Friday, March 4, 2011

The Low Down Low Mileage of Electric Cars

From Consumer Reports there is some bad news about "actual performance" versus what the vendors promise:
Consumer Reports magazine offers its initial assessment of the two reigning wondercars of our times, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, in its April issue and finds both may not be such good deals after all.

Not only has Consumer Reports' test car been coming in at the low end of the electric-only mileage range -- 23 to 28 miles, not 25 to 50 miles as billed -- before the gasoline power kicks in ...

It gets worse. CR figures the cost of recharging the Volt would work out to about 5.7 cents a mile for electric mode and 10 cents a mile for gas. Yet a Toyota Prius, which gets about 50 miles a gallon, would cost 6.8 cents a mile to operate. A Prius costs half as much as a Volt.

CR seems to feel a little better about the all-electric Leaf. It borrowed one from Nissan while it awaits delivery of its own. The $35,270 electric car had its range severely restricted by the cold weather that has gripped the East, much like the Volt. The range has been averaging 65 miles, not the 100 miles that Nissan bills. Plus the mileage gauge isn't that accurate in the cold when electric heaters gobble up kilowatts. Instead of the 36 miles of range that the car said it had, one tester got 19.

Yet CR said other than range, it liked a lot of things about the Leaf. It accelerated rapidly and climbed hills well. It said it would be a good second car in urban area if it is in "a temperate climate." Guess that rules out the Northeast, Midwest, deserts and a bunch of other places.
It is worrisome when vendors promise one thing and deliver something substantially less. It raises questions about what else will disappoint the consumer because expectation (and vendor promise) are way beyond what the vehicle will actual achieve. What about reliability, maintenance, performance, resale value, etc.? If these all fall as far short of what the vendor promises, then these cars are lemons. Great toys for the ultra-rich who can flaunt their "eco awareness" while the rest of us worry about getting value for dollar.

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