Those New Fangled Electric Cars

Electric car charging station located by U.S. Department of Agriculture is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

I am an advocate for changing the ways that we live if that will help to slow down climate change. I know all of the arguments for and and against such a shift in my daily habits, so I have decided that it is simply time for me to do my part even if it only makes a tiny difference. With that in mind my husband and I have been discussing the idea of purchasing an electric car. It’s a small step, but one in which I would like to lead the way. For that reason my husband rented a Tesla recently so that we might learn what it is like to give up a gasoline driven auto.

We asked for the Tesla Model 3 since that would be our most likely choice if we were to buy an EV. Even with the government rebate it’s cost is still far higher than we have ever spent on an automobile. We wanted to test drive one for a couple of days to get a feel for the pros and the cons of owning such a car. I have to say that it was a fun experience.

The car was small but incredibly roomy. The seats were as comfortable as those in a luxury car. The view from the front and rear windows was better than I have ever experienced. I saw things as we travelled down the road that I have never noticed before. Much of that extra window space in a Tesla is afforded by a lowered dashboard without the clutter that is present in ordinary cars. A large computer screen holds the key to operating virtually every aspect of the Tesla and in most cases the features are easily accessible with voice commands. 

The ride was almost hauntingly quiet without the sound of a roaring engine. The fittings were tight enough that not even road noise seemed to intrude on the experience. The navigation system was easy to follow and track with a large map tracing every mile that we travelled. The screen instantly posted updated speed limits and constantly showed the positions of other vehicles on the road. When making turns a live camera provided images of oncoming cars in an effort to rid the driver of the kind of blind spots that have the potential of resulting in a collision. There were warnings for red lights and reminders for the change to green lights. The backup camera gave such a wide view that there was little danger of hitting some hidden object while moving backwards. With eight cameras it was easy to be aware of the entirety of the driving environment. 

The pickup in the Teslas was amazing. I had imagined that it would be sluggish compared to the more powerful cars I have driven in the past, but it easily went from thirty miles per hour to eighty in a matter of seconds. It’s turning radius was unbelievable as well. In fact, we were able to maneuver out of some fairly sought spots with ease. 

As someone who normally drives a pickup truck I think about hauling things. The Tesla Model 3 had an enormous amount of space in the trunk, and since the usual apparatus found under the hood of traditional cars is not needed, there was an added area for storage known as the “frunk.” Electric cars have no need of radiators or oil or mufflers or gas tanks. The biggest part is the battery which rides underneath the chassis. Larger Tesla models are even more roomy, but also more pricey and not eligible for federal rebates. 

If we were to purchase any kind of electric car we would need a way to charge it. We’d have an electrician install the needed electric outlet in our garage and as long as we were simply tooling around town we would have no need for concern. We’d simply plug the car into the charging station anytime we were not using it. The anxiety of owning an electric automobile comes from taking long trips too far away from home for a recharge. We learned with our test drive that finding available charging stations is not nearly as easy as pulling into a gas station. Our first foray was unsuccessful as we attempted to navigate the system for purchasing the charge. There was an app for the process that took a long time to install after requiring that we provide tons of information. It occurred to us that in a place without good cell phone power we might find ourselves in the lurch. Charging away from home seems to be the weakest link in the present. The infrastructure for EVs is sorely lacking. 

I’d like to think that more and more attention will be given to providing charging stations over time. The companies that do such things need to make the process as easy and intuitive as purchasing gasoline. Phone apps are fine but it would be best to also allow major credit cards and eventually specific credit cards for the different charging companies. Engineers also need to work on making the charging process quicker and quicker. Nobody wants to have to kill time for an hour waiting for a full charge.

I know that a Texas concern called Buccee’s is planning to enlarge many of their locations to include blocks of charging stations. Since the company also features the cleanest restrooms on the planet and stores filled with food, snacks and gifts, charging there will be a fun experience. Hopefully over time it will also become a fast one as well. 

For now I would be more likely to use an electric car for my in town driving which would be a considerable percentage of my total driving needs. For trips over two hundred miles one way I’d need a bit more assurance that I will be able to recharge my car when needed. I’d probably stick with my gasoline powered machine until the infrastructure for electric travel reaches equilibrium with the number of electric vehicles on the road. While I believe that the electric car will one day overtake the ones that most of us now drive, I can see the drawbacks for attempting to totally rely on them right now. Still, I hope to become an owner of an electric model of some kind very soon. Maybe one day I can even purchase an electric pickup truck. I’ve got my eye on the Rivian but it’s price is a bit above my paygrade. I think I’ll start a little smaller than that.


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