2011 Nissan Leaf SLEnlarge Photo
We're sure some electric car advocates wouldn't take kindly to the assertion that their pride and joy was "just like a gasoline car".
After all, your average electric car is quieter, smoother, doesn't use fossil fuels, is full every time you come to it in the morning, and doesn't drip oil all over your driveway.
There are still lots of similarities though. In fact, in many key areas, the first wave of electric cars we're experiencing is very similar indeed to fossil-fuelled cars.
So similar, in fact, that San Francisco-based City CarShare had to recover one of its Nissan Leafs when a customer accidentally drove it to a destination that was comfortably too far away--and its battery died.
This wasn't a case of simply missing the destination though, as Mike Harrigan from City CarShare explained to SFGate:
"There's two kinds of members... there are the ones who are totally into EVs and understand what to do, and there are people who are totally oblivious, don't even realize it's an electric car and drive off to Sacramento."
On this occasion, the customer was from the latter group.
The Leaf is so... well, car-like... that the customer simply didn't realise it was an electric car, did her journey as normal, and ran out.
City CarShare says that some drivers oblivious to EVs may even forget to plug them in at the other end--if they make it at all.
The company currently has 7 plug-ins on its books, from a fleet of 380 vehicles. This number should rise to 30 plug-ins by the end of the year, and by 2015 the plan is to run 50 percent of the fleet on alternative fuels and electricity.
The same, but different
To most intents and purposes, the Nissan Leaf is no different than any regular gasoline-fuelled car. It's a regular hatchback, has a regular trunk, five doors, windows, a steering wheel, some pedals, and some seats.
You just get in, start it, and go. If you're not clued-up on cars--and admittedly you'd have to be quite substantially not clued-up to notice the complete absence of engine noise, but it clearly happens--then a Leaf is really no different from any other car.
Modern gasoline cars are now much quieter and smoother than they once were--and hybrids even more so--which further adds to the confusion for some drivers.
The scenario is less likely with something like a Tesla Roadster of course, as certain electric car buyers buy the cars specifically because they're electric. But fill a rental fleet with traditionally car-like EVs and the average Joe may not notice the difference.
We can't imagine many GreenCarReports readers would make a similar mistake, but it does raise an interesting point--that modern electric cars are basically the same as fossil-fuelled cars.