As summer winds down, this may be the time to take that final family road trip before school starts, and what better way to do it than in an environmentally-friendly electric vehicle (EV)?
Except, perhaps, if you’re Dalbir Bala of La Salle, Manitoba. Bala abandoned his Ford Lightning electric truck midway through his family road trip after the vehicle failed to charge at two separate charging stations in Minnesota. He was forced to rent a gas-powered vehicle to complete their drive to Chicago.
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He purchased the truck earlier this year for CA$115,000 (about $85,000); it had a full battery when he and his family left their home near Winnipeg. Bala had already mapped out a series of faster level 3 charging stations along his route. The first stop went smoothly, but when he attempted to plug his truck in at his second stop, he got a faulty connection message.
He called the number listed on the charger for help, but no one answered. He still had a bit of charge left in his battery so he headed over to a nearby station, only to find it didn't work either.
Down to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) left in his truck's battery and no other fast chargers within range, Bala chose to abandon his new truck and rent a Toyota 4Runner to finish his trip.
"It was really a nightmare," Bala told CBC News, adding that he wants no more distraction or frustration on his future roadtrips.
Bala isn't alone in his ire. A recent survey by J.D. Power of U.S. EV owners' experiences charging their vehicles at public stations found that customer satisfaction at both level 3 and the slower level 2 charges is on the decline. In fact, level 2 satisfaction reached its lowest point this year since the study began in 2021.
Yet EVs continue, if you will, to be on a roll. Electric vehicle sales reached an all-time record in the second quarter of 2023 with nearly 300,000 sold in the U.S. alone, according to Cox Automotive. The International Energy Agency expects to see a whopping 14 million EVs sold around the world by the end of 2023.
Which way to drive, then? Here are three reasons EVs aren’t likely to overtake gas-powered cars just yet.
Relying on charging stations isn’t ideal
The U.S. has an average of 104 gas pumps per 1,000 road miles compared to only 22 EV charging stations. This can make topping your battery on a long trip much harder than filling a gas tank.
Bala's experience also highlights the importance of regular maintenance and support at EV charging stations. Unlike gas stations, they’re often unmanned, which in the event of a malfunction forces frustrated customers to call the company running them for help — and they don't always answer, as Bala will tell you.
Read more: Here's how much money the average middle-class American household makes — how do you stack up?
They’re not as green as you’d hope
A key selling point for EVs is that they reduce emissions over their lifetime. But creating electricity still generates emissions. In areas heavily dependent on conventional electricity generation, this benefit over gas-powered or hybrid vehicles may not be as great as you'd hope.
For instance, in Wyoming, EV-related emissions coming from the production of electricity run at close to 90% of hybrid emissions.
On top of that, their batteries don't last forever. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that today's EV batteries may last only up to 15 years in moderate climates and 12 years in extreme climates.
Lower towing range
If you like to use your vehicle for towing, EVs may not be for you. While models such as the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T are capable of towing, doing so will reduce the vehicle's range. Car and Driver found that towing a 6100-pound camper cut the range on both of these vehicles by nearly two-thirds.
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