Electric: It’s not the future. It’s the Present!

(Affiliate links follow, which basically means, if you click on them, I may be compensated – at no additional cost to you – if clicking turns to purchasing, so without further delay…)

Okay, at the risk of sounding like a smug so-and-so, the times, they are a changing, and it’s time I proselytize to all my friends, family, strangers, because friends don’t let friends drive ICE (Internal Combustion Engines).

2015 Fiat 500 e

Trust me, I’ve heard your arguments before, so let me recap:

  1. “It’s no cheaper to drive electric.” Not true. Electric is CHEAP!!! I keep reading articles that talk about the expense of driving electric. Of course, there is the outlay for a car. I’m not insensitive to the idea that not everyone can go out and buy a brand-new car! I get it. I hadn’t purchased a new car since 1996, but I promised myself, the next “new” car I purchased was going to be electric, or I wouldn’t buy a car. It will be several years before you begin to see a nice stock of used electric cars. Our first electric car was a used 2015 Fiat 500 e, purchased in 2018 for $10K. The second, was a new 2019 Kia Niro, purchased toward the end of 2020 three states away. It was around $25K after tax rebates. We sold our last internal combustion engine car for $5k and plunked it toward the cost of the Niro. It didn’t hurt that we were also mid-pandemic, so cars were not moving well.
  2. “It costs as much to ‘pump up’ an electric car as a gas powered one.” Er, nope. Not even close. I just watched my daughter plunk down $80 at the pump to fill up her hybrid after one week of commuter driving emptied her tank. We just made a round-trip from Virginia to Pennsylvania for about $25. That was the cost to charge, twice a day, at high-speed chargers. The rest of the time, we charge at home for pennies. PENNIES!!! We figured we’ve added about $25/month to our electric bill to charge both cars. At least one of us puts regular commuter miles on our car. Mine, well, it used to pull a lot of hours just sitting in the driveway, but since, we’ve loaned it to our daughter. She uses it for her 40 mile round trip daily commute which she now charges on a 110 outlet at her home. Those same articles with cautionary tales about the price of charging vs. pumping, (and there are multiple articles – some I can trace to their biased source, so I’m not going to repeat that which simply is not true) talk about the cost of electricity, figuring in the cost of driving to a charging station across town and paying top dollar. Unless you live in an apartment and cannot install a second-tier charger at home, (which cost us about $300 to install) then okay, you may have to drive to a charger. Our town still offers multiple free second-tier chargers. That could be a pain until apartment complexes begin offering that amenity. The first year I owned the Fiat, I ran the charging cord across the deck to the outdoor 110 plugs. It worked fine. I’d get a full charge over night. Later, I purchased a 230 cord and ran it through the window to an old AC plug, and that worked GREAT, charging in less than half the time. I live just 8 miles from the nearest city. I can get all my running around town on, usually, a half charge. Just like any other vehicle, they’re not all made the same. Some hold more charge and some dispense it at a faster rate. The Fiat eats up charge with climate control engaged. The Niro, not so much.
  3. “But aren’t you afraid of getting stranded somewhere?” No. We have apps on our phones to help us find fast-speed chargers along our route. This will be the way of it until charging stations become ubiquitous. My Fiat has a very short range of only about 80 miles. I can drive to Richmond, 60 miles away, but I’ll have to charge at a second-tier charger for about 90 minutes, (and yes, I’ve found the free chargers for that too.) In the Niro, a fast charge takes about 30-45 minutes and is good for about 280 miles – that’s halfway between central Virginia and central Pennsylvania. Last year, we took the electric car to Maine from Virginia, and this year, we plan to drive to Canada. You might think that’s a lot of time to sit at a charger – two forty-five-minute sessions per day, but consider, we’re old and decrepit. I have to stop for a potty break every 2-3 hours. So that’s just about my speed.
  4. “Well, you haven’t figured in the cost of oil changes.” That’s because electric cars do not require oil changes, and the last time I took my son-in-law’s car in for an oil change, they wanted $65 for “the cheap stuff”!!! What the whoo-ha!?
  5. “But electric cars are too slow.” Again, nope. Electric cars are seriously FAAAAST. In the case of my little Fiat 500e, that thing will actually go faster – top speed and pick-up – than its little lightweight body can safely handle. There was a bit of a learning curve when I first got the Fiat, because I kept squealing out. Not my intention. I had to replace all four tires after the first year of owning it, but now, when I drive it like the respectable old fuddy-duddy that I am, it’s smooth as butter. Still, if some jacked-up pick-up or some little sporty thing with tiny tires and a loud muffler flashes their stuff at a stop light, I’m not above a “gentle”, but safe, peel out that leaves them in the dust. As my grandaddy would have said, “that car can git.”

A little clarification on charging:

A friend suggested I go into a little more detail on this. I preface it with “not all EVs are created equally.” Some have “fast charge capability” while others, (my Fiat) can only manage a reasonably slow charge with limited range. The Fiat can go 80 miles on a charge… without climate control. With Climate control, I’m not sure I would put it to the 80 mile test. It will take about 8 hours to re-charge it on a standard house plug. The Niro can go 280 miles on a single charge. It would probably take an hour to charge it with a fast charger. It is fast charge capable whereas the Fiat is not.

Regarding the different types of chargers, there is your basic household plug, a 110 outlet. That’s the slowest rate of charge, or first tier charging. The next, second tier charging is a 230 outlet – the sort you use for a heavy duty window air conditioner. That requires a different plug, about $250 on Amazon. Both of our cars are amenable to both of these types of charging, but only the Niro has fast charge capability. Fast chargers (which are FAR more expensive to install in your home or garage – thousands more) can spit it out as fast as your car can take it. Again, not all EVs are created equal. Parked next to a Hyundai Ioniq at a fast charger, that EV was able to charge at almost double the rate as our Kia Niro.

Not all chargers cost you. That’s right. Some businesses are beginning to relish a new business model with “charge while you shop” offerings. It’s really smart business. Think about it. For pennies on the hour, they get a shopper who is basically stranded while charging. As mentioned before, my Fiat, with only 25% charge remaining, takes about 90 minutes at a second tier charger to re-charge. That’s an hour and a half at a free charger at Short Pump, VA, next to a Lidl’s, Mellow Mushroom, and a variety of salons and other businesses. (Guess which ones I frequent?) The chargers are located in the shopping center parking lot, in a remote corner. The location isn’t wildly convenient, but the cost sure is… until you figure in the amount of cash I part with while shopping there. 🙂 Smart business.

Disadvantages:

I’ve been reiterative, harping on the same points in different scenarios. Trust me, I’ve looked for the disadvantages to owning electric. I just cannot find them. Okay, okay, if the east coast was being evacuated because of a giant carnivorous Kraken on the loose, okay. I’m going to be Kraken fodder. That is a valid consideration. While everyone in a gas powered car can stop to pump up in minutes, I’m gonna be there for 45 minutes to an hour. But consider this: because my car is so much faster, I’ve already left you in the dust, so the Kraken gets you, and while he is sated, sleeping off his food coma, I’ve had time to charge, and “beep, beep, zip, bang” – git. outta there. I hope we never have to test that scenario.

It is a scary shift, so while I am adamant… now… it was not always so. I came into EVs slowly. Toward my goal of being all electric, we replaced our mowers over the past 8+/- years with EGO electric mowers. The zero-turn mower is a dream! There was a two week learning curve, but I own that puppy now. Our 1 acre yard takes about 45 minutes to mow, and about as long to charge the zero-turn mower that runs on four portable batteries. (Those bad-boys constitute half of the purchase price.) It’s joined by an EGO push mower, an electric chainsaw, electric hedge trimmer, electric weeder, and a GreenWorx corded electric chipper. (That one is a bit of a pain as you have to be tethered to an outdoor outlet, and that might not be where you mean to dump all those chips. I’m just waiting for a larger battery powered one before I replace it.) Today, I ordered my first weed trimmer/edger on wheels! Can’t wait to try it out. I’ll let you know if it’s all that, so no affiliate link for that one yet. (Update: it’s not “all that.” The cutting capacity was too wimpy, and the metal blade attachments, while sufficiently deadly, are really inefficient for cutting either tough weeds or soft grass. Limb lobbers work better on the tough briers and a string trimmer is better at cutting the soft grass. I’ll stick to my hand-held weed trimmer, but I will consider trying to install a couple of wheels on it. I liked that component of the new electric trimmer.)

Glossary of terms:

ICE – internal combustion engine

To be iced – to come to a charger, only to find it’s been blocked by someone parking their ICE car/truck/trailer.

Second tier chargers – those that charge at twice the rate of a regular household outlet. Instead of taking twelve hours to charge my tiny Fiat on a regular household 110 plug, a second tier charger, 230 plug, takes less than half that time. A fast charger is one that can charge a fast-charge capable electric car in under an hour.

110 plug – your average ordinary household plug.

PlugShare – an app that identifies the location and condition of different chargers. Check it out! You’ll be surprised to see how many chargers there are out there, with more being installed daily!

A New Business Model

This is one that I’m already beginning to see. While traveling, we’ve been fortunate to find several SHEETZ gas stations that offer clean restrooms and a variety of snacks while we charge-up! The cost of those chargers can vary. Some chargers have their own apps that you are encouraged to use by offering huge discounts. (For example, on our last out-of-state trip, one charger was free, and the next one cost us about $4.25 for a full charge.)

We usually choose hotels that offer a free charger on-site, and we are always careful to move our car as soon as it is fully charged to allow someone else the use of it. (Travelers especially are still at the mercy of finding a charging station, so every plug counts.)

At our own business, I have installed a second tier charging outlet – not the cord, but the outlet. We travel with cords in our car for each tier of charger just in case. I suspect the next upgrades for charging stations will be to provide awnings for cover. (It’s not fun to fumble with plugging up your car in the middle of a thunderstorm and downpour.) Also, an internet cafe, a movie theater, or any other business that provides something experiential while you charge would be very welcome…

… at least until we can fully incorporate solar panels on our cars to charge while driving! I can’t wait!