: Rational People is the key. There is a whole segment of the population who have had their mind made up by, of all things, those on the conservative right. If any group of people should be jumping up and down at Americans to buy a Volt it should be our conservative leaders. Points for the Conservatives: If every American owned a Volt we could fire OPEC. Even drivers that commute 80 miles a day would use 50% less gas. That's enough to stop buying oil from them. We stop sending money to countries that support terrorism We stop giving away 7 Billion Dollars to Big Oil for Foreign Tax Credits and other subsidies (some re-election coffers will suffer on both sides of the aisle) Our nation is more secure and our troops have no more interests to protect in the Middle East America needs something, anything, to export and we can be the leaders in this new technology Jobs AND the Economy Just a few idiots in the conservative media have steered the whole flock wrong. Big oil wields big re-election and advertising dollars. The only conservatives or liberals for that matter that would degrade the technology of the Volt are those that are selling us out as a country.
Please don't forget the Toyota Prius Plug-in! The Prius has been around for more than ten years now and this newest iteration, the Plug-in, is the best vehicle that I have ever owned in my 45 years of automobile ownership. We traded in our 2010 Prius for this Plug-in third generation Prius and we are consistently getting over 60 MPG even on our 250 mile trips to the Bay Area. Around town we routinely see 85 MPG or more. I look forward to the evolution of the Chevy Volt but at this time the Toyota Prius Plug-in is a time-proven alternative to gas-only vehicles and in HV mode (after the electric charge is depleted) the Prius is the cleanest car on the road!
To keep credibility, we must be careful how we answer questions as well as the facts we present. Electric cars are only ready for a niche market today, and as much as I would like to see them catch on we can do more damage than good if we try to convince people that EVs are right for them when they’re not. Examples: in the “Too expensive” category – the relatively few electric cars on the road today have not yet provided enough data to support the assumption that “the operational cost for an electric car is much less than the operational cost for a gas car.” It is true that fuel costs are cheaper, but maintenance and repair costs are not proven. We should point out that maintenance costs could be lower due to fewer moving parts, but at the same time we should acknowledge that EVs have more complex electronics than ICE cars and could require more expensive service since fewer technicians have the training to work on them. “Limited range”: I agree that people need to evaluate just how much range they truly need, but “40 mile or so” is not realistic for many people. Range is also shortened by topology, road speeds, weather, and battery age. Don’t assume that a finite number (like 40 miles) makes EVs practical for “the majority of people”. “It takes too long to charge”: don’t forget that fast charging can significantly shorten battery life. Until battery replacement cost come down this can be a significant concern. However, many EV drivers may find that they do not need full charges every time. Anyway, overall I love your approach. Just be careful not to promise too much too quickly.