Chevy Volt and Harvey: Fuel flexibility may become an important feature
I looked out my window today and beheld a sight that gave me an intense feeling of deja vu. I saw cars queued up to get gas at the gasoline station next door. The last time I'd seen (and participated in) this was 1979. I was 21 years old and OPEC had placed an oil embargo on the U.S.
Back then, gas stations would put out red or green flags, to indicate whether they had gasoline or were sold out. Lines could stretch for blocks around the gas stations. Eventually there were even/odd days, where the last character of your license plate would dictate which days of the week you could buy gasoline. Fist fights would occasionally break out between buyers.
Today, Hurricane Harvey has caused a short-term (we're told) hiccup in fuel delivery. Refineries, on the Gulf coast, are flooded and therefore, not producing. Flooding is so widespread, trucks cannot get to the source to move gasoline around the country. That makes an EV driver feel pretty smug, at the moment. However, my dad lives in Rockport, Texas, where Harvey made landfall. In Rockport, there is no electricity or potable water. An EV driver there, would be seriously stressing out about range anxiety.
Plug-in hybrid drivers are enjoying the greatest sense of relief. If the gas stations are out of gas, they'll use electricity. If the power is out, but you can find gasoline, they'll use that (they might have to manually hand pump the gas, if there is no electricity).
It's as if our infrastructure has been turned on its head. Normally, gasoline is abundant, as are the places at which it may be obtained. Electricity (i.e. vehicle charging sites) is relatively rare. Most drivers, that haven't made the switch to a plug-in vehicle, assume there are fewer charging stations than there are. Those of us that have plug-in vehicles know chargers are much more common than that. We see them because we are aware of them.
Since I drive the Chevy Volt, I almost always charge at home or at work. Even without public charging, I have been 96% electric over the 1-1/2 years I've had my current Volt. However, I can drive cross country at a moment's notice. We don't need to plan a trip, in great detail, in advance. Just like anyone who owns a gasoline-powered car, we can hit the road, without concern.
It's always good to have options...