Electric cars

First EV road trip for an EV veteran

First EV road trip for an EV veteran

I drove an EV for some time now. But my 2011 Nissan Leaf, while reliable and fun, is a first-generation EV with limited range and tied me down to an 80-mile radius from home. So when I was planning to take a road trip from my home in Kentucky to visit my almost 94-year-old father in Connecticut, I was resigned to taking my wife’s trusty old 2012 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid as my I’ve had it in the past and driven the majority of the trip on dirty, expensive gasoline.

Come in my very good friend Daniel Monroe. Daniel is a quintessential EV evangelist. He actually has a guestbook of people (mostly foreigners) that he is allowed to to drive his 2018 Tesla Model 3. This guestbook number pushes 300 drivers! (Yes, 300.) So when he asked me if I wanted to trade in our decade-old Volt plug-in hybrid for his Model 3, I knew he was serious. He has good reason to be so passionate about electrics, and electric vehicles using domestic and “peaceful” fuel are at the top of his list (you can find more information on this in my podcast episode with DanieI.)

The transfer of the vehicle took place in my driveway, where at night, in freezing weather, Daniel gave me the Tesla key card and showed me how to use it. We then linked this card to my phone and my daughter Eden’s phone. He then took us through a short orientation session where we parked the Tesla at one end of my driveway and walked to the other end until the car beeped (signalling it was locked). We then each walked to the car to see if our phones were recognized by the car, then we could open the car and she would let us in.

Image courtesy of electric vehicle veteran Stuart Ungar, co-founder of Evolve KY.

Daniel walked us to a nearby Tesla Supercharger and had us charge for about 40 minutes to bring it to max (range about 300 miles). We made good use of the time walking around the Meijer store and then he walked us through how to navigate the screen and other basic car functions. Once back home, it was my turn to show him the Volt. It was pretty simple in comparison…key fob, how to open the charging port and start the car with the push button. I didn’t show him how to open the gas filler door because I filled it before handing it to him.

It somehow seems silly to write this, because many Tesla owners already know how easy it is to drive from state to state with Tesla Supercharger’s robust network. But even though I’ve lived in the world of electric vehicles for years, this was all new to me. The Tesla took us seamlessly on our road from Supercharger to Supercharger. He even calculated the ideal amount of time we should spend at each stop to make it as efficient as possible. We chatted with a few nice people at the West Virginia Supercharger – their turquoise-wrapped Model 3 was a great icebreaker.

Given the war between oil-rich Russia and Ukraine, it was hugely satisfying to see that not only were we saving money on gas, but more importantly, on our small scale, we weren’t contributing to this horrible scenario.

I even asked my sports car lover and Corvette owner brother to try it and he was very impressed.

It was a little stressful driving someone else’s car during the week, but the car was very comfortable, which made the hours of driving much more bearable. There was an issue when the large screen froze on the highway and then went black. I had heard this could be an occasional problem with Teslas so I wasn’t too concerned about it and figured I’d go down to the next exit and call Daniel to find out how to reset it. In the end, the car reset the screen automatically after a short while, so we were good to go. My daughter and I joked that playing Lou Reed’s song “Egg Cream” freaked her out.

The other thing that was a little tricky was getting the wipers to work at the right speed on the way back. Eden and I had a system where I would press the button and she would gauge how fast the wipers should be on and she would press that setting on the screen. I understand that this feature could probably have been done using voice commands, but we hadn’t learned about it beforehand and it wasn’t something I was about to try on the fly.

Overall, while I liked the large central display and can appreciate how minimal and attractive such a setup is and should simplify the production of the car, I missed some of the manual controls that I was used to in my old cars.

We drove home and swapped our cars. There was a slight hitch, as the Volt wouldn’t start for Daniel. I have a feeling he may not have pressed the power button to turn the car off. With a Tesla, there’s no power button, and when you leave the car, it shuts off. But the Volt came back to life easily when revived. Daniel also assumed at one point that the Volt would have the same acceleration as the Tesla and soon discovered the opposite. I also had a few minor issues, like forgetting I wasn’t in the Volt and trying to use the correct stalk to turn on the wipers. Well, the car quickly beeped me both times I tried, like on the Tesla that would put the car in reverse. I was very happy to know that the Tesla couldn’t be thrown into reverse on the freeway by accident! In general, for those who drive a lot, our cars can tend to become an integral part of us, just like our shoes, and it can be a bit of a transition from suddenly “wearing” something very different.

The experience really made me appreciate how far EVs have come since the days of the LEAF and the Volt. I was able to experience my first all-electric road trip and see how easy it was.

Tesla superchargers in the mountains, Image courtesy of Tesla


 

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