Is EV better than gas for only very short around-town trips?

My mom is in her mid-80s, and does not drive very much. She drives to the YMCA for swimming 5 times a week, maybe 2 miles each way. She drives to the grocery and doctor appointments. Majority of her trips are under 5 miles, none over 10, and none on the highway. Her current car, a 1996 Camry, runs very hot on the trips to the pool (hood feels very hot, engine smells hot), but not 5 mile trips or test drives. Her mechanic says it is fine. Maybe the thermostat is not having a chance to kick in on such short trips?

Anyway, we are thinking of a new car for her and I am wondering if an electric car would have any advantage in terms of handling all these short trips better than a gasoline powered car? I have not seen any comparison for this sort of short hop driving, other than fuel efficiency.

Although an electric car might be quite a change for her, any new car will be a drastic change from her mid-90s era vehicle, and we’ll just have to deal with that learning curve.

Thoughts? Advice? What kind of wear and tear are short trips only on an electric engine versus gasoline? Or are modern gasoline engines up to the challenge?

The hood feeling hot, the engine smelling hot - those don’t necessarily mean the engine is overheating.
What does the temperature gauge indicate?
The smell might indicate some fluid leak, but let’s put that aside for now.

An EV is very well suited for short trips.
The electric motor doesn’t have to warm up to perform its best.
The short battery range compared to a tank of gas isn’t an issue.

So an EV would be more efficient for her short trips, but it probably doesn’t make financial sense.
What might make the closest to financial sense would be a used Nissan Leaf with a tired battery.
They can be had for cheap, and one that still had 75+ miles range would cover her normal trips.
But would she handle the change? Would she be okay with a smaller car?


I don’t drive very far each day, and when my car was acting up, I considered buying a used Mitsubishi i-MIEV. Ultimately, I decided that since it would cost me about $1200 to repair my existing car (DIY) vs. about $6500 for the Mitsubishi, I decided to keep what I had.

Does she have space/access to a charger? Live in apartment? House? Does she want to plug in a car?

If she is still fully capable of driving, happy to drive, and has the financial resources, an EV makes perfect sense.
Note the above comments about charging.
As to the heat of the hood and engine smelling hot, not an indicator of a problem.

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An EV is perfect for short trips.

Can your mid-80’s mother be re-trained to plug the car in every night? UN-plug the car before she goes anywhere? Would she possible trip over the cord in the garage? Not trying to be nasty, these are serious questions.

There is no way my mom in her 70’s (she passed at 78) would have been able to accept that kind of change. She would not have even given up her 1994 car because she didn’t want to learn the controls on a newer one.

Another biggie… can she physically plug the charge cable in?? They are not like an extension cord plugging into a 110v outlet. It takes some effort that maybe your mom might not be able to do. These are real world issues that need to be answered before you suggest his change.


Is the mom even involved in this idea ? And why does Spam doubt the mechanic ?

Actually, the standard (overnight) charger supplied with an EV is a standard 120V cord which plugs into a standard electrical outlet. Faster charging requires a 240V circuit, but my understanding is that the 240V charger is not supplied with the car, and must be purchased separately anyways. Few people would have a 240V outlet in their garage, but almost everyone has access to a standard 120V 15A outlet.

how would your mom feel about teaching her how and to use uber? you can get a awful lot of rides for the price of a new car. and it would be safer for her and other drivers too. no offence, just the product of old age.

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It isn’t that end that is in question…, it is the locking plug on the car’s end I’d be concerned about.


If she’s only making 5 mile trips she might only need to charge weekly or even less.

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Even worse…she’s going to remember to plug it in once a week? Or every other week? What happens that one week she drives 25 miles to see her niece? Or the Canasta finals?

I know 30 year olds that would have problems remembering to charge up.

She remembers to go to the gas station, I assume.

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If there’s a concern with the Camry get it addressed and fixed. I think it would be MUCH better to keep mom in a car she knows, assuming it’s safe to drive.


And she’s been going to the gas station anytime, whenever then gas gauge gets low her entire driving life… not plan to plug in when she gets home. Change can be difficult at an advanced age.


A warning light illuminates on my old Dodge when the driving range is less than 50 miles, I would expect an electric vehicle to do the same.

An electric vehicle would be ideal for short trips however that Camry has lasted 25 years and can be sold to someone to be driven 5 more years. A $40,000 EV will likely cost much more in repairs over the same period of time.

It will be under warranty for most of that.

Chevrolet says that the Bolt gains 4 miles of range for each hour it’s charged or 48 miles over a 12 hour charging period, like overnight. That’s with a 120V outlet. I doubt that there is any significant improvement for any other EV, it’s limited by the power supplied. A 120V charger is not acceptable for most commuters, IMO.

I doubt that the OP’s mother will drive for much more than 3 to 5 years. I advocate repairing the Camry instead of buying a new EV. A few EVs don’t have the rebate anymore since enough were sold. The 240V charger could cost as much as $1800 near me. I looked into it. I had to install a 240V circuit breaker and run a new electric line across the house, then into the garage. I wouldn’t need an expanded circuit breaker system, but some people might, and that’s even more money.

I have known younger folks who couldn’t consistently remember to take their wallet when they left the house. That can be problematic if you are pulled-over by the cops.

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Good way to avoid oil sludging issues. No oil.