As a writer specializing in the automotive sector, I field a lot of questions from friends and family — and the occasional stranger — about electric vehicles. Some of them are legitimate queries like, “Can you really get 50 miles per gallon in that Prius?” Some of the questions, though, are founded in fear, the urban-legend type of questions like, “Will that Prius short out my grandfather’s pacemaker?”
So here are the top five questions I’ve heard, with no-myth answers.
Electric and hybrid vehicles are so quiet… are they a hazard to blind pedestrians?
Yes, hybrid and electric vehicles are very quiet, nearly silent when idling or at low speeds (20 miles per hour, or less). And with a growing number of hybrids on the road, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is hoping to avoid injury by asking automakers to devise a minimum sound standard for their vehicles. Until the automakers can address this issue with technology, there’s a very low-tech solution that we should all be doing already, whether we’re driving a hybrid or a Harley: pay attention to pedestrians.
My cousin’s boyfriend’s roommate has a Prius and she says she doesn’t get anything like 50 miles to the gallon when she drives her car. What sort of mileage can you really get?
Mile-per-gallon ratings vary wildly from one hybrid to the next, and one driver to the next, but let’s use the third-generation Prius as an example. In my personal, non-hyper-miling driving experience, I was able to get about 46 miles to the gallon in the city. That’s pretty darn close to the EPA estimate of 51 miles per gallon.
I have a Pacemaker/defibrillator… is it safe to drive an electric car?
Yes, unless you get too close to the battery pack while it’s in use. How close is too close? According to MedTronic, creators of the Pacemaker, you wouldn’t want your device to be closer than 24” from the source of the AC/DC current (aka, the electric motor).
In other words, don’t lay on top of the hood of the car while you’re driving, and you ought to be fine.
I’m looking at buying/leasing a new car, and I’ve heard hybrids get great gas mileage… can I afford one, or are they so new they’re still too expensive?
Again, this will vary on which electric vehicle or hybrid you’re considering. But in general, gas-electric non-plug ins are relatively affordable, especially when you consider available tax incentives and the money you won’t be spending at the gas station.
I’m a very busy/lazy person and I don’t want the hassle of plugging in an electric car every night. Do they all have to be plugged in to re-charge them?
Not all hybrid vehicles need to be plugged in to re-charge their batteries. In most cases, the batteries re-charge while in use. Automakers have developed very clever technologies to capture energy for re-charging while driving. One such technology is regenerative braking, which reduces vehicle speed by using some of the vehicle’s kinetic energy to re-charge the battery.
These aren't the only questions I've gotten, but they're far and away the ones I've heard the most. The answers to these, and most others, can be found on the individual automaker's websites. If you have a question about your own Pacemaker or defibrilator, ask your physician.
And, be careful out there.