After all these years of being a “car guy”, it’s over. This part of my life has come to an end. Thinking back on all the time spent “wrenching,” searching for parts, being distracted by rising gas prices, and cleaning my hands with a Lava Bar, I can now officially say that I’m done with it. Why? It’s due to that oddly styled car above – a BMW i3 – my first electric vehicle (or EV).
To be candid, I hadn’t expected to get the car when I visited the dealership last November. I just thought a rainy day was a good excuse to explore first-hand the state of EV technology. For environmental reasons, my wife and I had wanted to go electric years ago. We even over-invested in home solar panels with the thought that someday we would be driving an EV. We just didn’t realize that it would take more than a decade before we found the right car.
Tesla has amazing vehicles, but they weren’t the size (or price) for us. Other manufacturers have paid lip-service to electric power by installing batteries and an electric motor into existing models. The i3 was interesting because it was (like the Tesla) designed from the ground up as an EV. All it took was a ten minute test drive and I was hooked. Now, six months later, I can’t imagine driving anything but an EV.
I went back and did the math. Since getting my driver’s license at the age of 16, I have visited a gas station more than 2,000 times. With the i3, I just drive past them – and that drive is eerily silent. It’s especially jarring at stoplights. You see the cars around you vibrating, spewing hydrocarbons and generating noise and heat. In an EV all is quiet and you pull away feeling a bit better about your impact on the planet.
EVs are also a hell of a lot of fun to drive. When you hit the pedal, you go! It feels like one of those childhood carnival rides that left a strange sensation in the pit of your stomach. Perhaps, that’s why when friends borrow my car they always return it with a big grin.
Range anxiety is the reason most people give for not make the transition to an EV. “I need a car that I can drive to… (pick your remote location).” To which I reply, “How often do you make that drive?” On average Americans commute approximately 30 miles per day in the U.S. which is more than sufficient range for most EVs. My i3, for example, gets about 120 miles on a charge (with an additional 70 miles using the range extender). In part this is due to a very aggressive regenerative braking system – when you take your foot off the pedal it recharges the battery. The fact is that I’ve found the i3 to be more than adequate for almost all of my driving needs during the last six months.
A little more than a century ago, Frank Duryea first drove a combustion engine car – the replacement for travel by horse. Now, another transformation is taking place as transportation shifts to electric and fuel cell powered automobiles. And coming over the horizon is a time when widespread car ownership is a thing of the past as individuals and communities shift to ride sharing and autonomous vehicles.
I, for one, will never look back. (Although I will miss the smell of Lava soap.)