Caution: Things To Notice When Adjusting To An Electric Vehicle

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After watching Zach and Kyle’s videos from California and the Tesla Model 3 celebrations, I note that the LEAF I drive is not nearly as gifted in the world of Autopilot — certainly not anywhere near the Tesla AP gifts. I thought back to attentiveness and error in my experience as I transitioned to the EV realm without such protective measures.

Mentioning caution is a must for anyone else looking to transition to an electric vehicle. The quiet (it is so silent that you think it is off — when it is on) is sometimes a risk.

The first week I drove the Nissan LEAF, I started to leave the car while it was still running. The LEAF is sooo silent. I was accustomed to sounds from years of ICE driving. If there was no sound, the car was off. That’s not how it works with EVs.


The first time the quiet really tricked me, I started to exit the EV while it was still on. As the EV was in park, it was not so dangerous. And being in park, the EV would not eat up range quickly either. Still, it is not a good idea to leave a running car!

Another time (the first week), I was sitting in the EV about to get out and some folks walked up to ask questions. I found myself in conversation, and forgot about turning the car off. Again, the quiet made me think the EV was off. I started drifting backward and realized I was not even parked. Again, the interruption may have distracted me, but it was the quiet of the car that made me forget that I was not off completely.

Little things, and I caught them, but if I had not become more attentive to making sure I was safely parked (and turned off), the result could have been much worse.

Phone GPS for any car — EV or not.20151107_182650_005

GPS directions are pretty good in the LEAF. A recent trip required that I drive just a bit too far, and so I had to rent a car. I rented a Chevy Spark. I guessed the Chevy Spark might be about the size of the Chevy Bolt, and I was curious to see how it compared.

The ride was rough by comparison to the smooth LEAF, of course, with that awful noise of an ICE car. I did not have a GPS on the dash. As I was in 5 to 7 to 9 lanes of fast-flowing traffic in a large city I know nothing about, I turned on my voice-activated phone GPS for directions. With traffic flowing 70 miles an hour, I felt it necessary to keep my speed up to be safe. I relied on the phone’s voice-directed GPS to direct me to the proper lanes and exits.

At one point, I started to exit where Miss GPS led me to do so, and (almost) bam! Almost. The exit had a large sign in front of it — a barricade. Probably, the locals saw a sign saying the exit was closed and had no problem, but I did not know what exit was what, or even consider the possibility of a blocked exit and navigation error as I was going so fast and relying on GPS in a foreign area. I listened to the GPS and took the exit to a terrible — but luckily safe — halt.

I had to speed up fast to get back into the speeding traffic. A case in point of why that instant torque is actually another safety measure of EVs. I needed that Tesla torque, or even the torque that my Nissan LEAF has to a lesser degree … that little gas cars do not have. I feel lucky to stay alive one more time.

Singing the safety blues to people the next week … about the dangers of listening to GPS directions, I confirmed that I am not alone in Florida. Everyone I talked to about traveling city to city wished for a train. No one I’ve spoken to will drive on I-4 or in Miami. Where are the trains?

I do wonder now — how differently that trip might have gone with Tesla Autopilot. Surely, its navigation system would have picked up that the exit was closed and not directed me to it?

Moral. Don’t rely on your phone GPS, and get a car with AP. And… vote for TRAINS.

Related Stories: Tesla Model S — Safest Car Ever!! Breaks Safety Testing Equipment

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

Cynthia Shahan has 946 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Shahan

49 thoughts on “Caution: Things To Notice When Adjusting To An Electric Vehicle

  • My car (ICE vehicle) automatically puts the car in Park if you open the door. Seems like this could be a useful feature on an EV.

    • What kind of car is that? I didn’t know that feature existed. It must not have a gear shift lever then, as I don’t see how the shift lever could move itself.

      • Many of today’s vehicles (EV or otherwise) don’t move a physical part in the transmission. They are essentially electrical switches, many times made to look like the familiar shifter parts they replace. The only EV that really got this right was the Fiat 500e which has push-buttons for the different drive modes.

      • The “park” is a button. It is the Mercedes CLA45.

    • i love my (2014) leaf but its not without an almost confusing lack of what seems like would be a basic features on an ev, such as automatic headlights, that, the base model i have also won’t play audio over bluetooth even though it has a hands-free phone system that works fine (and has accidentally played a few seconds of music not from the phone audio before, garble garble)

      i love the leaf and recommend it over pretty much anything else but lets just say i have my reservation in for a model 3…

      • My 2015 Leaf EV has ‘Auto headlights’. Any bluetooth device/phone plays music for me. I would definitely would love the Model 3 but I like to see-feel-drive one to buy one.

        • You have an SL/SV, that’s why. The base model doesn’t have either of those things. The headlights are at least advertised, the bluetooth, confusingly, is not.

          • I also tried on w/out the auto switch and left it on the full on position it still turns off when the car is turned off after 30 secs….try doing that leave the lights on all the time, it uses the 12 volt battery so it wont affect your range.

    • My Leaf automatically goes in Park when the car is turned off, so there’s no mistake in leaving in gear when leaving the car.

  • alas, autopilot only keeps you on the road, not taking exits or following gps

  • Comment about ICE cars:
    I heard on the news (in Canada) that some of the newer ICE cars, SUV’s etc have buttons to shut the unit off, but because so many people are into their electronics, there have been case of the engine still running after the driver left the unit.
    The results, in a number of cases was in a closed garage, were; some deaths and a number of injuries, as in carbon monoxide poisenings!

    Something that can not happen with an BEV.

  • I’ve attempted to exit my Leaf, and my Prius plugin without turning it off. I keep the key in my pocket, and it always issues a warning buzz if you remove the key from a running car.

  • Great rail is such a lost opportunity in the US. As green as EVs are, rail is far greener in terms of energy consumption and land use. It’s far faster, when designed and built properly, and it’s cheaper per passenger mile.

    Most of all, nothing can alleviate congestion as well as well-designed rail. Rail can move 1000% – 2000% the people per lane per hour as EVs – 10 fold to 20 fold.

    And yes, have gotten out of the car with it still “running” – been there done that!

    • How about autonomous rail cars, with autonomous electric cars taking you to/from the station. That way as soon as a rail car fills up, it can go, and of course no point in stopping if nobody is getting off.

      Your phone app can communicate your location to the car so it shows up at the right time, and it’s location to you so it’s easy to find, and arranges the “car pool” so it’s cheap. Or wheeled transport of some size. Whatever is fast, efficient, and cost effective.

  • There is that proximity technology. The car should turn itself off when the key is outside the car.

    • The LEAF has this. If you leave your LEAF running, get out, and close the door, the car beeps 3 times.

  • in ICE car you cant remove the key without turning the engine off.

    • Most modern ICE’s work the same way as an EV in that you can remove the key (it is electronic) from the car while it is running.

      • Yes thats thecl case for my car is very old and i never see keyless car as you discribe

        • All about 90%of new cars are keyless all around including ignition n doors too.

  • Regarding the trains:
    — Look up _All Aboard Florida_ for the plans from Miami to Orlando.

    — Governor Rick Scott cancelled the high speed rail project from Tampa to Orlando, because he is evil. You could have had it several years ago.

    • What is evil is ascribing malice to those who politically disagree with you.

      • The other shoe falling here to support neroden’s statement was Scott’s cronies revealing the public/private rail partnership plans recently (well, that and pretty much his entire political and business track-records).

        We all know this type of partnership – the public takes the risk if it fails and private investors reap most of the rewards if it succeeds (or even if it doesn’t if they bought land just to sell it to the rail project at inflated prices).

        Evil, greedy, elitist, criminal… take your pick.

        • Most R governors rejected federal funding/assistance for high speed rail, probably because the success of the projects might have made Obama and the administration look good.

          OTOH, I’m now completely opposed to the CA high speed rail boondoggle and hope it gets delayed long enough for a working Hyperloop to supercede it!

      • So freedom of speech is evil? Wow. Makes one wonder what words you reserve for truly evil behavior.

        • Quite a non sequitur there.

          He called Gov Scott “evil” for not spending $1 billion in state funds to build high speed rail. I countered that ascribing evil to those who disagree with your political causes is itself evil.

          Where exactly did anyone call *freedom of speech* evil in that exchange?

          I think you win today’s Bizarro Comment prize, Mike.

          • For you and any other slower folk out there, please look up the definition of “ascribe”. It pretty very much falls under the umbrella of Freedom of speech.

            “Mike drop”.

          • Um, no.

            as·cribe (əˈskrīb) verb 1. attribute something to (a cause), as in, “he ascribed Jane’s short temper to her upset stomach”.

            So an upset stomach infringes your freedom of speech?

            When i wrote that “ascribing malice to those who politically disagree with you” is evil, you can literally substitute the verbatim definition for ascribe – “attributing malice (something) to those who politically disagree with you (a cause)”. NOTHING in that addresses freedom of speech, other than being an example of practicing it.

            Seriously, what are you talking about here?

          • No, m_r_n. Are you really this dim? I guess so, which means I have to s-p-e-l-l it out a little more for you one more and last time: you said that ascribing is evil. But ascribing (anything) is an act of speech, so you were effectively asserting that an act of speech is evil.

            And no, in your illogical analysis involving “Jane’s temper”, an upset stomach does not infringe anyone’s speech, but ascribing her temper to whatever IS an act of (free) speech. “Ascription” of anything is therefore protected by the first amendment and is not evil (except in extreme cases).

            If you need further explanation, please go back to high school. Start with vocabulary, then move on to civics and rhetoric, and come back. In the meantime, I’d delete the above post(s), so your ignorance isn’t on display to the whole world.

          • Your rant proves my point far better than I ever could – though in your Quixotic mind I’m sure you’re slaying giants – and unintentionally demonstrates the source of the poison contaminating the American political process to which I alluded as no mere description ever could.

            By assigning labels to *people* – Gov Scott is “evil”, I’m a “m_r_n” (spelling challenged? spit it out!), Donald Trump is a “Nazi”, President Obama is a “socialist Muslim” – you mentally absolve yourself of your responsibility to address and debate the actual and very serious issues that divide the electorate.

            Or more to the immediate point, claiming that Gov Scott opposed building an expensive high-speed train system because he is “evil” avoids having to deal with the actual ramifications of the proposal – the high cost to the state (and federal) taxpayers, the high risk of budget overruns endemic to this class of project, and the plausibility that a private investment initiative could more reasonably bear both the cost and risk (as, in fact, was and perhaps still is in work by All Aboard Florida). But you miss these differing perspectives and alternatives by dumbing down the problem to “He’s EVIL!!!”.

            Nor is your argument regarding the free speech implications of “ascribe” at all compelling, being rooted so deeply in the argument by generalization fallacy as it is. Asserting that calling a person evil is itself evil does not in any way imply that *all* speech is evil (an over-generalization for the ages); it merely asserts that *that specific speech* is evil. And indeed it is, as labeling *people* rather than their *actions or ideas* has a rather long and sordid history of improperly justifying oppression and eventually far worse – after all, “they” are evil, m_r_n_c, dirty, high school dropouts, right? They *deserve* the bullying, the name calling, the death threats, the disenfranchisement, and eventually all else worse that befall their sorry carcasses.

            I watched it happen up close and personal.

            And that is why this “whiny neoliberal and / or conservative” (how I adore the irony in Anna’s taunt!) is willing to be called whatever you care to call me, so that I may point out both the fundamental error in your logic and (far more important) the growing determination of the electorate to label their opponents with absurd comic book labels to avoid the discomforting necessity of engaging in constructive debate and compromise.


          • Knock off the name-calling

      • whiny neoliberals and whiny conservatives, of which you are clearly one and/or the other, are the actual worst though

        • I take as a high compliment that you can’t tell my political views yet hate me anyway. You epitomize the modern electorate! 😀

          • why do i need to know what flag you fly under to know that your opinions stated here are garbage?

          • You don’t need to know what flag he is under but you insisted on trying to label him with almost opposite descriptions. You didn’t address any opinions.

  • You say trains do not work, too spread our, how about the largest country in the world, Russia, trains work there.

    • Russia had a government that controlled much of the development. They forced people into cities and limited urban sprawl. Making trains more useful. Also in many ways Russia was a 3rd world country with limited number of cars trains and planes were the only options and trains would be cheaper.

  • My electric car, a Peugeot Ion, will not let me take the key out if not in “Park”, and can’t be turned on if not in “Park”, either. You cannot take it out of “Park” without putting your foot on the break, so very safe, but a little disconcerting if, like me, you are not aware of that, in the first few days of ownership, and think your car has broken down, “already”. This concept of the car being “on”, I am not so sure about. Unlike an ICE car, I do not think the motor is turning when the “ignition” is switched on. I do not think the motor is powered until the selector is put into “Reverse”, or “Drive”. I assume this because the motor controller, allows a very low current through the motor in “Drive”, and “Reverse” even with the foot off the accelerator, (“gas”), pedal. I assume that the “ignition” only boots up the controller, and the controller gives no current to the motor in “Park” or “Neutral”.

  • Indeed for half a century we’ve heard the lobbying so often for 50 years that we’ve forgotten to examine the facts: “the US is too spread out”, “it’s too expensive”, “it’ll never work” and “look at that light rail project”. Then we have ended up with very badly designed light rail and old fashioned inter-city service. The “light rail” lines are so badly implemented in the us that they run right down the middle of the street and wait at all the same lights as the cars. The inter city service run on alignments that are literally 150 years old.

    The fact is that no mode of transport can alleviate congestion like one that can move 20,000 people per hour per lane in each direction. And we all have plenty of time to ponder this next time we’re stuck in traffic.

    As far as density, you’re absolutely correct that one must have critical mass for it to work. And the fact is that any urban freeway wider than 4 lanes in each direction and that is stuck for an hour per day is about there. And intercity service, just about every metro over 3 million would benefit. Most us cities from Mississippi eastward, Texas triangle, California/ Vegas.

    • My mother used a commuter train in and out of DC for years it worked well for her. Many metro area’s have commuter trains and metro services and they work well. Some better then others. I wasn’t talking about commuter trains I was talking about city to city transport. Taking a Train from Nashville TN to Denver CO. There use to be train routes for people taking trips but there ridership was so small that Amtrak was forced to stop service.

      Also don’t get me wrong. Fright trains are still a great way to move goods but as it stands trucks can still be cheaper depending on distance and what you are moving.

      • Look up the miles from Nashville to Denver. Calculate the travel time based on current HSR. Calculate the cost based on European HSR per mile costs.

        Look up the price of an airplane ticket on Kayak and the flight time.

        Get back to us.

        • An interesting economic analysis using a similar methodology was published at economix.blogs.nytimes dot com/2009/08/04/running-the-numbers-on-high-speed-trains/?_r=0 back when HSR was being debated as part of the “shovel ready jobs” mix, but it wasn’t particularly favorable to HSR. I suspect one problem is that airports get generous government support, while Amtrak gets squat, which makes the cost of tickets on each non-comparable in the US.

          I really hate being packed in a tube and shot through the sky (my view of air travel, which I abhor), and love the much more civilized and relaxing experience of rail. Unfortunately, the train routes seem quite literally to be optimized to ensure I miss every freaking connection in the southern US, ensuring that any non-trivial trip takes multiple days.

          The Trans-Texas Corridor offered brief hope, since it included separate lanes for HSR as well as light rail, freight rail, commercial trucks, and passenger vehicles, along with utility infrastructure, but that didn’t reach fruition either.

          Really frustrating for train enthusiasts. 🙁

  • Oh, and in addition to previous post, yes the economic cost of crappy transportation in the us northeast corridor is astronomical now. Huge burden to the economy.

  • US passenger rail was not killed by unions or by politicians. US passenger rail fell away because Americans had cars and good roads. And then America developed air travel for those times when one needed to move long distances rapidly.

    (Oh, BTW, France is cutting its nuclear fleet by a third and replacing it with renewables. Nuclear is too expensive.)

  • Not to be (too) snarky, but basically this long article is saying that there’s one thing to pay attention to when making the transition to an EV? With that in mind, a better title might have been “One Thing to Pay Attention to When Transitioning to an EV”.

    Surely there are others. How about regenerative braking and (especially in the LEAF) the sometimes poor synchronization it has with the physical/disk brakes at low speeds? Or the variations in power and deceleration depending on what “mode” one is in? Or even the instantaneous torque, for that matter. Not to mention all of the range and charging issues.

    ( Sorry. Looks like it still, uh, sparked, a good discussion about trains! 🙂 )

  • I too have left my Leaf on by mistake. I recall coming back the car after dark and noticing the entire cabin lit up by the screen. I agree it’s the lack of traditional ICE noise.

    There is a charger outside the entrance to my gym. I’ve found that I don’t even need to charge at home if I work out every second day. Free fuel AND I’m getting fit!

    I use the Leaf as much as possible unless I really need my truck. We’ve nicknamed the truck “Lurch” since we find it hard to drive ever since buying our Leaf.

  • If your previous ICE vehicle like mine (Toyota) had a power on/off button instead of the traditional key insert then it is way easier to transfer to EV because you are used to pushing the button on/off at start/stops…and you don’t have to press park (1 less step) because powering off makes the park position default when power is off.

    • I got used to not shifting to Park in my old Prius, but then I got a Volt, and now I have to shift into Park before turning it off, even though it’s more of an EV than a (non plug-in) Prius 🙁

  • My Ford Fusion Energi PHEV honks the horn twice if I leave the vehicle with it still turned on.

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