People ask me all the time about going electric. Should they get a Tesla? A Volt? A Bolt or an i3? I dunno. Maybe. Honestly, I’m the wrong person to ask because I’ve never done it. So I’d rather defer to people I know who have already taken the plunge. One of the best is my pal, & EV owner/writer David Ringgold Lardner.
I met David on the Volvo S60 launch in Northern California. An instant friend, David shares my sick sense of humor, a knack for Hollywood trivia and a true passion for consumer advocacy. David is an automotive writer for such sites as Inside EVs and Clark Howard and his own site autopinions.org. His is an early adopter of electric vehicles and a great proponent of alternative fuel. Here is his advice to the aspiring EV driver. Take it away David!
I hear the story over and over and it’s always the same.
Friend: “We went car shopping and saw a really cool EV. But, we just couldn’t do it.”
Me: “So, what did you get?”
Friend: “An Expedition.”
I’m here to tell you that can do the EV thing and why you shouldn’t fear it. It’s as simple as letting go of preconceived notions about how far we need to be prepared to drive at any given moment. The need to be prepared to drive 400 miles not dissimilar to convincing ourselves that we need to be driving an SUV because we’ve convinced ourselves that the roads could turn into molasses without a moment’s notice. If we’re not over-prepared, we’re not prepared.
Lots of us live in multi-car households and most of us drive about the same number of miles on a daily basis. Most of us like to save money where we can. Some of us like to have a little fun with our cars and most of us would really, really like to limit the amount of time and money spent servicing our cars. Oh, and we all like to breathe clean air.
Come along with me to see why at least one EV should grace your driveway.
First, a little background. The missus and I both drive electric cars every day and neither of them are Teslas. Neither of us rely much on public charging infrastructure nor have we “bricked” our cars on the side of the freeway.
Range Anxiety will Pass
“I’ve got range anxiety.” Yeah, we all do. I’m the first to admit that at first it’s a real mind bender to drive a car that, when fully charged, has a range that’s essentially equivalent to that where most folks start looking for a gas station. So, how do you know if an EV is right for you?
The simple answer is to record the number of miles you drive on a daily basis. If you’re under 60 miles per day, even the EV with the most mediocre range will work for you. With an EPA rated range of 62 miles, the Mitsubishi iMIEV is the shortest range EV on the market and I know from personal experience that it works (and that it can be had for a ridiculously low price). Other EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric can be had for a crazy-cheap price on the used market and can easily cover the national average of 35-40 miles per day.
So, in multi-car households, if you both fall within the national average of miles driven per day, one car can easily be an EV. Just be prepared to switch cars if the EV driver needs to drive further on occasion than what could be reasonably expected from the EV.
You’ll get rich
You’ll save big bucks. How much you save is directly tied to how, when and where you charge. In Metro Atlanta, we pay from just under 6 cents to just under 10 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity with most households falling into the highest rate. So what does that mean?
I drive a BMW i3 and, if I average 4 miles per kWh, that means that at 10 cents per kWh it costs me 50 cents to drive 20 miles. Our one remaining internal combustion vehicle (that runs on premium and gets 25 mpg) easily costs 4 – 5 times that for 20 miles. Yeah, cheap. Add solar into the equation and that drops the price even more. Some utilities offer reduced prices after midnight and most EVs offer the ability to schedule when they begin their charging.
There’s also a $7500 Federal Tax Credit and lots of states also offer incentives. (Mama’s Note: CA residents enjoy great incentives like rebates, free parking & carpool lane access) Even some electric utilities offer rebates for home charger installation.
If you have to rely on the public charging infrastructure, that will raise the cost per mile. And, if you regularly use the fast chargers, that can eat up any real savings over gasoline. So, if you don’t have your own space for a charger, a lot of the financial benefits can disappear quickly. Pro tip: If you have to rely on public charging, download Plugshare and find a place to charge practically anywhere. You’ll be glad you did.
You’ll be fast
With no pesky transmissions mucking up acceleration and with motors offering 100% of available torque immediately, EVs can be downright entertaining. Pro tip: The BMW i3 is insanely fast from a stop light. I regularly beat muscle cars of the line. It’s kind of fun to see the faces of the vanquished in their Challengers as they get beaten by a boxy BMW on pizza cutter tires.
Less time in the service department means more time burning up the roads
No oil changes. No filter changes. No radiator. No spark plugs. In fact, the lack of moving parts make fossil fueled cars seem so last century. The fact that there’s no transmission is offset by the fact that eventually the batteries will need to be replaced. But, fear not! Batteries are getting cheaper and transmissions are getting increasingly complex and more expensive to repair and replace.
Braking is one for my favorite aspects of EVs. Braking in an EV starts first with the electric motor turning into a generator. That means kinetic energy that is lost in traditional cars by being converted to heat and dissipated through the brakes is recaptured and sent back to the batteries. That, in turn, means dramatically less brake wear. In five years, we have yet to have any repair or servicing on the brakes on any of our EVs.
Be less of a problem
The air in cities gets cleaner with fewer internal combustion vehicles on the road. That doesn’t mean EVs don’t contribute to pollution though. What they do, however, is move the source of pollution out of the cities where there are more people to be directly affected by said emissions. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.
Be Holier than thou
It used to be hybrid drivers that were considered the smuggest of all drivers. In fact, South Park did a great job of right-sizing the hybrid mentality in “Smug Alert!”. So, step aside hybrid drivers. There’s a new version of the self-satisfied eco warrior and we’re in EVs. You should consider joining us. Smug can be fun….
…and it doesn’t have to be like this.