I saw an article today about an unhappy EV experience by Rachel Wolfe of the Wall Street Journal, who recently rented an EV: I Rented an Electric Car for a Four-Day Road Trip. I Spent More Time Charging It Than I Did Sleeping. Rachel stated that she “figured driving the brand-new Kia EV6 I’d rented would be a piece of cake. If, that is, the public-charging infrastructure cooperated.” Rachel, you are an excellent writer – I wish I had a fraction of your talent – but, that was your first mistake!
Rachel’s experience is not exactly a resounding endorsement of the current EV landscape, but it has been completely the opposite of my own experience. Lest prospective EV owners become completely disheartened, I feel compelled to weigh in with another perspective on EV’s, based on what I have learned over the last year. In fact, it has been almost exactly a year since I purchased my own electric vehicle, a 2021 Tesla Model Y. Like many, I began my search a few months earlier, looking at websites, visiting dealerships, reading specs and trying to learn as much as possible about EV’s and how they work.
NOT a Tesla commercial – really!
My primary concern was range. Even last year, there were a number of good EV options out there, but few had a range of 300+ miles. There are more today, but as Rachel learned, range is not the only issue – charging and range go hand in hand. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, of the current estimated 46,000 charging stations in the United States, only about 13% are classified as fast chargers. And therein lies the first problem. Not many motorists want to wait even an hour to get back on the road, let alone 4 or more!
This was my first reason for choosing Tesla. As of February 2021, there were already over 1,000 Superchargers in North America. To me, this solved a big problem. Some might call it “range anxiety”, but I was concerned about having to search for a charging station, and even when finding one, learning that I would be spending hours trying to get my car back in operation. The Tesla Superchargers are fast…and they continue to build more capability into their network in terms of location and technology.
Next, I looked at overall costs. The great used car price explosion was just beginning, and that rising tide not only lifted all the boats, but Tesla, in particular, was going up at lightning speed. I quickly learned that, at least at that time, Teslas were actually appreciating. Expensive? Yes, but with value actually increasing rather than falling off, it looked like a good choice. I could not afford even a used Model S or Model X, but the newer, smaller Model 3 and Model Y vehicles were in my budget.
These are the main reasons I chose the Tesla Model Y Long Range. And, I’ll tell you how things are turning out in a moment, but first, let’s get back to Rachel’s experience.
All EV’s are not the same.
That Kia EV6 Rachel rented has a great range. And in some circumstances, it would be an excellent choice. But if you are looking to a long road trip, it would not be my choice for the reasons above, as borne out by Rachel’s experience. As much as President Biden is hoping to increase EV adoption, the public infrastructure simply is not yet in place to support that lofty goal at this time. Tesla solves this by their bespoke charging network. Even their older chargers are faster than most of the public stations on the ground today. And, you don’t have to buy one to experience the difference. Hertz, Enterprise and other major companies are adding Teslas to their fleet. This would be my choice for a 2,000 mile road trip.
For the longer haul, it all comes back to your driving habits. If you are primarily driving around town, less than 100 miles a day, then almost every EV on the market will serve you well. That’s because it is so simple to charge at home! Even at 110vac, you can keep your car with a reasonable range by simply plugging in whenever you are home. If that is not fast enough, spend a little more and get a 240v connector installed. Trust me, it works like a champ!
If you are a frequent road tripper, however, the best choice today, in my opinion, is still Tesla. Sure, this may change over time, but it is hard to beat that captive network. In my experience, and in the experience of many other satisfied Tesla owners, it wins hands down.
We travel frequently between Georgia and Florida, a bit less than a 500 mile trip each way for us. Many owners will run their batteries down to 10% – indeed, some even lower! But I choose to keep a bit more margin and will typically not venture below 20%. (Yes, some owners are laughing at this, I am sure!)
I stop 4 times on my route, but often one of those stops is at a hotel in Valdosta, where we can charge overnight for free. (There are three others in the area, but this one is less than a mile from a Supercharger, should we need it.) Over several trips during the last 12 months, the longest I have ever had to wait for a charger was 10 minutes – and that was only once. No charge has ever taken me longer than 30 minutes, and most are between 15-20.
The most I have paid to top off my battery was just under $13.00, but most of the charges were in the $7 to $9 range. With gasoline at over $4.50/gallon, this cuts my fuel costs by more than half. Most Superchargers are located near shopping areas or restaurants, so an occasional 30 minute stop is certainly not out of reason. One on our route is beside a Whole Foods, which we find immensely convenient. So yes, we might spend an extra 1 1/2 to 2 hours on our route going for a pleasant walk, having a bite to eat or even shopping; not at all a bad experience.
Charging at home.
But, this is just the tip of the savings iceberg. The real treat comes in when charging at home. Most electricity suppliers offer off peak rates, and if you are lucky, you may be eligible for a “super” off peak rate designed for EV users. We have an EV rate in Georgia that is 1¢/kwh, or about $0.0145/kwh with tax. We did not travel last month but did drive 465 miles locally at an average usage of 257 watts/mile. I’ll save you the math: that worked out to a total of $1.76 in fuel costs for the month. Even as I write this, I am impressed!
And you don’t have to buy a Tesla to achieve this kind of result. My brother lives in Columbus, GA, where it is difficult to drive over 40 miles locally in a day. He has similar results with a Prius PEH (Plug in Hybrid). So if you are driving locally, almost any quality EV should work nicely.
Finally, there is one other aspect to my Tesla story. I bought it in mid-June 2021 for a total of $53,290 plus tax and fees. According to Kelly Blue Book, my car, as I write this, should bring around $70,000 in a private party sale!
The Bottom Line.
Tesla is a great choice in many respects, but all is never strawberries and cream, is it? Elon could seriously benefit from hiring a Customer Service Czar. They are good, but they could be better. The big marques have him beat in that area. However, the guy is smart, so don’t count him out just yet. He is not only expanding his charging network but also his factories. And he owns his supply chain in an almost uncanny way, enabling him to turn out Tesla cars at a very fast rate, even while the others are playing catch up in the EV marketplace.
The moral of this story is that, like most tools, your choice of an electric vehicle should be mission driven. We tend to fall in love with cars, and yes, this is the best one I have ever owned! But after all, they really are just “tools” to get us from point A to point B. Choose your mission, and you will find your car. What is more important to you? Cost? Road trips? Running errands? Almost any EV will suit if you choose wisely.
Happy Tesla Owner!