It can seem crazy to think that electric vehicles will replace gasoline engines anytime in the near future: range anxiety, charging times, price, and plain old inertia are all touted as deal-killers. But a new study found that drivers actually preferred their electric car over their conventional clunker (or even a Porsche and Lexus in some cases) after a trial program leasing 450 electric Mini E's to drivers in Los Angeles, New York, and New Jersey.
The study, completed by the University of California Davis, found that EVs did take some getting used to. The 201-horsepower Mini E by BMW has an 80-100 mile range, and recharges at home or work in about three hours with a dedicated charger. Drivers encountered new features such as regenerative breaking when easing off the accelerator (no more "gas" pedals anymore) and faster pickup with the high-torque electric motor. The backseat was also partially taken up by Lithium-ion batteries reducing the seating and storage area.
But by the end of the trial, the drivers, a mix of high-performance junkies, environmental enthusiasts, and technology pioneers, were hooked: 100% of the survey respondents agreed "electric vehicles are suitable for daily use," and two-thirds were more interested in buying an electric car. Only 9% said they were less interested. "Most households," even those with several other cars, reported the study, "preferred to drive the Mini E," admiring its clean, fun, and efficient attributes.
The road wasn't always smooth. Battery life experienced "unacceptable" dips during extreme temperatures, and about 80% of the drivers would have liked to travel beyond the 100-mile or so range, primarily to visit friends, do some recreation, or even work. Picking improvements for future models, most drivers opted for more seats, longer range (about 120 miles) and public charging stations.
Dahlia Garas, program manager at the UC Davis EV research center, says the study shows technical issues are not necessarily the greatest barrier to EV adoption anymore. It's more about giving the public the option to buy the kind of car they want, and experience how compelling "clean and fun" can be, based on the survey results. "The general public thinks that electric cars are all golf carts: slow and boring," she said. "It's not until they drive one, they hear one, that they open their minds that these cars be fun to drive."
Although the Mini E isn't for sale yet, you've got 57 different electric and hybrid models to chose from on the market today. Go for a test drive, and you very well might be hooked.
[Image: Flickr user Ed Callow [torquespeak]]