Yes, 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.