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    Who Wants an Electric Car?

    By Philip Ruth–

    This is a tricky time for electric vehicles. Up until now, they’ve been bought by early adopters, the folks who hop onto the forefront of new technology. These people accept unforeseen variables as part of the deal. 

    By contrast, mainstream buyers are more provincial. They like their changes in steps, and that’s just in regard to styling. Mess with refueling habits and add in some range anxiety, and most buyers will tuck back into their shells like spooked hermit crabs.

    That’s what Ford and others are learning as EV acquisitions lag behind dealer inventory figures. Business Insider reports that once-scarce Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning models now have deep benches. Ford reportedly has built 150,000 Mustang Mach-Es so far, and it appears that many thousands of them are waiting on showroom floors like hopeful pups at the animal shelter. And like a puppy, an EV requires some lifestyle modification. 

    The electric Mini Cooper SE has its own historic market story: it’s the last subcompact hatchback on the U.S. market. Now that Mitsubishi has canceled the Mirage, a crude guilty pleasure of a car if there ever was one, the last of the sub-$20,000 cars has left the U.S. new-car market, seemingly for good. 

    The Mini has defined its premium vibe off the backs of cheaper competing hatchbacks—there’s an actual brand heritage here—and now in 2023, the two-door stands alone. And, judging from the frequency of electric-Mini lease deals in my phone’s ad feed, the company would really like to sell these Cooper SEs. 

    Those who take the bait will love their Cooper SEs as most owners love their Minis, because it is a certifiable kick to drive. If one hatchback is going to survive on our crossover- and SUV-choked roads, then I’m glad it’s the Mini. They are expensive to fix off-warranty, but driving a Mini connects you to an ethos that aims directly at your own core of enthusiasm. 

    The Mustang Mach-E is also a pleasure. It’s bigger and heavier than the Cooper SE, but it likewise turns into a corner with settled precision.

    As for ranges, Mustang Mach-E estimates 226–250 miles across its trim levels, while the Cooper SE claims 114 miles. If you’re driving up and down San Francisco hills as I did with the air conditioning on and the radio blaring, you’d expect to chop at least 20% off those projections. More if you step into the sporty driving they encourage. 

    That means the Mustang Mach-E could reasonably be folded into a flexible charging schedule, while the Cooper SE would perhaps be a bit more rigid. I see the Mini as a terrific city car docking in a garage with Level Two charging, going from nothing to a full charge in four hours. 

    Mustang Mach-E also has Level Two charging, and it tracks that double the capacity would take eight hours to fully charge.  

    These are two very appealing EVs. Question is, who will buy them?

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on August 24, 2023