Electric car detractors often talk about ‘range anxiety,' where potential owners supposedly worry about getting stranded having run out of battery power. I've always thought this was bullshit. Who could test my theory better than the owner of an electric sports car in blacked-out downtown Manhattan?
"No, no. You're very aware of how much battery you have and where the next charging station is," says Nicky Dawda. We're sitting in the dark in his place, the Bosie Tea Parlor, waiting with his staff for passers-by to wander in. His black Tesla Roaster is parked outside, where I've seen it parked a half-dozen times before.
The lights went out here on Monday night and Nicky's been driving since 11 AM Tuesday morning. He hasn't felt any kind of anxiety in the least. He takes the stripped-out two-seater sports car to Midtown to do the shopping for the tearoom, he laughs.
"It's always been the shopping car."
How exactly, though, does he use an electric car where there simply is no electricity?
"Luckily, before the storm I had 120 miles on it," Nicky explains. He doesn't seem worried at all by the extraordinary situation. Sandy completely submerged his garage in Battery Park, but they've drained it now and let him charge his Tesla there. At least his car wasn't in the garage when the storm hit.
There's no feeling of skating on thin ice, though. Nicky is experienced and he knows all of the good places to charge in Midtown and at the very tip of Manhattan, where there is some power now. The way Nicky explains his situation, he's had less trouble getting electricity in blacked-out Lower Manhattan than most New Yorkers have getting gas. He's certainly had an easier time than New Jersey drivers waiting for hours in gas station lines.
All electric car owners I've spoken to are this confident about charging. They never feel as if the car's power level is out of their hands. When the car says they're low on power, they drive smoothly, determinedly, and they know where to find an outlet nearby.
Nicky even likes driving in the blackout, the only driver I spoke to who didn't think traffic was a complete nightmare.
"I enjoy driving in it. You have to be aware of it – pedestrians, side streets – everyone is aware. It's actually very old fashioned."
With the subways and regular, reliable bus service only coming back on Thursday, the Tesla has been a boon and not a hindrance. It's been his link to the powered world. He hasn't taken much special care to keep the car running.
If you know where to get power, and if you keep a level head (as all of these electric car early-adopters do), it's not a struggle to keep a battery-powered car running, even when there isn't a light on for blocks.
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik