Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Surprise! Electric Cars Have Plenty of Range for Daily Driving

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I’ve always found people’s reticence about buying electric vehicles because they wouldn’t be able to drive far enough to be based on uninformed opinions.  With a range of 100 miles, the vast majority of Americans would be able to drive to work and back home, with short jaunts for lunch and errands in between, on a daily basis without having to rely on public charging stations.  With a recharge time of 4 to 8 hours, a majority of Americans would simply be able to plug their cars in at home every night; no other shift in driving behavior would be needed.  Drivers would spend less time on a weekly basis plugging their cars in at home, and in the worst-case scenario in public, than they do at gas stations today.  Really, the only obstacle is likely to be psychological.  Most people don’t like to change their habits.  The fact that the cost to charge an electric vehicle is less than the cost to put fossil fuels in their tank is also largely lost on the public so far.

A new study supports my gut feeling:

Studies of drivers who already have electric cars are finding that they prefer the convenience of charging at home, and despite their vehicles’ limited range, most are able to avoid public charging.  The relative lack of these recharging locations could prove less of a deterrent to electric car acceptance than was expected.

Much like the community that formed around Prius drivers supporting each others’ attempts to maximize miles per gallon, communities which have been chosen as test markets have also coalesced together.

MiniE drivers posted their locations on a Web site they shared, so if one of them found themselves far from home with a low battery, they could head to another MiniE driver’s home for some electrons to get home.  This self-organized grass-roots support network that sprung up through the use of social media is an example of how electric car test drivers have communicated with one another and with carmakers even without organized surveys like Turrentine’s.

Unsurprisingly, it seems that corporations continue to underestimate the power that social networking can provide to boost their products.  They’re largely using it in unsophisticated fashions.

Now, this isn’t to say that public charging networks won’t be needed.  Market acceptance is likely to increase as people see charging stations in places where they normally drive.  But at the end of the day, real-world use has demonstrated that the “chicken and egg” question that too many thought existed simply doesn’t.  Electric cars aren’t solely dependent on public charging stations.  Public charging stations instead are more dependent on electric cars, as I thought would be the case.


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