Electronic Cars Simply Can’t Be Treated Like Gasoline-Powered Cars

By now New York Times environmental reporter John Broder’s disappointment with his test-drive of the all-electric Tesla Model S is almost legendary. He contended that he was able to drive the car only about half of its promised 265-mile estimated range. As a result, he has stamped uncertainty—many would say unfairly—all over a glamorous, prestigious iteration of a gasoline-free vehicle.

How Reliable Are They?

In the process, however, he has raised some important questions. How reliable is a Tesla Model S sedan, really? And how does it compare to other electric models? Here is what you can actually expect from the most popular gasoline-free gems on the market today.

CNET.com’s editors concluded, “The 2012 Tesla Model S sets a new standard for cars of the 21st century by…incorporating a long-range, powerful, and efficient electric drive train.” And, their editors noted in response to Broder, “You cannot treat an electric car, given current technology, like you would a gasoline-powered car. You need to be much more mindful of range issues, where you can charge, and how long it will take.”

Ford, Nissan Electric Vehicles

Other electric vehicles also rate well with experts. We checked out a Nissan Leaf at a Peoria car dealership and found that the suggested retail is $37,200, compared to the Model S at $57,900. CNET’s bottom line for the Leaf? “The 2012 Nissan Leaf offers a good blend of affordability and all-around performance for city dwellers and suburbanites looking to go zero-emission.” Hybridcars.com calls the Leaf “the top contender for first affordable mainstream all-electric car.” And AutoGuide.com said, “Designed to work within an urban environment, the Leaf certainly succeeds.”

Ford’s 2013 Focus Electric vehicle retails for $39,200. CNET’s conclusion on this car is that “its short driving range and long recharge times limit (its) suitability to some specific lifestyles, but it is a very high-tech car that should delight early adopter types.” Hybridcars.com observed that “the Focus Electric and Leaf have close EPA ratings for both driving range and efficiency. The Leaf is rated at 73 miles of driving range, with a rating of 99 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). The Focus Electric (boasts) 76 miles of range and a 105 MPGe rating.”

Mitsubishi’s Egg

There’s also the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV is the value-priced choice among electric vehicles. Starting at $29,125, it features a look straight out of a comic book. The little egg-shaped four-door hatchback can seat four adults and has an EPA estimated driving range of 62 miles with a top speed of 81 mph.

Volvo and Toyota both have developed all-electric models, but have not yet introduced them to the U.S. retail market. Stay tuned. Now that $4-a-gallon gas has returned to many places in the U.S., Volvo’s C30 Electric and Toyota’s FT-EV are sure to be enhanced and made available for sale in America in the next few years.

All-electric cars are still considered novelties by most American drivers. Sometimes, when an unexpected negative review is published, drivers become even more skeptical of the practicality of this class of cars. But by the end of this decade, we’re confident electric vehicles will have become completely mainstream.