By Sherry Listgarten
My Toyota is on life supportUploaded: Oct 31, 2021
Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of people are looking at EVs these days? A neighbor of mine who got a Kia Niro a few weeks ago remarked with some surprise: “You know, people just need to drive one!” It’s no coincidence that my gas-powered Toyota is now on life support. The battery couldn’t withstand the long stays in the garage.
Ironically, my gas-powered car now stays plugged in.
After two new batteries and three or four jump starts, an auto guy took pity on me and introduced me to the concept of a “battery trickler”, which gently keeps a battery charged. He said that some high-end Porsches are sold with one because the cars are driven so rarely. My humble RAV 4 is now a member of that idled rich class.
I used to love my Toyota but now I take the EV (a Chevrolet Bolt) everywhere I can. That surprises me some. I was kind of underwhelmed by the test drive three years ago -- the Bolt just seemed like a normal car. It wasn’t that quiet (I could still hear all the road noise), and it didn’t seem that different on the highway. I drove it because it was low-emission but after three years I’ve come to really appreciate the differences. Here are some of the unexpected (to me) things that I like about the car.
1. It is cheap to drive. I didn’t appreciate how much cheaper the EV would be to drive. With the price of gas today it would cost me around $40 to drive my Toyota from here to Truckee. That same trip costs me about $11 in my Bolt, assuming a relatively low highway mileage of 3.8 miles/kWh. (If that 220 miles were driven around town, it would cost me just over $9.) (1) When you have an EV it’s like having access to a $1.00/gallon gas pump. A silent pump that doesn’t smell, conveniently located in your garage.
My home charger says it has served 4765 kWh to date and saved me $2642 based on my gas car’s mileage (25 miles/gallon), my EV mileage (4.4 miles/kWh), the price of electricity ($0.194/kWh in Palo Alto), and the price of gas (I’m guessing it has averaged $4/gallon over the past three years). That is over $70 saved every month, and people who drive a lot would save even more. (2)
2. It is convenient to own. It is really nice filling up the car without visiting a gas station. Plus there are no oil changes, no check-ups. (The Bolt is having a battery recall, but any time someone wants to install a brand new battery in my EV, I’ll take it.)
3. One pedal driving is super easy. The Bolt recharges the battery when it uses the electric motor to slow down. To encourage the driver to slow the car with the motor instead of the brake pedal, the Bolt offers a one-pedal driving mode. In that mode when you take your foot off the accelerator, the car slows down as though you are braking. You only need to use the brake pedal for emergency stops.
It doesn’t take long to prefer one pedal driving. It’s a very smooth braking action, plus you get better mileage and your brakes don’t wear out. The only downside is that when you need to drive a gas-powered car you might forget that you need to brake!
4. There is no exhaust. The EV never smells and doesn’t pollute the area where I’m driving. Whenever I see the layer of smog over the bay, it’s nice to know that I’m not contributing to it. Driving without polluting is a wonderful thing. Another nice benefit of no exhaust: I love heating the car up in the garage on a cold day and not worrying about exhaust building up. With the Bolt you just push a button on the remote to get the car nice and warm before you get in.
5. A big battery is surprisingly useful. As one example, you can cool your car when it’s not even running. I’ve used this to keep my dog cool in a parking lot when it was hard to find shade. The Bolt limits this non-operating temperature control to 40 minutes. Other manufacturers are not so conservative. The Ford Lightning pickup advertises its 9.6 kW battery as enough to charge power tools or even to power a tailgate party complete with projector, PA system, portable hot tub, lights, portable AC, refrigerator, and two blenders (per Business Insider’s review). I expect car manufacturers will continue to find fun and interesting ways to take advantage of a big battery.
6. Left turns onto busy streets are so easy. An EV goes when you want it to go, and quickly. If you want to go left onto a busy street, no worry. I recently had to rent a gas car and driving it felt very sluggish in comparison.
7. The EV is quiet. I don’t notice this often, but I do at low speeds. You can poke slowly and carefully and easily into a garage or carport, or any tight space, without worrying about car noise or smell. My daughter says this is her favorite thing about the car, the quiet at low speeds.
The range has been fine for me, about 220 miles on highway on average and 250+ around town. I haven’t noticed much degradation in the battery range of the car over the three years I’ve owned it, which is great. In fact, only a 6-8% decrease in range is expected after about 100,000 miles.
I’d say the one thing I’ve noticed that can be a problem is if a charging station just doesn’t work. Once I went to two in a row and neither worked. I still don’t know if it was the chargers or something with the car. The lesson I learned is not to wait until the engine is empty to charge. Leave a buffer in case you need to go to another station.
My daughter says the thing she likes least about our car is that I talk about it too much :) It’s true, I charge it midday and I can’t get over the joy of driving on (mostly) sunshine.
I’d love to hear what you have discovered about your own EV, whether you’ve had it for a while or are still new to it.
Notes and References
1. This is at the Palo Alto “Tier 2” rate of $0.194/kWh.
2. I think this same lesson is going to play out with heating in buildings.
3. I am impressed with the sheer number and variety of EVs to be released in the next few years.
Current Climate Data (September 2021)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)
One more thing...
Take a look at this great short piece by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic about what we stand to gain or lose from the machinations in Congress on climate funding. I particularly appreciate his first paragraph’s many renditions of “It has to pass!" I agree.
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