#1 problem with owning an electric car?

Nissan LEAF 99,999th
© Nissan

Modern plug-in electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars are still quite new, and there are some things to work out. One common point that is brought up is that more public charging stations would be useful. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that electric cars can charge from a standard electricity outlet (yep, just like your cell phone) and there are countless electricity outlets in countries around the world — there are far more of them than gas stations!

Most people who own a plug-in electric or plug-in hybrid electric car simply charge at home most of the time. In fact, I’ve heard many owners say that they anticipated charging their cars every night but have ended up charging them every other night. An owner survey in California has indeed found that charging every other night is the norm.

In other words, access to charging locations is not quite the issue it’s often made out to be, even if it is one of the key things that could be improved to advance the electric vehicle revolution. While it’s easier to find a gas station than a public charging station, I think the convenience of charging at home trumps that for most people who give it some thought or buy a plug-in car.

On the contrary, there is one thing I’ve heard countless plug-in car owners complain about. A member of the GM-Volt.com forum recently posted a good exposition of the issue, with the title of his post being “Who else is/was afflicted by this ailment?” He writes:

When I first purchased the Volt, I envisioned it being my daily driver to work. My roundtrip commute is 17 miles, so I was thinking I would just about never use any gas! A little while after purchase I sat down with the wife, it was agreed she’d take the Volt on M/W/F since she had to shuttle the kids to preschool those days and would drive up to 40 miles. I would drive the Volt to work Tu/Th. That made the most sense as it would minimize gas usage. The other person would take the ICE’er the other days (GMC Terrain).

Then a few weeks later she came to me and said “I don’t like the way the Terrain drives! It doesn’t have any power and the engine sound is annoying. And I don’t like switching cars every other day! I’m taking the Volt M-F!”. It was at that time I was afflicted with“Thewifestolemyvolt” disease.

Time after time, I’ve heard plug-in car owners “complain” about such a thing happening. In many cases, these wives* have been driving luxury cars but can no longer stand the lower drive quality of their Lexus, BMW, etc. and prefer to drive the much cheaper Chevy Volt or Nissan LEAF.

Of course, despite actually missing the fun and smooth drive of an electric motor, the early adopters are also happy to see their spouses enjoying these cars, and the solution is rather simple for many of them. From the case above:

I (mostly) cured myself by getting her to agree to swap the GMC for a Cmax Energi (2nd car needed to have 5 seats, decent storage, and 20+ mile range, and the Cmax winded up the winner). Now we both have EVs that will cover the bulk of our normal driving without having to burn any gas!

Granted, I haven’t seen any scientific studies on this matter, but from covering plug-in cars for the past several years, this is very likely the most frequent complaint I’ve seen from owners. The need for more public charging stations would be the other one, but that issue seems to be massively overhyped by the media and ignores the fact that most people have “charging stations” in the exterior walls of their homes.

The number of plug-in cars on the roads has been more than doubling each year over the past 4 years or so. US LEAF sales jumped up over 300% last year after the price dropped (thanks to manufacturing beginning in the US). The percentage of car sales that are plug-in car sales is still small. However, many of us who have driven these cars believe that they will disrupt the current automobile market and replace gasmobiles rather quickly. One sign of disruptive technologies such as this is that early adopters don’t get as much play time with their new technology as they want because their friends and family want to use it so much.

*I hate to be sexist, but I have only heard men saying their wives took their electric car, not the other way around. It seems that men, in general, are more interested in exploring the new car models and new car tech, and that now includes plug-in cars. However, I'm sure it goes the other way from time to time.

#1 problem with owning an electric car?
Can you guess the #1 problem with owning an electric car? I don't know if this is it, but it's the one that I seem to see the most. Put your thinking cap on, as it's not one that the mass media spends much time on.

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