Charging infrastructure for electric cars doesn't matter (much)

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 11, 2015, 10:12 PM | comments: 0

It's been a pretty big year for EV's in the press. They're getting a lot of attention, in part because of the headlines that Tesla grabs regularly, and partly because the Germans continue to take it seriously, and GM is in the game in a big way too. What I see along with all of that press, in the comments online, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to own an EV.

"Is the charging infrastructure good enough?"

Yes... it is. Why? Because everyone who has a garage already has the most important charging station. You start every day with a "full tank," without fail. For us, that means the Model S can go 200+ miles, and the Leaf can do close to 100. In fact, not having to ever go to a gas station is one of the best things about having an EV.

The point is this: The public charging infrastructure is (almost) irrelevant. You almost never need to use it.

Of course, the standard response to this is the anecdotes and edge cases that people have. It's not that they aren't legitimate, it's that they aren't average. The feds (USDOT) say that 92% of Americans drive less than 35 miles each way to work. 73% are under 20 miles. Both of our cars have most of Americans covered for work driving.

DC fast charging is becoming more and more available for cars that can use it, but Tesla has the specific advantage of its Supercharger network. These are located typically around 150 miles or less from one to another, and you can put on 150 miles of range in about 20 minutes (for "free," which is to say that it's subsidized by the price of the car). So to that end, we can drive the Model S pretty much up and down the east coast, or even to California, without issue. Heck, we can drive it to Key West. I routinely do round trips from Orlando to Tampa on one charge (but there's a convenient supercharger near I-4 and I-75, if I needed it).

Yes, there are minor or infrequent limitations to driving an EV, but for most people it's not an issue, most of the time. If it is, you can always rent a car to cover your fringe case. Otherwise, the technology is evolving faster and faster, and your day will come. I commuted with the Leaf for a full year, without issue, 25 miles each way, at a cost of 3 cents per mile. Even at $2/gallon, your 35 mpg car is going to cost almost twice as much at 5.7 cents per mile. At $3/gallon, 8.5 cents. And if you drive something that gets 20 mpg, even at $2, you're still paying a dime per mile.

All of the reasons you can't drive electric are tired. That, and I can promise you electric is more fun.


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