Where are all the stranded EVs?

Where are all the stranded EVs?

Perhaps this post is a bit premature because EVs on the road don’t number in the tens of thousands. However, if you were to believe what EV critics are claiming about the limitations and dangers of battery powered vehicles (range + unpredictable battery drain+ the lack of charging infrastructure), by now the air waves and internet should be littered with stories of stranded EV owners (even one or two examples would go viral IMO). The only examples I could find are journalist reviewers marooning themselves on purpose in what I consider silly attempts to make (mostly negative) points. For example, in a recent article in un-Fortune-nate magazine, the writer and his father set out to find out “how far can you go in a Tesla?” Fair enough. The test was a 700 mile trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco (isn’t that trip only +-400 miles?). Whatever…. Anyway, according to the writer, the answer came 15 hours later after the Tesla ran out of charge leaving them stranded and frustrated sitting in a parking lot for an hour - the time it took to recharge enough to get to their hotel 20 miles away. If I’m not mistaken, aren’t there two (2) Superchargers between LA and SF? I understand the writer’s objective was to test Tesla’s driving range, but who would deliberately drive past gas stations if they needed gas simply to prove a point? Besides, Tesla’s rated range is already widely known - the EPA published this data last year. Silly I say. Again, if this is an example of “real” driving behavior then where are all the stranded EVs? I welcome your comments.

dtaubert | 8 février 2013

There are lots of news articles and blogs about folks getting stranded in a Nissan Leaf. Lack of liquid thermal management, poor range estimation, and limited range to begin with.

A cousin of a good friend of mine recently purchased a Leaf thinking that it would be fine for his 70 mile commute. The stories are rolling in, unfortunately.

stevenmaifert | 8 février 2013

I own a Leaf in addition to the Model S. I can easily get 70 miles out of a full charge on the Leaf as long as I don't drive it at 90 mph. Know the car, know it's limitations, know where the chargers are along your route, and there will be no getting stranded.

ylyubarsky | 8 février 2013

I think that people who can afford $ 75 K - 110 K car didn't get their money as an inheritance. They worked hard and should have enough knowledge not to listen to all this garbage about stranded cars. Having enough brains you'll never get stranded. You know how many times I saw cars without gas standing in the middle of the highway or a street. Why? Because of brainless owners, nothing else. It's true that we don't have a good supercharge infrastructure yet. Bu it takes time. Just please turn your brains on when you drive Tesla S and you'll never get stranded. That's my personal opinion. Hope I am not alone.

jat | 8 février 2013

@dtaubert - I drove a LEAF for 14 months before getting the Model S -- the only way you get stranded is if you don't pay attention to what you are doing, and those same people are the ones walking up to a gas station with a gas can. There were a few situations where knowing the range changed my behavior, but then in years past there were times I made sure I had a full tank of gas before driving on Christmas day when there would be few gas stations open in rural areas.

Sure, if he thought he could do a 70 mile commute with much interstate driving he should have known he was pushing it given the EPA estimate of 73 miles on a 100% charge.

bigez1 | 8 février 2013

+1 ylyubarsky

Zelaza | 8 février 2013
DouglasR | 8 février 2013

@Zelaza, that was a sobering story. Too bad nobody told the writer to do a range charge in Delaware. That might have solved his problems.

jgraessley | 8 février 2013

I had a disappointing weekend trip to Napa from San Jose. While I didn't run out of juice, the charger in Napa I was hoping to use (at Hall Winery) was in use by a Volt. I know the Volt has just as much right to an electric charger as I do, but at the end of the day, they could put some gas in to get home. Without a charger, I'm stuck.

A super charger in Napa or more wineries with chargers would nice.

The abundance of ChargePoint charges on the map of the SF Bay Area left me feeling pretty confident I wouldn't be totally stranded. The abundance of charges is deceptive though because there are so many people in the bay area with EVs and Plugin hybrids.

The two chargers in Walnut Creek's public parking lots (along the route home and in close proximity to many appealing restaurants) were both in use.

We ended up stopping at the Stone Valley Mall. The charger was empty, probably because the Mall had closed. We subjected ourselves to PF Changs where the notoriously slow service was perfect for killing time waiting for the car to charge. Our 2 hour meal recharged 30 miles rated range. We continued our trip home and arrived with about 30 miles of rated range. All that anxiety for nothing.

There really aren't enough EV chargers out there. I've been looking forward to cruising to my fathers place in Barkersfield, but there's only one supercharger at Harris Ranch, not a place I want to be stranded at for more than the time required for a tasty meal at their restaurant.

Maybe restaurants will start catering to EV owners, allowing you to reserve a charger at the same time you reserve a table.

GoTeslaChicago | 8 février 2013

The reporter got bad advice from someone in California who probably has no first hand experience with the range issues caused by cold weather.

Once you've driven in a chilly car, going slower and slower as your miles melt away, you became much more careful about allowing a sizable safety margin. And if the car is parked out in the cold, I don't know if the miles melt away, but they sure go somewhere!

Regarding the idea that a cold battery will regain miles after it warms up, I understand the theory, but it hasn't happened to me. It didn't happen to our reporter either, because he had 25 miles cold and only 19 miles after he "conditioned" it.

anthonytesla | 8 février 2013

18 months in a Leaf, never stranded, no turtle but a few times zero left on the range. 70 miles is very doable if you learn the car....

Don't get on a horse and ride like John Wayne before you understand and learn the horse...

The wife drives the Model S.

GoTeslaChicago | 8 février 2013


Are you in a warm climate? Cause if you are you will have to re-learn to ride the horse when you get to Chicago!

DouglasR | 8 février 2013

One of the best articles on Model S range and trip planning is this one by Chad Schwitters:

It's long, but well worth the read.

olivesman | 8 février 2013

The first thing about your post that had me laughing my Ar$$e OFF was the comment about the possibility of a "limited charging infrastructure". Instead of jumper cables, THROW A 75' extension cord in the back end. If you notice that you are getting UNEXPECTEDLY low on range, just MAYBE you could stop within 50-75' of AN OUTLET!!!

olivesman | 8 février 2013

But then, I'm sure I'm naive....

Brian H | 8 février 2013

Better be a honkin' heavy-duty extension cord. And a 120V outlet will get you 2-5 mi/hr of charge. Be better off to wait for the Volt owner to show up!

olivesman | 8 février 2013

Agreed, Brian. It would HAVE to be an extreme emergency.

dahtye | 8 février 2013

@jg, I have first hand word that a 10 stall supercharger will be going into the Harris Ranch location. I spoke to the electric contractor who happened to be at the Tejon Ranch SC working to enable another charger at that location. He said they plan to break ground in early February (probably about now) and that they expect the SC to be fully functional by early May - I'd give them til late May just to be sure.

Harris Ranch is currently a choke point along the North-South California route. Yes, there currently is only one SC at this location. They also have a Roadster charger, but it tops out at only 70A (assuming you have the dual chargers in your Model S). There is a cable converter that converts the Roadster connector to the Model S connector. I used this "slower" charger for about 20 minutes on a previous trip, so it does work.

@Brian, I also keep a 25' NEMA 14-50 extension cord in the well of my trunk just in case I can't get close enough to the outlet. I also have a heavy duty 120V extension cord for the same reason.

I certainly see rated range whittle away during the night and also see it much lower on cold mornings. But as I drive on cold mornings, the rated range does not drop as quickly as I increase my miles, so, I am getting some range back as the battery warms up. I believe the computer derates the battery range when it is cold, but as it warms up, it recalculates rated range. One night, I thought I lost 20 miles of rated range (normal loss is about 8 miles if it's not too cold). I started driving and it took only about 10 miles of rated range to go about 20 miles, so I recovered most of the lost range by the time I got to my destination. This was in 45F degree weather (not sub freezing).

Pungoteague_Dave | 8 février 2013

Olivesman, you cannot use an extension cord to charge a Tesla. The car senses it and won't charge. Owners manual says so, and it wouldn't be usefull anyway. 110 charging is worthless, only a couple miles per hour.

Those of you who say the Times reporter should have done a max range charge do not understand how charging works. You cannot get a max range charge at a Supercharger in an hour. You can get a normal full charge in about 80-90 minutes, but charging slows way down as the battery gets full. Superchargers are for adding range, not topping off. And taking more than an hour to 'refuel' while mid-trip is not a reasonable compromise except for the most diehard greenies and TM fanboys. The reporter only expected the car to do what it said it can do. Even with mothering and direct personal coaching from Tesla staff, it could not make it from one Supercharger to the next. He did nothing wrong. Not good.

A car should be here to enable us, not the other way around. I never expected to gt 300 miles, but did believe 265. That is never going to happen even under the best conditions.

I now think of my 85kw Model S as a 175-mile-range car. I was able to get only 244 miles range after a max range charge, with 4 miles to 'spare' driving much more conservatively and slowly than we ever would have with our old cars. I will never do that again, so can't use the car for our weekly trip to the city, even with a new battery on max charge. If I want a 30% cushion, the limit is 175 one way (250 x 70%). As the battery ages, our trip options will have an even smaller radius. There are no charging options within 150 miles of my primary home, so the sanctimonious responses here about knowing limits and planning are nice theory, but the reality is that the car's limits are a lot tighter than we have been led to believe.

Peter7 | 8 février 2013


You can charge with and extension cord, it just needs to be a large gauge to support the high currents.

110 is only useless if you have better options or don't need it. I have, on occasion, found it very very very useful. It's silly for you to write something off like that.

Yes, the times reporter should have spent an additional 20 minutes at the Supercharger to reach a Max Range charge. The rest of the trip would have been much easier if he had. For that matter he should have spend 20 more minutes at the second charger had he not fully Max Range charger at the first.

He did do a number of things wrong, and Tesla did even more.


drp | 18 février 2013


In cold weather the 110 outlet is perfect for keeping it plugged in at work. "110 a day keeps the drain away"

Brian H | 18 février 2013

I wonder. We have only his word for what he was told by Tesla, and what the actual wording was. A transcript or two would be very interesting!