Adventures & Misadventures of an EV in the Country (Part 4)

May 25, 2015

Keep calm and enjoy the silence

In part 4 of my series of blogs sharing my experience of owning a 2013 Nissan, Leaf battery electric vehicle in the country I want to tell you a little about the reaction that I have encountered to my vehicle here. Most people here don't say anything about the vehicle whether they may want to or not. I am imagining that this has more to do with the fact that there are a lot of different brands, types and nationalities of vehicles out there and in our American car culture people don't want to seem ignorant or unknowing about cars. So, rather than opening their mouths and proving that they don't know about a particular brand or type, they keep quiet, even though they maybe dying to ask a question.

Given that cultural barrier, I have, however, come across some reactions. My first encounter where someone talked to me about the Leaf, was in a church parking lot. An older gentleman, I am guessing in his mid 80s, but still moving around pretty well, wanted to know what vehicle I was driving. He found the look interesting and unfamiliar. After I told him that it was a purely electricly powered Nissan, Leaf I found out that he wanted to tell me more about the vehicles he had owned over the years rather than listen to me prattle on about my vehicle. The fact that my vehicle was all electric didn't seem to spark any curiosity in him. He probably thought that electric vehicles were just another new fangled thing that he was unaware of and didn't want to appear unknowing. I was grateful that he let me tell him about the vehicle and enjoyed the quick parking lot stories of his vehicle purchases over his many years of life.

The next encounter was a very positive one. I was in the parking lot of the big box category killer retailer located just outside of my town when coming out of the store a man with his two daughters approached me and my son asking questions right away about our electric vehicle. Talking about electric vehicles in general has been something I have been doing for over two decades, so I was happy to do this again with this audience of three. I gave them my experience so far with the Leaf. Gave them a ride around the parking lot. Took the Leaf out of ECO mode and let them experience the instant torque advantage that electric vehicles have over internal combustion engined vehicles. I let them experience the quiet ride. The daughters comments went from, “This is so cool,” to “Daddy you should get one,” to “Daddy you should buy me one.” As usual the encounter left a clear impression on the people asking the questions that electric vehicles were attainable and functional for their lives. This time I didn't inject the judgement that electric vehicles weren't practical for people who lived in the country. For me the jury was still out, and for each individual driver they will have to make that determination for themselves. It sounded from the questions I asked them that an electric vehicle probably could fit into their lives quite well. I hope they buy one.

The encounter that I had after the positive one above was odd. It was from a person who parked in front of my vehicle in a big pick-up truck at a garage sale. The driver approached me at the garage sale we were at and even though he had parked his vehicle after we had already parked ours, felt it important to tell me that he had been frightened nearly to death by the silence of my Leaf. We had not encountered him while we were driving to the garage sale, so, I thought that he must have had some serious anxiety problems because none of the other parked vehicles were making any noise either. I figured the entire block of silent parked vehicles must have been terrifying for the poor gentleman. Actually you know that I didn't believe what he said. I knew where he was coming from. He had been programed by the conservative media to say that electric vehicles were dangerously quiet. Not just quiet, but dangerously quiet and he was letting me know that he could parrot his willful ignorance just like the rest of the sheeple who watch, listen to or read that nonsense. Never mind that my Leaf makes plenty of noise when being operated at slow speeds. For one thing it makes a high pitched whirring sound out of the electric motor. Most cars today make very little sound at slow speeds, the sound of pebbles crackling under the tires is normally the most prominent sound coming from an internal combustion engined vehicle today over any engine noise while traveling slowly, and the same holds true for electric vehicles. What I find really scary to me is people who allow themselves to be programmed in the first place rather than discovering, learning and thinking for themselves. I am sure if he would have given me the opportunity to give him a test drive and answer sincerely all his questions he might have changed his mind, but then again he may have been closed minded and not heard a word I would have been saying.

The real difference between an electric vehicle and a conventional one in terms of noise is the sound inside the cabin. Electric vehicles have a luxuriously quiet and smooth ride versus the noise and vibration of an internal combustion engine. You realize this only after owning both. After having driven my Volt for half a year and having driven it nearly always in electricity mode, I found myself having to drive our SUV when visiting my wife in the country. The roar of the engine, the vibration, the blast of sound entering the cabin almost put me into shock. I remember exclaiming one particular noisy morning, “My gosh this thing is noisy.” My wife didn't understand why I said what I said until we got the Nissan, Leaf. We have been using the Leaf almost exclusively since we bought the vehicle, but eventually we needed to bring something big home that we knew wouldn't fit in our Leaf. We got into our other vehicle and my wife almost immediately commented on the noise it was making. Just so you know, there isn't anything wrong with our other vehicle. The noise we are talking about would be the same for this particular model of this vehicle. When we did our next trip in the Leaf, while traveling on a particularly well paved long straightaway, my wife commented on how nice it was not to have all that noise entering the cabin. Sometimes, not hearing is believing.

Readers, if you come across questions that you want to ask me, please feel free to do so in the comment section below. Questions and comments have been very useful for me to stimulate the subjects of my blogs, so I appreciate comments. For me all questions and comments are valid and welcomed. You may get some back and forth from me, but the gain is filling in areas of not knowing for both for me and the commenter. Feel free to add your own experiences as well whether they are about an EV in town or out in country. Thank you in advance for stimulating the conversation about electric vehicles.

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