I'm not at all excusing bad reporting by the BBC- nor any of the other outlets that have used the same long-distance trip device to make the same point. I loved Peilow's impulsive effort to beat Milligan at his own absurd game, and that Tesla as a company supported him in it.
The public campaign that flogged the BBC’s unbalanced EV coverage should not only be extended to other outlets, but, spun more positively, could form the basis of a great "for-consumers-by-consumers" educational campaign about the real-world experience of using a plug-in car.
Electric cars are mostly urban cars
But I’ll be blunt: trying to convincingly prove (or disprove) the viability of a pure electric vehicle by driving it cross country is about as logical as proving the viability of a microwave oven by using it to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. You can force it, but it ain’t gonna be pretty--and it proves nothing about the everyday experience of using the technology.
2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010
Electric vehicles are primarily urban vehicles, and most households who acquire one will have at least one additional car that likely runs on gasoline. Given that the Roadster stopped to recharge for 9 hours, the gas car would still have made the trip in half the time. It’s true that fast charging will help, and could multiply the standard 100-mile EV range in terms of feasible trip length.
But in addition to concerns about battery degradation, even fast charging will not often compete with alternative options for truly long trips. People will continue to fly or take the other car in most cases- and that's OK. It takes nothing away from the fact that electric cars are brilliant for many of the day-to-day things that gas cars are not.
Pick cars for duties
That my husband’s (gas) smart car can’t hold the whole family doesn’t make him love commuting in it any less. We, as advocates, need to stay focused on the 90 percent and stop trying to apologize for the 10 percent. There's no car on the road today that's all things to all people; that's unlikely to change tomorrow.
2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010
Those who want to own one vehicle and for whom long, frequent road trips are the goal will be happier in a hybrid or plug-in hybrid. Suggesting otherwise with a PR stunt isn’t in anyone’s best interest, and we have no right to be either surprised or unhappy when someone like the BBC uses that very stunt against us.
As we fault the media, we must also recognize our role in it.
Don't feed the monster
Some people love traveling by RV; it’s not as quick as other methods, but it’s part of the overall experience. Others will find the same to be true about hitting the road in an electric car, and those folks should take that trip--for the experience of it.
But, please, quit trying to prove something to the world about electric cars along the way.
The author of this post, Chelsea Sexton, is well known in electric-car advocacy circles. As a member of the Chevrolet Volt Advisory Board, she received a 2011 Volt to assess before the cars went on sale last month. The views expressed in this piece are her own.