Ten Things That Surprised Me About Electric Vehicle OwnershipReading Time: 6 minutes
How Owning an Electric Vehicle Has Made Me an Advocate for Life
I’m Lee Ezell, the manager of the Vehicle Knowledge Center at AMCI. And while it’s my passion to learn about and develop an appreciation for every vehicle on the market, I can’t say I ever considered myself to be the target demographic for an electric vehicle purchase. Sure, I’m an early adopter of sorts. I’ve had DirecTV since 1994, I had MiniDisc players in my vehicles six months after the format launched (okay, so some of my purchases didn’t pan out). But I’m also a gearhead who craves performance. I’m a husband who loves to take his wife to dinner in downtown Atlanta, 45 miles away. I’m a father of two children who have school and sports activities seemingly all over the Southeast.
Yet, here I am, the owner of an BMW i3. And no one was more surprised than me. What’s been more surprising, however, is what I’ve learned over the past 30 months of electric vehicle ownership.
My Top-10 Electric Vehicle Ownership Surprises
1. IT’S JUST LIKE A NORMAL CAR
I get in, I start the vehicle, I drive off. I go to work (a one-hour commute), hit a restaurant for lunch, pick up the dry cleaning on the way home and pull into my garage. That was 76 miles, easily within the range of any electric vehicle sold today. I made zero compromises in my drive. So other than the fact that I plug it into the wall at the end of the day, there’s no difference between this and any other car.
2. BUT IT’S NOT LIKE A NORMAL CAR
Yeah, okay, there are SOME differences. But man, do I like them. Tons of instant torque (see surprise 6, below). The only time I stop at a gas station is when I run low on gum, not gasoline. For me, however, the most enjoyable difference is the single-pedal driving experience. This feature is a function of i3’s regenerative braking system. At driving schools, we CONSTANTLY teach students that “eyes up” is key for performance driving. It’s the same for single-pedal driving. Being able to predict conditions ahead helps you know when to release the accelerator pedal and use regenerative braking to its fullest. I find daily satisfaction in my ability to release the accelerator at the exact right time to come to a stop at a stop sign without so much as touching the brake pedal. It’s the little victories.
3. IT’S AFFORDABLE TO GET INTO
How did I even end up in an electric vehicle? Well, incentives sure didn’t hurt. The federal tax credit certainly helps, with up to $7,500 available on many EVs out there. A discussion of how the federal credit works is too long for this post. One main point is that, if you’re leasing a vehicle, the credit goes to the manufacturer, not you. But manufacturers normally apply that entire credit toward your lease of the vehicle. Plus, many EVs carry additional manufacturer incentives and discounts. Add any state tax incentives plus electric utility discounts or rebates, and electric vehicles become extremely affordable.
At AMCI, we have a dedicated team that supports us by using digital intelligence platforms to listen to millions of news items, blogs and social media conversations regarding electric vehicles. They shared with me that high purchase price is one of the most common misperceptions about EVs. I guess I’m not alone in my surprise at electric vehicle affordability.
4. MY ELECTRIC VEHICLE IS EVEN MORE AFFORDABLE IN DAILY LIFE THAN I THOUGHT
Beyond the credits, there’s the day-to-day cost. The window sticker on my electric vehicle said that over five years, I would save $9,000 in fuel costs compared to the average new vehicle. That’s a bit vague, but I know that my average cost to recharge the vehicle per week was $10.77. That was for 535 miles of driving, at an average “fuel” cost of 2 cents per mile. Your electric utility may also offer an electricity rate for electric vehicle owners that can make it even more affordable. Plus, service costs are lower (no oil to change) and some items wear at a slower rate (brake pads are used much less on a vehicle with regenerative braking). At the end of the vehicle’s life in your garage, you may find that your savings over a comparable non-electric vehicle can reach five figures (just save some money for tires, see surprise 6, below).
5. IT WASN’T HARD TO GET STARTED CHARGING AT HOME
It can be daunting to consider adding a Level 2 charging station to your garage, but it doesn’t need to be. Many electric vehicle manufacturers offer their own charger and installation service that can be rolled into the cost of the vehicle itself (helping pay for it over time). Others have partnerships with outside vendors, such as ChargePoint, that operate similarly. Audi is even partnering with Amazon Home Services to make installation as easy as shopping online. And, if you can’t add a dedicated 240-volt charger at home, you still can use the 120-volt outlets in your home to get your vehicle juiced up.
6. IT’S FUN
What’s the quickest accelerating car made by BMW, Nissan or Chevrolet? Well, looking purely at 0–30 acceleration, it just might be the i3, LEAF or Bolt, respectively. Instant torque = instant fun at any stoplight. And that same torque is immediately available any time I exit a corner, enabling me to launch like a (silent) rocket out of every S-curve I come across. I have to keep in mind, however, that the same torque that powers tons of giggles is also attempting to rip the treads off of my tires every time I launch. So I have to balance my fun factor with my tire budget.
7. IT’S HACKABLE AND UPGRADABLE
Everyone knows about Tesla pushing out updates to their cars over the air. But the Muskmobiles aren’t the only ones that can be tweaked. Want to turn off low speed creep in your Nissan LEAF? Do a little digging online and you can probably find a LEAF NISMO ECU for sale in Japan. Want your BMW i3 to start off in Eco Pro mode instead of Comfort? With 5 minutes, a laptop and the right cable, you can make that happen. In fact, my son and I spent a lazy Saturday afternoon tweaking our BMW i3 into a vehicle that was even more enjoyable AND usable than the one I drove off the showroom floor—and we didn’t get a single drop of grease on our hands doing it.
8. I CAN TRULY USE MY ELECTRIC VEHICLE AS MY ONLY CAR 99% OF THE TIME
Remember what I said about our kids? Yeah, they’re busy. And nothing will test the utility of a vehicle like kids’ sports. I’ve put some serious miles on our i3 driving our son to his baseball games. In addition to his catcher bag, we carry an EZ Up tent, a cooler, chairs and plenty of water. Together, we’ve covered nearly 8,000 miles around the diamonds of the Southeast in our electric vehicle. It was thoroughly enjoyable and we didn’t compromise anything. And, believe me, there are few things more enjoyable in Atlanta in August than walking back to the parking lot having already used the app on your phone to cool down your car down ahead of time.
9. SOME DEALERS HAVEN’T YET EMBRACED ELECTRIC VEHICLES
I have to say, as much as I truly love the i3, the initial buying process was not enjoyable(they should have read our blog on improving the EV buying experience). When it came to EVs, the dealership that I purchased from was a dinosaur. Sales associates didn’t seem to know a ton about the vehicle, even though they had been selling them for two years. My dealership was extremely unhelpful in setting up the free charging account that was promised with the vehicle—and I still don’t have it set up to this day. The vehicle didn’t come with the Level 1 charger when delivered, something I didn’t find out about until I got home. And every single time I’ve been to the dealership, the two parking spaces set aside for EVs had gasoline-powered cars blocking the charge stations. The industry has a long way to go at the dealership level, but as EVs become more common there is reason for hope.
10. IT TURNED ME INTO AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE ADVOCATE FOR LIFE
The electric vehicle purchase was originally just to save money on my daily commute to work. It would get me into the HOV lane for free, it would save money on fuel (my workplace has chargers) and it had a very attractive lease. But very quickly, our family grew to love “Baby Car.” Within four months, I raised the mileage limit on my lease, because I knew we were going to be driving this as much as we could. It was a ton of fun, had plenty of room and was saving us real money on a daily basis.
Beyond that, I knew that driving this was making a difference, however small, for our children. How clean was my car? The Union of Concerned Scientists’ How Clean Is Your Electric Vehicle tool showed that, in my location in Georgia, our i3 produced less global warming pollution than any gasoline or diesel vehicle (regular, hybrid or PHEV) sold in the U.S. I think that if everyone were to embrace the electric vehicle lifestyle to the extent that they’re able to, the combined benefit could truly make an impact. And I know that moving forward, we will always have a charger on the wall in our garage along with a vehicle to use it.
A recent survey from Volvo and The Harris Poll found that 74% of American drivers believe that EVs are the future of driving. Based on my experience, the future is already here and it’s surprisingly enjoyable!
Lee Ezell has been with AMCI for 20 years. Lee brings a motorsport background to his focus on automotive product knowledge, automotive curriculum development and automotive experiential marketing activation. Most recently, he served as the Team Director for AMCI at the Porsche Experience Centers in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Around here Lee is known as a true automotive enthusiast who was born with gasoline in his veins. Now, we’re happy to say, electrons mix with that gasoline.
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- Posted on March 11, 2019