10 Questions Motorists Ask About Electric Cars: Some Are Bizarre

NOV 21 2018 BY MARK KANE 56

It’s time to launch a contest of bizarre worries about EVs.

The independent electric vehicle advice site DrivingElectric.com listed 10 of the most common questions motorists ask about electric vehicles – ranging from practical to bizarre.

For many of us who have been interested in EVs for years or even decades, some of these questions are pretty funny, while others are reasonable. Of course, the main reason behind some of these worries is due to the otherness of EVs compared to ICE.

If you remember some other questions from EV newbies, feel free to post them in comments.

LIGHTNING STRIKES, jump-starting and the potential for supercar engine sounds have been revealed as three of the top puzzles in the minds of motorists considering an electric vehicle.

As interest soars in electric cars, inspired by their reputation for economy and zero emissions, so too does the list of often surprising questions asked by motorists before taking the plunge and going all-electric.”

Top 10

  1. What happens if my electric car is struck by lightning?

Vicky Parrott says: “There are protective fuses which will prevent damage to the car or its battery in the unlikely event of a lightning strike. Just as with any type of car, lightning will flow around the ‘cage’ of the external bodywork and safely into the ground. If you are in the process of charging your car it is possible that a current surge could cause some damage, both to the charging point and your car’s internal circuits. One Tesla owner reported error messages appearing when their car was struck while charging, but no serious damage was caused.”

  1. Can I take an electric car through a car wash?

“This is a surprisingly common worry. One government survey found that 42% of people thought taking an electric vehicle through the car wash might be dangerous. Of course it is perfectly safe, thanks to the ‘soak test’ which manufacturers put every type of car they make through. This replicates the heaviest rain and flooding conditions, to ensure the car is fully watertight. You can wash an electric car in all the same ways as you can with any car.”

  1. Do electric cars need special tyres?

“Some people worry whether they need special eco tyres, and of course electric cars do generally come with low-rolling resistance tyres. But you don’t have to go back to the supplying dealer for new tyres, you can shop around for a good deal on replacements, just as you would with any other car.

  1. Can you plug an electric car in when it’s raining?

“The answer is yes. Just take the same common sense precautions you would with any item of electrical equipment. That means avoiding rain dropping straight into the end of the connecting cable or the charging port. Dedicated domestic and public car charging points are designed to be weather-proof, as is the plug connection in the car, so it’s perfectly safe to leave your car charging in the rain.”

  1. What’s the typical distance between charging points?

“The average distance between charging points in England is surprisingly low, at under four miles. But of course charging points are not evenly distributed across the whole of Britain, which means much longer distances in some areas. While you should still plan your route to include charging stops if you’re concerned about driving range, the charging network on major routes is now established enough that topping up your batteries should be easy. According to the charging point database Zap-Map, there are now nearly 19,000 connection points at more than 6,500 locations across the country.”

  1. Can you make an electric car sound like a different car – like a Lamborghini?

“Because electric cars are so quiet, especially at low speeds, new rules are coming in next year to ensure pedestrians and sight-impaired people can hear them. A standard has been agreed which means that one of a variety of unintrusive sounds will be emitted at lower speeds when the sound of the car rolling along is too quiet to notice. But the only permissible sounds are limited to a mix of ‘tonal sounds and white noise’ similar to an ordinary engine. So, no. Sadly, you won’t be able to give your electric car a supercar soundtrack.”

  1. How does the speed you drive affect the range?

“Electric cars are legendary for their acceleration and this summer Audi showcased a model that will go from 0 to 60 in two seconds. And yes, accelerating hard uses more power than if you drive more steadily. This is partly why there is a difference between the maximum claimed range you see in manufacturers’ brochures and the ‘real world’ normal use figures we prefer to talk about on DrivingElectric.com. But it’s not just because the engine naturally uses more power to maintain, say, 70 mph compared with 30 mph. Some tests have revealed that frequent hard acceleration does significantly waste power, compared with approaching your desired speed more gently. If you insist on flooring it every time you pull away, expect about 20% less range on a journey – just like any other car running on one tank of fuel.”

  1. Will the battery wear out?

“We’re all used to the rechargeable batteries in things like phones ‘wearing out’ over time. This is because all batteries lose capacity the more times they are charged and discharged, which is known as a ‘cycle’, including those you find in electric and hybrid vehicles. The evidence so far is that deterioration is very slow, so even after 100,000 miles and more you’ll likely still have at least 75% or more of your car’s original battery performance, if not a lot more. Some manufacturers also offer guarantees to replace the batteries if they drop below a certain level of performance within a stated period, and there are also guidelines for best practice on how to maintain your battery pack’s performance, including not letting it run down completely. Of course, if you’re buying a used electric car, it’s worth asking to view the car with a full charge so that you can easily see what its estimated maximum range is. Even so, electric cars are already proving to be more reliable – batteries and all – than far more complex combustion-engined cars.

  1. Can you tow a caravan with an electric car?

“You can – but you’ll be limited to choosing certain models, if this is important to you. This is not because electric cars aren’t well suited to towing, it’s because their manufacturers don’t usually certify them for towing. It’s all to do with the combined weight of the vehicle and whatever is being towed. Electric cars tend to be heavier than conventional models, because of their large batteries, so the combined weight of the car and a caravan would affect braking efficiency. But it’s a different story for plug-in hybrid cars and there is a good choice of models from manufacturers like Mitsubishi, Volvo and Audi that will easily lug a caravan.”

  1. Can you jump start an electric car?

“You can jump start a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or a standard hybrid vehicle but a pure-electric car can’t be jump started and must be properly charged. You may be able to connect jump leads to an electric vehicle’s 12V battery, to power some of the electrical systems, like screens and computers. But that isn’t going to get you back on the road if you’re out of charge. It’s also worth noting that many manufacturers recommend you don’t jump start another vehicle from a hybrid or electric car, so check your owner’s manual before trying to connect any jump leads.”

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56 Comments on "10 Questions Motorists Ask About Electric Cars: Some Are Bizarre"

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The Classic- “Can’t you just put a generator on the wheel and make ‘lectricity as you drive?”

My favorite: “Why don’t they mount small wind turbines all over the surface. That way the wind rushing past the car will to generate enough power to run it!”

Well… science isn’t for everyone! 🙄

Yay, perpetual motion FTW!

I’m not sure about perpetual motion, but my solar powered torch, that used it’s own emitted light to recharge itself is genius!

If you strategically place wind turbines, it can keep same/decrease the car’s drag coefficient with same frontal area while producing electricity. Not enough “to run the car”, but can run small stuff like heated underwear. Why it’s not done is due to economic and aesthetic reasons, not due to science.

Friction, it is about science ….

My answer:
Yes, it’s called Regenerative Braking.

“Just put solar panels on the roof and have unlimited range. Duh! Why haven’t they thought of that?”

Someone with a Nissan Leaf did build a 240W solar panel that bonded flat to the roof, used it to charge a 12v battery and ran a 720W EVSE off of that to charge the car once the battery got fully charged….
Sadly, that will only get you 4 miles of range per day of solar charging….

I would imagine that packaging of solar cells closer together, use a shorter wire run, 48v instead of 12v, use LiFePO4 instead of Lead-Acid for the temporary battery, and use a more efficient pure-sine-wave inverter, would get you closer to 6 miles of range. More efficient cells(like those Sunpower 22.5% eff cells, and closer packing would put you at about 300W STC power). Lastly, if you have the parts and know-how, stepping up the 48v directly to 400v would be more efficient than charging a 48v battery, then running an inverter to get 120v then stepping up to 400v.

There are also now commercially available cells going up to 26% efficiency, that might push STC power up to 320W. Multi-junction cells may soon achieve practical efficiency as high as 40%, which would bring output power above 450W.

Some solar applications are better for this than others. Two examples- A friend had a battery-powered lawnmower. Had two small flexible UniSolar panels installed on lawnmower handle. When not in use, mower sat in yard facing South. Never plugged it in for years and was always ready to mow the yard. There was a golf cart at a place I worked at briefly. Was used to transport visitors slowly on a short route a couple of times a week. Had a roof-mounted array slightly larger in area than a regular roof. Also was never plugged in except for a couple of annual events with long run time required.

Sono Sion should charge for 20 miles a day under ideal conditions in Germany, they get there gets approximately the same amount of solar radiance as Vancouver.
Geographical latitude is very important when talking about energy produced by solar panels over a period of time.
Florida should be flooded by solar panels, as it has the same latitude as Sahara dessert. The only disadvantage over Sahara are more clouds.

20 miles a day? Unless it is using fold-out solar panels, I think your math is off. Practical tests show that a car entirely covered by solar cells on its available upper surface will get, at best, about 5-6 miles of range per day in the U.S.

In Germany it’s going to get less even on a sunny day.

That isn’t as bad as:

“Why can’t you put a wind turbine on an electric car for unlimited range? You know, due to all that wind when you speed up”

At least unlimited power via solar is possible in theory, especially if you build a really really light car (how safe it will be is a different story). But use of a wind turbine says one doesn’t understand how physics works at all.

Why not fit solar panels and then connect a really big bright light to the HV battery and use it to provide even more power to the cells? You’ll end up with like 200% efficiency.

Actually, keep this to yourself, I’m going to patent this idea and make billions.

You forgot to mention the Tall, Draggy, Tower, to put the Light up high, so all the Solar Panels were Lit up!

/Sarcasm

😱😂😌😀

😆 LOL 😆

Brilliant!

That is a well known car type. They have even racing competitions for them.
One of the best known is the Australian “World Solar Challenge” from Darwin to Adelaide, some 3,000km.

No accident either that the many negatives that SHOULD be associated with gasoline-powered cars are absent from most consumers’ radar. For decades our media(MSM and web) have worked hard to keep it that way: selling and promoting the fossil-fuelled status quo by ignoring or refusing to focus on the countless ICE-related negatives and drawbacks whilst neverendingly banging on about EV “range anxiety” – or more often by simply refusing to talk about EVs at all – especially potentially super-disruptive, normal-looking EVs like the original Toyota RAV4 EV.
Even now most people have never heard of that well-liked but taboo, almost transformative EV/eSUV.
Just as most people never think or talk about ICE-related “anxieties” such as: “having to visit petrol-stations ANXIETY” or “having to pay €6-8 a gallon ANXIETY” – much less “killing the planet ANXIETY” or “fossil-fuelled foreign policy ANXIETY” .

Paul G

Most people already know those negatives so there’s not much need to talk about them. People want to know the positives and negatives of an unknown (the EV) though, so they can compare it to the positives and negatives they have about ICE vehicles.

Don’t they catch on Fire? Is the question I get. I just shake my head. People are, well, to be generous, lazy.

Just say “No, there’s no gasoline to burn”.

True, but I was trying to show that the disinformation campaign is working.

It’s less about disinformation than human nature. People are naturally comfortable with risks they’ve “conquered” and fearful of new ones. Simple visuals overcome this more effectively than statistics. “Gas burns” brings Hollywood crash scenes to mind. Point at their gas tank and say it’s like 15 gallons of lighter fluid to create another effective visual..

True, but there is Lithium. It’s not as bad as hydrocarbon but it can still burn. Most of the questions probably relate to the Grand Tour incident when a Rimac was crashed and went up in flames, and then continued to reignite for several days after.

At Least 16 Fisker Karmas Drown, Catch Fire at New Jersey Port.
well if its a fisker they might have a reason to ask.
most EV’s dont catch fire

To be fair, thermal runaway is no joke. As unlikely as it is, when it does occur it’s worse than burning fuel. It may well be used against EV’s as FUD but we shouldn’t disregard it. I think it’s only right that people are informed about it and are aware of the dangers, it’s just a shame that even though we live in the age of information so few people are willing to make the most of it and do their own research.

Yes, but at a lower rate than gasoline powered cars.

Answer #1 smells like BS. I’ve known two people who were driving ICE cars that were struck by lightning; both cars were considered total losses by the insurance provider due to fried electrical systems (both cars immediately shut down). No one was injured in either of the two strikes.

I’ve been in a car struck by lightening and I have had it happen to some family members too. Funnily enough it was my Grandparents who got struck first, the car was fine. They passed that car onto my mother which was before it got struck again with myself inside of it. My brother now has that car and it’s perfectly fine. My grandparents were struck again a couple of years later in a different car which is still going strong. Lightening always goes to ground and will pass through the car. you may have some warning lights immediately after, but an ignition off and on again should reset it.

Top Gear did a test about 10 years ago with Richard Hammond inside of a lightening chamber. The car was fine. This has been consistently proven over and over again.

#2 might have more to do with the manufacturer’s warnings not to tow the vehicle. Something to do with the regen? I dunno.

Yes, exactly. It’s a little more complicated than this, but you shouldn’t tow an EV because it’ll start to create a charge which will have nowhere to go.

If this were true you wouldn’t be able to drive down a hill with a fully charged EV. Duh!

“The evidence so far is that deterioration is very slow, so even after 100,000 miles and more you’ll likely still have at least 75% or more of your car’s original battery performance, if not a lot more.”

Depends on which EV. A Nissan Leaf loses about 5% a year. I owned one for 6+ years.

That works out to be 73.5% after 6 years. How many miles do you have? Do you live in Arizona?

My Leaf is over 6 years and just lost the first bar, that mean it has lost 15% or about 2,5% each year.

My 2014 Leaf (leased, thank goodness) lost 1 bar at 16,650 miles and 3.5 years of fairly mild usage and climate. Hopefully an outlier, but who knows?
It’s now gone to wherever used Leafs end up!

Interestingly, the lease-turn-in guy listed it as having 12 bars, over my objections.
When you look at a (pre 2018) Leaf’s SOC/SOH display it’s easy to be confuse an 11 bar reading with 100%, (by design, I think).

Also interesting, to me, is that resale pricing seems to be based on mileage only, with no regard to the elephant in the room – Leaf battery condition. No surprise that gas-heads would do that I suppose.
I was thinking of purchasing it at a price reflecting its condition, but got treated to an insanely high price with a pathetically small discount. Go figure.

Got a Tesla 3 now – Bye Nissan!

Yup. That description sounds like the very slow loss of battery capacity in a Tesla car. As you say, loss in a Leaf is much, much faster!

Tesla’s are almost always over 90% at 100,000 miles. There is a huge difference between 75 and 90%.

There are some Tesla’s with over 500,000 miles, and 95% have no decay issues (over 88%). This does vary though, and Tesla has had to replace a few of the older model’s batteries. There are indications that the newer model Teslas have better batteries, and should last well over 800,000 miles, which would only possible for taxis.

Which is totally normal as Tesla batteries are far bigger. It was the same for the charging speed.

If you’re talking about miles lost, yeah.
Percentage loss is better in Teslas because Tesla actually care for their batteries and give them liquid cooling.

the reason for leafs battery losses is there is no active thermal management.
teh tesla batterys chill tehm self’s if tehy get to hot.
Leafs just get hot and degrade battery life

Leaf is also LMO. Not for much longer, though.

Its also that Tesla’s cylindrical batteries are easier to cool and no expansion issues. The Leaf’s pouches are far harder to cool and expand and contract in size.

If it was a Tesla then it should have said “above 90 percent” instead. Maybe this is a leaf but not the worst case scenario, so UK vs Arizona in this case.

I could see a Leaf lasting 100k miles before hitting 75 percent if the weather was fair and the distances were shorter, thus keeping the charging regularly between the ideal 20 to 80 percent window.

And the Leaf depends on where you live. Many lose more, many lose less. My March 2013 Leaf is between 75 and 80%.
Since the Leaf by many measures is the number 1 selling EV, deterioration of its battery should dominate. Saying at least 75% at 100,000 miles is wrong for the Leaf and really understates the Tesla battery.

The 2013 version Leaf has a well-known battery decay issue. This is because of the lack of a temp management system, – as it’s air-cooled! Second hand Leafs should be checked carefully. Even OK ones still have constant decay every year.

Why no discussion on replacement costs of battaries, taxes due per period of months on highways, etc?

Could have done a much better job of answering #7 about speed vs range. Yes higher speed severely effects range, just like in an ICE car. Of course the penalty for high speed in an ICE isn’t as noticeable because of the quick re-fill time.

Its also not as bad since an ICE gains efficiencies by using more of the throttle and by a transmission. Most ICE cars have peak efficiency in the 40s and EVs are either in the high teens or low 20s (MPH).
Every EV is a little different but none have a multi-speed transmission and none have the air pump/throttle losses. Those losses in an ICE mean that peak efficiency is at a pretty high output relative to peak output.

Indeed, 95% of the answer addressed acceleration, not speed. Total misdirection.

People are used to Highway MPG > City MPG. Most EVs (and some hybrids) are the opposite.

“So, no. Sadly, you won’t be able to give your electric car a supercar soundtrack.”

Factually incorrect. My Google-fu easily found links to SoundRacer, which already makes an aftermarket product which does exactly that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJR3FldQo88

I don’t get this fetish, it’s just noise pollution, but I guess some old timers really need that useless nostalgia.

If the noise helps sell EVs to that crowd and help society modernize then I guess it’s got some overall positive value… I suppose.

A (hypothetical) person, who has only encountered EV’s, may have the following questions to an ICE car driver:

1. Wow, I wonder what it feels like to sit atop a gigantic Molotov cocktail
2. Since you must go to gas stations, which are often unattended at night, how scared are you that you may get robbed, or worse ?
3. What do you use to get the gasoline smell out of your clothes?
4. How long does it take for engine vibration to induce necrosis in human tissues?
5. Do you have to carry an oxygen mask with you in case exhaust fumes filter into the cabin?
6. What kind of earplugs or earmuffs is the best to help prevent deafness due to the engine noise?

1. Modern fuel tanks have to be located central in the vehicle, often under the rear seats. They are designed to resist puncture to an extent and accidents are focal point of design, where the fuel tank is designed to submerge or move out of the way during a particularly heavy accident. These are rigorously tested and crash tested, far more so than an EV’s batteries. 2. The majority of Gas stations which are 24 hours yet unattended are often covered in CCTV within well lit areas in a similar fashion to any EV charging station you may come across. Most 24 hour gas stations are attended though. 3. If you are getting gasoline on yourself when you fill up your car you probably shouldn’t even be driving. 4. Very little, if any engine vibration actually reaches the cockpit. Companies spend vast amounts of money on NVH departments extensively testing and developing new methods to increase refinement. Hydraulic and active engine dampers have gone a long way towards increasing refinement. A lot of this technology has been transferred to EV’s because as smooth and as refined as an electric motor can be they still create vibrations and resonances. Of course… Read more »

odd. Most of these are not what I would consider bizarre. They seem perfectly normal for a regular person to ask.
After all, getting a hairdryer in the bathtub with you would kill you. So, how do regular ppl know that car can go in water.
Recycling? Based on the BS coming from Oil and others, it is not surprising that ppl would ask.