People like the idea of electric cars, but they have one worry that often keeps them from buying: range. They hear that, say, the Nissan Leaf only goes 73 miles on one charge, and think, “But I’ll be stranded by the side of road!” Are they right?
First, it has to be said, this isn’t going to be a concern for long. Research on more powerful batteries that hold charges longer is ongoing every day, with a recent breakthrough that could increase power up to 300%. And even if you do run out, AAA will have your back.
However, you may not have to wait for this new technology. In fact, if you take a closer look at your driving habits, you might be a bit surprised.
The truth is, the majority of Americans aren’t on the road for long. GM pointed out, when critics sneered at the Chevy Volt traveling only 40 miles on one charge, that over 70 percent of Americans drive less than 40 miles a day. Nissan collected data on the usage of its Leaf and found that most drivers only went about 12 miles total on any given trip.
The truth is this: most of the distance we sense is not actual, but psychological. We think we’re traveling much further than we actually are, most days. For example, it may only be twelve miles, but after you’ve gone to the grocery store, visited the post office, picked up the kids or the dog, run errands at the mall, and gotten home, you’ve spent two or three hours of your day in stop-and-go traffic, running around on your feet when not driving, lugging heavy stuff to your car, and probably dealing with other problems as well — especially if your backseat passengers are getting a little rambunctious.
The actual distance traveled is short, but emotionally, you feel like you’ve been running a marathon. It’s easy to forget how powerful our psyches are when it comes to feeling distance, but if you do some math, you’ll probably come out well below 40 miles in any given day.
Another factor involved is stop and go traffic. We feel that every moment a car is on, it must be burning fuel, but electric cars use far less electricity at a full stop; it’s only to get the car going that any significant power is used. Even bumper to bumper traffic isn’t as much of a problem as we think.
So, an electric car may be right for you, after all. Here’s a handy checklist for you to see if the range fits your needs.
– Check your mileage daily for a week. Just write down your mileage at the start of the day and write it down at the end; then subtract the first number from the second number. Once you have a week of data, you’ll know roughly how many miles your car needs to drive, and whether an electric car is right for you.
– Compare the costs to your current car. If your current car is fairly fuel efficient, and you don’t drive it often, it might be worth holding off for now, especially as batteries will come down in price and make the cars cheaper. Also compare the car insurance rates of traditional cars to electric cars.
– See how much of your routine you can remove your car from to reduce the range you need. If the kids need to get to soccer, can you and the other parents carpool? Do you need to drive to the post office, or can you walk or ride your bicycle?
As electric cars improve, most people will find them perfectly suitable for getting around town. So check your mileage and your routine: you might be surprised how much you can save — both in time and gas.