10.30.2015 - by Tom Saxton
Do EV Drivers Ever Get Stranded?

indexYes, of course, EV drivers get stranded, the same as gas car drivers get stranded. It’s pretty much the same situation in any vehicle. People run out of juice not because of how big the tank or battery is, but because they either aren’t paying attention or choose to play fuel gauge chicken. In modern cars, it’s difficult not to realize you’re running low on juice. I grew up driving with strictly analog technology, just a simple needle on the dash you had to watch. Cars now have blinking low-fuel lights and warning chimes, so running out of juice is really just a matter of trying to get away with ignoring the warnings.

Let’s be clear. Despite what some would have you believe, it’s not like getting stuck in an elevator. Unlike the elevator analogy, there is no wizard behind the curtain cutting the power just to see how you’ll react. Getting stranded on the side of the road for lack of fuel is under your control. If you have an electric car that’s appropriate for your driving needs, there’s no reason you should ever be stranded for lack of electrons.

That said, there are differences between gas cars and electric cars. With an electric car, you start each day with a full charge. Whenever I see someone carrying a gas can down the side of the road I think, “he didn’t start with a full charge this morning.” Have you ever turned on the car in the morning to find the fuel gauge is reading empty because whoever drove it last played fuel gauge chicken instead of stopping at a gas station? That doesn’t happen with an electric car. There’s no detour to a gas station required to fill up, you simply plug in at home, and you don’t have to stand out in the weather breathing carcinogenic fumes and leave smelling like gas. Charging is so much more convenient and reliable than having to use gas stations that it’s one of the surprising reasons why people who have spent time driving electric never want to go back to burning gas.

If you want numbers, Plug In America has been conducting surveys of EV owners since 2012. We have reports from 513 Nissan LEAF owners who have collectively driven 10,171,030 miles. Of those drivers, just 63 have reported driving the car until it stopped for lack of power, for a total of 98 “oops” events, including one intrepid adventurer who has done it 10 times. On average, that’s over 100,000 miles driven per lights out event.

Among 365 Model S owners participating in the survey, only 11 owners have reported running out of power (one of them twice) in 6,866,716 miles of driving. That’s just 3% of Model S owners, or once per 572,225 miles driven.

4 comments on “Do EV Drivers Ever Get Stranded?”
  1. Jim Stack says:

    It can happen to anyone. Most electric vehicles have warnings, exact mile estimates and even maps to tell you where you can plug in. You’d have to try very hard to ignore all the information but it can happen. One of the best things about an electric vehicle is the slower you go the further you can get with a low charge. In fact if you are going downhill you can even gain range and get some energy back.

    So plan ahead and charge even if it’s only for a few minutes if you are low and almost to your destination. In the Phoenix area we have about 550 public charging locations. Plugshare.com is a great way to see all the location from every company. It even lists homes like mine that will let you charge if you are low.

  2. I drive a 2011 Leaf with 52,000 miles and have never been stranded because I ran out of juice. That’s pretty much a thing you’d have to blame on the driver – not the car. With the aerovirnment electric highway I could drive all the way from Ashland to Canada with DC fast charging every 50 miles or so. Going south it’s another story there’s nothing – yet. My next car is going to be a Tesla Model S – that’ll solve that problem too.

  3. Tim says:

    I have driven roughly 28,000 miles in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (which you’ll note is the shortest range EV available), and never once was caught running out of charge. I’ve come close a couple of times, but still had 10% charge left before the car would shut down.

    If you see that it will be a close call, slow down a few MPH and shut off the heat or AC. The worst case is stopping along the way and finding a place to grab a few Wh (PlugShare is your friend).

  4. I’ve driven my 2011 Nissan LEAF electric-only car for more than 50,000 miles and more than 4.5 years, and I have never been stranded (other than one incident with a wrecked tire and no spare, which could easily happen to a gasoline-powered car as well).

    Electric-only cars are much more reliable than gas-powered cars because there are many fewer points of failure.

    I have been stranded twice with gas-powered cars with no warning:
    a) with a 1980 Volvo wagon, the timing belt broke. Stranded.
    b) with a Subaru wagon, the vacuum hose popped off. Stranded (until I figure out how to fix it temporarily, about 15 minutes of fiddling later)

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