This is (was) my electric car.
I was disturbed to be guzzling down gas at 15 mpg (and almost $4/gallon) in my V8 Toyota 4Runner, but I also need that vehicle to transport my horse to shows that nobody else at my barn goes to. Competing my horse is pretty much the only thing I do in life (besides the normal, like work and family), so it’s super important to me.
In July 2017, I got a job about 20 miles away that required working 8:00 to 5:00 and commuting on the 405. Anyone in SoCal understands that is a good hour+ commute each way. While my husband was looking at cars one day, he spotted this VW e-Golf. It was used and already had the diamond lane stickers–in California, you can apply for carpool lane stickers if you drive a clean-air vehicle.
The car cost $16,000, about half of its “new car” MSRP (it was a year old). I can’t remember how many miles it had on it, but not many. It came with a 10 year/100k-mile warranty on the battery, my biggest worry. We decided to scoop it up since there was a car charging station at my job.
Pros and Cons
Pros: All-electric vehicle (EV), not hybrid, uses zero gasoline. Sticker to drive in carpool lane and reduce commute time by half or more. Not spending $250/month on gas anymore (spending about $4/day or $80/month to charge at work instead). Brake energy no longer wasted–it’s used to charge battery. Electric motors have much simpler design (fewer moving parts) than an internal combustion engine, making them more reliable. No oil changes needed. Lower center of gravity makes for nice, sporty driving. Extremely high torque means incredible acceleration from a standstill, which is safer for merging onto roads and highways here.
Cons: Not yet available in large SUV/truck (this is a big con for me with my trailer, or anyone with lots of kids to drive around, who only wants to care for one vehicle). My car had about an 80-mile “range” before recharging was needed, so it couldn’t be driven on long trips (I didn’t have a fast-charge port, only slow & medium). So you’d technically need a 2nd car with hybrid or regular gas engine to drive across state lines to grandma’s if you can’t fly/train/bus there. And finally: availability of charging stations.
Pictured: 4 EV chargers near my work. My eGolf and its blue twin.
This was the one that did me in. If you have a garage, you can easily plug your car into a regular outlet after work until the following morning (“slow charge”), or have electrician install the “medium” speed charger–the same type of outlet as a stove or clothes dryer–which will give you plenty of daily commuting juice in about 4-5 hours.
Since I live in a condo with no charging station, I was dependent on my charger at work. I switched jobs in October 2017 and, thankfully, still was close to a car-charging station at the new job. Charging there cost $1/hour.
A Change of Circumstances
But then my company was bought out and I was sent to work from home in March 2018. At first, I tried to drive to the nearest charger a few miles from my house. There was only one unit, and it always had a car attached. It also had a one-hour time limit (useless!). I drove to the next closest chargers… also all occupied. With feet left to drive before running out of charge, I found a public park that closed in 1 hour with an open charger (you can locate all the chargers around you on a phone app; some brands tell you if they are available or in use). Started to realize this was a nightmare.
Now that I would only be driving to see my horse every day, and of course there were no car chargers at the barn, I decided I really couldn’t keep the car. Best case, I could find a charger and, what, wait for 5 hours while it charged? (If the car had a fast-charge option, that would only take 30 minutes, but this was a feature I didn’t even know to ask about at the time we bought it.) Or walk 2 miles home and 2 miles back? (The car was too small to hold a bike inside.)
So we decided to sell it.
Now I’m back to the horse-transporting gas-guzzler. To be fair, none of my problems with an EV would be issues for anyone with a garage (containing an outlet) or a car with a fast-charging option. Also, newer electric cars have a hugely improved range–over 200 miles. In my area, there are plenty of charging stations and you could easily drive from L.A. to Vegas (300 miles) and beyond just by planning with an app and coordinating your fast-charges with rest/food stops.
The World is Almost Ready
I hope sharing my electric car story has shed some light on the topic. You definitely don’t need to spend $80,000 on a Tesla to enjoy the benefits of an electric car! For instance, the 2018 Chevy Bolt has a 238-mile range and $36,000 MSRP. That price will come down as the 2019s roll out (same battery range on the new ones).
2018 Chevrolet Bolt.
In fact, with more charging infrastructure and beefier vehicles, everyone could be driving EVs within one generation of auto-purchase turnover. It’s really the psychological grip of the gas-powered car that I see as the problem. Do you think it can/should be done? Please comment below.
I have lots more ideas for clean commuting that don’t even involve owning a car, but I’ll save that for another post 🙂
Post Script: What’s Super New is Actually Super Old
Right after I finished this post, I was watching a Netflix show about batteries (so important in the switch to electric cars). It turns out electric cars almost beat out internal combustion engines when cars first came out!
Sadly the batteries had some problems to be sorted out, and the Model T got the jump before they were perfected. Gas stations took the place of the electric car charging stations that were all over New York. Here is Jay Leno’s 1909 Baker electric that still runs!