Let’s Calm Down With the EV Zero to 60 Times

Unless you’re buying an EV sports car, let’s forget this metric

According to Tesla, the Model S Plaid will do zero to 60 in 1.99 seconds, but it really doesn't matter in everyday driving.

Don't get me wrong. That's quicker than the time it takes to read this sentence. It's a marvel of engineering. And while that type of acceleration used to be reserved for race cars and jets, it's now available to the general public, thanks to electric motors. They are outstanding torque machines, and if an automaker has the will, they can build vehicles that pull off zero to 60 times that would shock and amaze drivers. 

The Tesla Model S Plaid.


Except, they shouldn't. The desire to hit that 60-mile-per-hour mark quicker and quicker makes sense for a race car or high-end sports car. Just because we can doesn't mean we should, and the EV acceleration arms race is essentially meaningless during day-to-day driving. We're not hitting the track, we're commuting to work and heading to the supermarket for groceries. It's time to focus on handling, suspension, and range ahead of neck-snapping acceleration. 

Safety and Experience 

Everyone thinks they're a really good driver. The reality is a bit more sobering. We become better at a task based on repetition, and that's only if we are willing to concentrate on improving our skills. Highway driving and cruising around town don't give you the skill set to handle a high-performance vehicle. 

Professional drivers, especially race car drivers, have honed their craft since they were little kids. Before they had a driver's license, they were tiny helmeted athletes competing on tracks. 

A fun anecdotal story I like to tell is the time I was in a Model S with someone that wasn't an automotive journalist. We were at a Tesla event, and the company offered launch mode experiences on a closed road. The acceleration of a high-end EV is exhilarating and extremely foreign to most people. You can actually feel portions of your body morphing in response to the sudden onset of speed. This individual did everything right until we got underway. The speed was so overwhelming they didn't realize how quickly we were approaching the end of the road. They had blown past the braking zone, and I had to yell at them to stop. 

Aerial view of two Mazda sports cars on an empty street.


Now, after repeated launched, they would have become more comfortable with the experience and slowed down appropriately. But what happens when that amount of acceleration is met with something appearing on the road? Without the relevant skill set built over years of experience, things could quickly go sideways. Literally. 

The Gimmick

After pulling it off a few times alone and then showing off to all your friends, launch mode on most vehicles just sits idle. It's a gimmick. A way to sell cars with a number that means nothing outside of bragging to friends. How often are people at a dead stop on a road with no other traffic in sight? Yes, on-ramp acceleration is important to match traffic flow, but vehicles with zero to 60 times of 10 seconds really don't have a problem getting up to highway speed when entering the roadway. 

My second car was a 1990 Honda Civic hatchback. Apparently, it went from zero to 60 in 11 seconds. That's laughably slow by today's standards. But for the 15 years I drove that vehicle, I never felt like I was in mortal danger because it took longer to get to 65 miles per hour on a California highway. For one of those years, I was a runner for a TV studio in Los Angeles, and I spent six out of the eight hours of my day driving around LA, delivering and picking random items. Having a high-performance EV that could hit Interstate 405 at 65 miles per hour in three seconds wouldn't have helped me on surface streets and gridlocked highways. Even when the traffic flowed freely, everyone traveled at the same speed. 

Slow Car Fast

There's a saying in the automotive world, "it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow." It's why the Mazda Miata is such a hit with enthusiasts. It's not a powerful roadster. But it handles like a dream and offers a more engaging experience behind the wheel. It's zero to 60 time is 5.7 seconds, way slower than a Model S Plaid, and you know what, its owners don't care. 

The Mazda MX5 on an inner city street.


EV owners need to start thinking like Miata owners. Going really fast in a short amount of time has become almost meaningless in today's driving environment. You're not Lewis Hamilton. You're just a regular person that wants a fun EV to get around town. Blasting down the road in record time puts you and everyone in danger.

Instead, find the joy in learning how to better tackle the roads around your home. Get better by driving slower and ignoring those zero to 60 times quoted by automakers. It's not about how fast you can get down the road. Instead, it's about your joy and the vehicle's utility getting down that road and paying attention to the world instead of a stopwatch.

Want to know more about EVs? We have a whole section dedicated to electric vehicles!

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