The 'cajun' red of the Bolt contrasts with the black of my 2014 LEAF. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

Is it ‘false’ to say that short-range electric cars have severe limitations?

So, I got into it with another electric car advocate on Facebook recently.

A woman had posted a question in a Nissan LEAF owner’s group about whether she should buy a used 2014 Nissan LEAF or not. She was a single mom and it was not clear whether the LEAF was going to be her only car, or a second car, behind a gasoline car.

This should have been the FIRST question that everyone asked her –>

Will the 2014 LEAF, with 84 miles of range, be your ONLY car, or a second car in a household in which that second car is a gasoline car with UNLIMITED range, thanks to the gas station infrastructure in the United States?

I replied to this woman, Kristin Schoen, by pointing to my own experience with having a 2014 Nissan LEAF as my ONLY car for about three years. That experience ended with me turning in my LEAF two months ago and leasing a 2017 Chevy Bolt, which has 238 miles of EPA rated range — as opposed to 84 miles of EPA range for the 2014 LEAF.

I can tell you that it is soooo much more relaxing to be in a car in which I do not have to worry about whether I will run out of range. In fact, yesterday, I drove, in a normal two hours with no stops, 82 miles from Littleton, Colo. to Estes Park, in my Bolt. I would NEVER have attempted that trip in my 84-mile LEAF at least not in two hours. (My 2014 LEAF did not have a quick charge port — because I had my now ex-wife‘s gas car for longer drives).

In my reply to Kristin, I maintained, correctly, that the 2014 LEAF has SEVERE limitations as an ONLY car for most, NOT all, drivers in the United States. A guy — Brian Kent — on Facebook took issue with me generalizing and ultimately called the claim that an 84-mile EV is NOT a good choice as an ONLY car for MOST drivers in the United States a “falsehood”.

He said, you cannot generalize. Ever! “Every” single case is unique and different, etc.


Of course you can generalize. A significant number of Americans — not all — a significant number, probably around 75 percent (this is based on the approximate percentage of EV households that have a gas car as a long-distance backup for their SHORT distance EV), perhaps even higher — are very unlikely to have an 84-mile EV meet 100 percent of their driving needs.

In the three years I had my LEAF as an ONLY car (this was forced upon me by a divorce that took my second car, a gas car, away from me), the LEAF met about 75 percent of my driving needs.

But 25 percent of my driving needs, which are NOT unique — as if I’m the ONLY one in America who often needs to drive 80 + miles in a day — matters. It matters a lot, as running out of charge twice in the winter, when the effective range of my LEAF was, at best, 70 miles, even 65 miles if you turned on the heat, clearly shows.

It irritates me that many, again not ALL, EV advocates pontificate (this is a GOOD word for it, because many, like Brian Kent, are patronizing toward anyone who disagrees with them) about EVs meeting 90 percent of Americans daily driving needs.

Ok, fair enough. Might be true. But what about the other 10 percent? Doesn’t that matter?

Rent a car, these EV advocates say. Renting a car is an extra expense, moreover it is potentially very inconvenient. Most people do not want to rent a car. They want a car that meets 100 percent of their range needs, or something close to it.

And why should they not expect a car to meet 100 percent of their range needs?

After all, thanks to the robust gasoline station networks around the world, there are very few range limitations on gas cars — oops, I generalized again, guess that must be a ‘falsehood’ 😉

That’s a BIG reason that people still don’t want to buy or lease an electric car, why, comparatively speaking, very few Americans — perhaps 2 percent, tops — currently drive an electric vehicle.

Are we doing potential EV buyers a disservice if we tell them, like I have told them, and I will continue to note, that an 84-mile EV is NOT a good choice as an ONLY car for the vast majority of them — an alleged “falsehood”?

Not at all.

Prospective EV buyers and leasees need to know BEFORE they get into a less than 100-mile EV as their ONLY car what this would quite likely mean for them: No long-distance road trips (except in a rented or borrowed car), and few, if any mid-distance trips for most of them, especially in large swaths of the middle of the United States (I live in Colorado) where the only long-distance fast charging units along very LONG expanses of interstate highway are Tesla SuperCharging stations.

If they buy an EV as their ONLY car because, well, it meets 90 percent of their driving needs, then discover it can’t take them to Breckenridge and back — or wherever and back, especially not in the winter, do you think they are going to be happy, that they will be good spokespeople for EVs?

Not likely, although it is possible — see, Brian, there’s the qualification, which apparently you don’t accept because there is allegedly no such thing as “generalizing”, an outrageous assertion.

So, Mr. Brian Kent, I will continue to accurately, fairly, and strongly advocate for EVs while ALSO acknowledging that electric cars, especially older SHORT-range (anything under 100 miles = short range; 200+ EV = mid-to-long range) electric cars with a lot less range than today’s EVs, are very unlikely to be a good choice as an ONLY car for, yes — god forbid I spread this ‘falsehood’ — a large and significant numbers of American drivers.

If that were not true, we’d have far more people in short-range Nissan LEAFs than we actually do.