I’ve now driven more than one year with an electric car. I want to share a few thoughts about what I’ve learned for people who are thinking about giving up their gas cars. I think you’ll be in for some surprises.
I live in the U.S., so some of this will vary according to where you live.
Using The Carpool Lane is Awesome, But …
One of the perks of driving an EV in Arizona is that you can use the carpool lane if you have the right license plate (you have to ask for it). The speeds in the carpool — or HOV Lane, if you like the bureaucratic version — stay a lot more consistent. When everyone slows down for whatever reason, the carpool lane mostly keeps humming.
There’s just one problem: Many people think the carpool lane is really the Drive as Fast as You Want Lane. This creates some dangerous situations. And many of these people don’t have the plates and are alone in their car and thus shouldn’t even be in the carpool lane anyway. I’m usually driving 70 in a 65, which is speeding. But these people don’t think I’m speeding enough. Things being what they are, they get away with driving 85mph+. Which is ridiculously stupid: It’s dangerous, obviously, and it turns their gas mileage to shit. And does it save much time? No, because they’ll still get stuck at traffic lights on surface streets.
You Don’t Need Charging Stations
For the first six months or so, I relied on charging at charging stations like ChargePoint, Blink, Volta and others. I favored the free ones, which are fairly plentiful (Blink is a huge rip off). I covered this adequately in an earlier post, so I recommend reading that post for more information, including my recent project to install a 240-volt line at my house.
Driving a Gas-Powered Car Will Suck
Sometimes, I have to drive my wife’s 2017 Subaru Forester. And boy, does it suck. Before getting my EV, I actually liked it.
But when I get into my EV and push the button, there’s no noise or vibration. There’s also no heat pouring off of it after I drive 20 miles. That noise, vibration and heat is inefficiency.
After a few months driving an EV, you’ll be disgusted by the lurching transmission shifts, the noise, the vibration and the slow acceleration.
I know car enthusiasts will argue this point with me. But here’s the thing: I’ve driven gasmobiles far more than they’ve driven electric cars. They have no frame of reference. They have never driven an electric car for months and gone back to their clunky gas jalopies.
Your Electric Car Will Save You Time
Think of all the time you’ve spent at gas stations and getting oil changes. Those days are over. It’s awesome to wake up or leave your desk in the evening to a "full tank."
Getting your juice will be as quick as plugging a cell phone into a wall. It’s weirdly liberating.
After one year of driving an electric car, all this time adds up.
You Can Do Anything You Want in an Electric Car
The top-of-the-line electric cars are getting around 300 miles per charge. The lesser ones get 150, but can re-charge to 80 percent pretty quickly. In the middle, you have some that are getting about 230 miles. That compares to my dear departed Subaru Forester, which got about 350 miles per tank.
But here’s the thing: How often do you drive that far? And how far do you ever drive without stopping to eat, drink or use a toilet?
My bet is about 100 miles or so. So the difference in miles traveled per tank or per charge is insignificant. The arguments against electric car range are for trips that constitute the tiniest portion of trips taken. Electric cars can more than handle your average daily commute, and many of the newer ones are great for road trips.
Still Good Reasons Not to Get an Electric Car
There are two things preventing most people from getting an electric car:
First is form factor. Americans love SUVs. And the only readily available electric SUV right now is the Tesla Model X. The Model Y will mark the beginning of the end of the gas engine, but it’s still a few years away. Toyota had a huge head start with its RAV4 EV collaboration with Tesla, and they squandered it in favor of hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. Pair that with their deceptively advertised "self-charging hybrids," and you have a brand in decline. The other electric cars are sedans and smallish wagons. Nissan is clearly milking gas engines for all their worth while paying lip service to electric vehicles with the compromised LEAF. If they were serious, they’d already offer an electric version of the Murano (with active thermal management to preserve the batteries).
Second is cost. Brand-new EVs are still a bit more expensive. The brands that still qualify for the federal tax credit definitely lessen that burden. But in most cases, car buyers have to front the cost and get their money back in April when tax return season rolls around (I wonder how that skews the electric car sales data -- if I were buying a new qualifying vehicle, I’d wait until December for sure). Still, cost will decline as battery cost dives. Which it’s done consistently in recent years.
Even One EV in Your Household Helps
Since getting my EV, my wife drives a lot less. Her work commute is pretty short, and I handle all the weekend driving. We’ll use her Subaru for long trips; my early-generation EV isn’t suited for the long distances and off-roading.
But one year with an electric car has cut down on our collective gas use. And I don’t see any way that there will be another gas-powered vehicle in our house in the future. They’re just inferior. Even ignoring any concern for pollution, they’re more fun to drive and way less maintenance-intensive.
People Have No Idea About Electric Vehicles
After one year with an electric car, I constantly field the same questions. Let me recap them with some quick answers.
I hear Teslas don’t really work.
In what way? I don’t drive a Tesla, but it is the gold standard in EVs. The software is ridiculously advanced. They are also extremely efficient if you measure them by kilowatt-hours to the mile. Used correctly, the Autopilot feature is mind-blowing.
And no, they don’t catch on fire more than gas vehicles. But a Tesla on fire is considered newsworthy. A gas-powered car? It doesn’t get any press. Ask yourself why.
Electric vehicles use "rare earth" minerals/pollute more because of how they’re built/are powered by coal.
There’s a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists that debunks this all. It’s long, but well worth reading.
Global warming is a hoax.
OK. Let’s say it is. Forget global warming or climate change or whatever you want to call it. Think locally. What will happen if you have fewer tailpipes spewing emissions? How will that affect your local air quality? What if your streets become quieter because you don’t have a bunch of diesel trucks roaring? Does that sound bad in any way? What if you have fewer people going into a gas station and loading up on sugary snacks while paying for their gas? What if there are fewer tanker trucks on the roads bringing gas into your neighborhoods? What exactly sounds bad it this scenario?
I just like the sound of an engine.
Surely there has to be better ways to get attention. I really don’t understand the fixation on noise. My EV makes enough noise to warn a pedestrian -- the sound is like listening to a taxiing jet fighter (but from a long distance).
Now, I know a lot of Americans don’t like to walk. But if you’re one of those people who walk, what would you think of a lot less engine noise? It sounds pretty nice.
Money is Behind the Anti-EV Rhetoric
The electric vehicle is upsetting a lot of corporate gravy trains. Dealerships won’t make as much money on maintenance. Oil companies will face falling demand for gasoline and diesel. And even convenience stores, like I mentioned: They’ll have fewer people making impulse buys while they put gas in their cars.
This is a huge shift. There’s still money to be made and jobs to be had with electric cars. They’re just going to be different. This happened before when we shifted from horses to electric cars. Not as many people need someone to shoe their horses? Hello, auto mechanic. This shift isn’t a problem: It’s an opportunity.
I can’t wait for a new generation of EV modders and mechanics to rise. It will be pretty cool to see how they innovate with a new platform!
Of course, the status quo doesn’t see it that way. They’d rather use their money to squash innovation. Just look at Chevrolet’s EV-1 debacle, and how they deliberately compromised the Bolt EV.
Wrapping Up One Year With an Electric Car
There’s just no going back for me. The smooth acceleration, low maintenance and cheap energy make me pity the poor gas engine. Its days are nearly over.