A Year Driving an Electric Vehicle

July 6, 2020

There’s something exciting about electric vehicles that I can’t quite articulate. I think it has something to do with my interest in decentralized systems (everyone can have their own solar panels to charge it, while not everyone can have an oil refinery for gas), or maybe it’s simply the allure of a field still in it’s exploratory phases. Either way, I’m enamored with both the idea and the current phsyical implementation of them. So, of course, I had to get one.

After a year, and 7,000 miles of driving, I’m confident in saying that while my next vehicle may not be a Tesla, it is most certainly going to be electric.

Riza Tesla Model 3

I took delivery of my Tesla Model 3 back in May 2019, after being a reservation holder since the reveal back in 2016. I had waited so long in fear of a) Tesla unable to effectively ramp up production and falling in on itself, leaving me with a support-less car and b) widespread issues plaguing the 3 during “production hell”. I probably would’ve waited longer, but my hand was forced after a car crash totalled my daily driver at the time.

My Experience with Roadtrips

I live in NYC, so I don’t do a lot of commute driving; I take public transportation for that. A bulk amount of the miles I’ve placed on the car have been from “trips”: road trips, ski trips, camping trips, etc. I think this puts me at odds with a “typical” electric vehicle owner, as I see a lot of the persuasive conversations rooted in how great EVs are for work commutes and how “leaving every day with a full tank of gas” is so beneficial. But since I street park, and I don’t use a car to commute to work, those arguments didn’t mean much to me. On the contrary, I don’t see a whole lot of “EVs are great roadtrip cars! You get to stop every so often for a 30 minute recharge!” arguments being made to potential EV owners, but probably the most convincing argument for me to grab an EV.

I love road trips, but I’m not a road warrior. I don’t find it very fun to drive ten hours straight with no break. Even with gas cars, I probably drove 2-3 hours before taking a 20 minute rest-stop break. So the idea of having to stop every ~3.5 hours to charge for ~30 minutes didn’t seem like a huge deal to me. I set my destination in the car’s navigation system and it routes me through the charging stations I need to stop at to reach my end point.

Tesla Model 3 Supercharging at Night Alone

On top of that, Autopilot is life changing for sure. This is Tesla-specific, and doesn’t apply to all EVs, but having the car manage the more menial tasks and driving makes those 10 hour road trips feel like nothing. There’s less road rage, less rush, and more of an ability to focus on my surroundings with Autopilot activated. My job as a driver doesn’t go away; instead it transforms from navigator to co-pilot, monitoring Autopilot and my surroundings to make sure everything is OK, taking over when necessary.

Between the scattered breaks and Autopilot, I find myself wanting to roadtrip more often. I’m looking for more campgrounds, more mountains, and more beaches to head to and enjoy the ride there.

My Experience with Destination Charging

While roadtrip charging is not something I need to think about a lot, destination charging requires a bit more thought. When I go on a trip somewhere, I usually have to seek out the chargers available ahead of time. These are the slower, level 2 chargers that take ~5 hours to fully charge the car, and are needed to get around town and return back home.

“EV Charging” isn’t an amenity most hotel’s list, or allow you to filter through, so it’s left up to me to find what places do and don’t have charging. PlugShare has been an incredibly helpful tool to find those chargers, but since it relies on user-reporting, it’s not always accurate. The end result is always this uncertain feeling of whether or not I’ll be able to charge once I’ve reached a certain destination. The good news is, everywhere I’ve been has a 120v outlet, so I can at least trickle-charge.

The holy grail is when a place has Tesla destination chargers in the parking lots. I’ve noticed a lot of ski resorts/mountains have them installed and it’s been fantastic to return to a warm, fully charged car on ski trips.

Other Notes: Camping

I really like camping, and sleeping in my car lets me haul less gear, allowing me to camp more often. Being able to plug my car into a campground electrical hookup (typically 110v30a or 220v50a) has always been really nice. Plug in, lay the rear seats flat, inflate my ExPed, and run A/C the whole night. It’s definitely glamping, but it sure is comfortable.

Tesla Model 3 Charging at Camp Grounds

On the whole, I’m very happy I’ve switched to electric. I’m sold hook, line, and sinker.