Note to (a few) electric-car advocates: get off your high horses

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Owner Dawn Hall before 800-mile road trip in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car

Owner Dawn Hall before 800-mile road trip in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car

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Any movement produces passionate advocates and angry detractors, even as the vast mass of people pay it little or no attention.

When that movement involves most people's second most-expensive purchase, and plays a role in reducing manmade carbon emissions to alleviate the worst effects of climate change, things can get heated.

And so it is among electric-car owners, advocates, and fans.

CHECK OUT: Car buyers have no idea electric-car charging stations even exist

But what looks and feels like a movement to many is simply an alternative choice of consumer product to most car buyers.

Slowly, unevenly, the public is starting to notice that plug-in electric cars are available, that they can be bought in regular car dealerships with well-known brands on the front, and that some of their friends, neighbors, and coworkers are starting to drive them.

So part of the movement for experienced owners involves educating these novice shoppers, explaining the realities of electric-car ownership—it's not that complicated—and answering a ton of questions, some of them thuddingly basic.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, June 2017 road trip from VA to KY and back [Jay Lucas]

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, June 2017 road trip from VA to KY and back [Jay Lucas]

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Sometimes, people buy electric cars after relatively little research.

(Occasionally they do so on the basis of blatant misinformation from salespeople at dealerships, but that's a different story.)

Which brings us to an article we published in March relating the challenges faced by Dawn Hall, the new owner of a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, who made an 800-mile road trip within California to take her daughter to visit colleges.

It proved, as she noted, that "challenges remain" for Bolt EV owners, including those who pre-plan their charging stops using apps like PlugShare, as she did.

That article generated an astounding 1,100 comments, which ran the gamut from supportive to condemnatory.

 Brian Ro's 'obligatory selfie' with his 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV [image: Brian Ro]

Brian Ro's 'obligatory selfie' with his 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV [image: Brian Ro]

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It also spawned a blog post from Bolt EV owner Brian Ro, who's contributed to this site about his own Bolt EV road trip and his attempts to compete in autocross events with his new electric car.

Ro's post was not understanding, not sympathetic, and not kind. The opening paragraph conveys its tenor.

What a disaster! The owner of that Bolt did about everything wrong you could possibly do wrong when long distance traveling in an all-electric car. I was actually amazed that she did NOT end up on the back of a flatbed. I felt the article should have been re-titled "Clueless Bolt owner drives 800 miles and somehow doesn't end up stranded in the middle of nowhere". It was a complete debacle. Poor route choice, poor energy conservation (Wow, I'm speeding at 80 mph and the range meter keeps going down way faster than I thought....guess I'll keep driving 80!), poor understanding of charging network pricing options.

That sparked a response in turn from respected electric-car advocate Chelsea Sexton, suggesting that Ro's attitude was more common than it should be among some otherwise enthusiastic electric-car owners and fans.

"Sadly," she noted, "it was merely one of many similarly snarky, sarcastic, and/or condescending comments occurring daily across EV communities."

Energy efficiency and distance covered in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV road trip by owner Dawn Hall

Energy efficiency and distance covered in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV road trip by owner Dawn Hall

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Instead, Sexton wrote:

What’s needed most is open-minded advice and coaching, and perhaps even a little humility about the fact that some of this is daunting at the outset, every one was once a new to it, and EV and (especially) charging information is not always as consumer-friendly as it could be.

Sexton ends by noting, gently, the old saying that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

We couldn't agree more. We concur with Sexton that the tone was inappropriate.

Frankly, we were startled and appalled by Ro's attitudes toward an adventurous and sincere new electric-car owner who discovered that the charging infrastructure for a Chevy Bolt EV is nowhere near that for a Tesla Model S or Model X.

Early adopters and advocates of social change have a responsibility to act graciously and with compassion toward those who aren't yet convinced or are hesitant about taking that first step.

Sneering at them for being clueless doesn't help.

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