Despite the rising popularity of electric cars, there are many who don’t fully comprehend what it means to own one; how the vehicle differs from a conventional gasoline-powered car, for example, or how the driver’s responsibilities change with the different powertrain.
Thanks to companies like Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), more people have a better grasp on how electric vehicles work — what their benefits are and where their shortcomings lie. However, mass adoption of electric vehicles is still elusive, in no small part due to a lack of supporting infrastructure or the kind of support that gasoline-fed cars receive.
Nissan (NSANY.PK), maker of the Leaf — one of, if not the most popular electric cars on the road today — launched a Q&A initiative on its website to help educate others about the benefits of electric cars. The kicker was that the answers posted were from existing Leaf owners — not the company itself. Anyone is able to ask whatever questions regard EVs that are on their minds, and the Leaf owners will respond with firsthand anecdotes and answers.
We’ve highlighted a few of these questions after the jump. Many were in direct relationship to the Leaf itself, but we’ve chosen some that apply to electric vehicles at large — from the mighty Tesla Model S to the mini Mitsubishi MiEV. A shout out to our friends at Green Car Reports for bringing this to our attention.
1. “Why did you choose to drive an electric car?”
It’s a pretty straightforward question, and many of the answers were ones that wouldn’t be entirely unexpected. “I wanted to get away from ever-increasing gas prices,” one driver said. “Electric prices are more stable and I can install solar should electric go up significantly.” Others enjoyed EVs for their simplicity; electric cars have fewer moving parts, so there’s less that could go wrong. There’s also less maintenance, no oil changes, no spark plugs, transmissions, fuel filters, and so on, so they also cost less to own.
2. “How far can you go on a single charge?”
This is the question on everyone’s minds: what’s the actual real world range? They all have their ratings, but those numbers can fluctuate depending on the climate, terrain, and so on. Remember, these answers are pertaining to the Leaf specifically, which is rated for 84 miles per charge. “In the hot weather months, it was around 80-85 miles without the Eco-Mode on,” on driver said, adding that, “Now that it has cooled off I notice that I occasionally get up into the 90s.” That figure seems to be a commonly found one, too. But remember that this all depends on the type of car and driving conditions — in a top-of-the-line Tesla, the range is rated for over 265 miles.
3. “Are there any ways to extend your range?”
“Driving down city roads (rather than highways) will extend your range because you get charge back by braking or going downhill. Also, driving less aggressively helps conserve miles,” one driver explained. Other suggestions included taking the shortest route — but not the fastest, adjust your driving style (like gasoline, aggressive driving will hurt efficiency and range), killing the air conditioning (at least turning it down), driving slower, and coast up to stops. Some electric vehicles, like BMW’s i3, now also come with range extenders — small gasoline engines that charge the battery.
4. “What is the actual cost of ownership?”
One of the biggest benefits of electric cars is that they cost less to maintain, and Nissan owners agreed. “Aside from my lease payments, nothing so far,” one driver beamed. “I have had my Leaf for a year and have had no other costs for maintenance. I know that my electric bill probably has gone up, but I don’t even notice it so it must not be by much,” they added. “I estimate I pay about $15 a month for the car’s electrical costs,” another said. “And there’s very little maintenance needed on an electric engine. For my first warranty-covered trip back to the dealer at 6,000 miles all that needs to be done is rotate the tires.”
5. “Have you ever come close to, or run out of charge?”
Overall, no. The owners who responded haven’t run out of charge — though they’ve come close. “I’ve been down to three miles,” one said. Another, eight miles; and yet another, just one mile on the range calculator. However, the most interesting response came from a driver who took his Leaf up a mountain, and by the time they reached the top, they were at zero — but during the ride back down, the coasting and regenerative braking gave them four more bars worth 40 miles of range. Even the most impressive gasoline cars can’t refuel themselves on the way back down.
6. “How is the maintenance for an electric car different from a gasoline car?”
Back on the topic of maintenance, it’s a crucial factor to consider over the life of a vehicle. “Rotate the tires, that’s about it! The lease payment is equal to what our replaced vehicle was costing in regular fuel and maintenance, but it’s under warranty and much nicer to drive being an EV,” one driver said. “What maintenance?” someone else said. Naturally, later on, costs of a replacement battery pack will come into play. However, with the modular nature of today’s battery cells, EVs could theoretically just keep going and going provided the bodies are well taken care of; just swap out the battery pack for a new one as needed. The prices are expected to decrease over time, so initial figures thrown around now will look very different in a few years.
7. “How do you find charging stations on the go?”
This question again can depend on the maker of the vehicle. Tesla cars are able to locate their supercharging locations via its navigation system, and Nissan’s system is the same way; public chargers light up on the navigation. However, many people who are not on the road for long periods of time simply charge at home.