7 important lessons learned about my first month of EV ownership
About a month ago I bought my first Electric Vehicle, a 2013 Nissan Leaf. I was somewhat hesitant to go with an EV because it would inherently change the way I use my car. I would have to accept the fact that a weekend trip out of town wouldn’t be possible because of the limited range, and that instead of filling up with gas once a week, I’d now have to plug in every night. Even with these anxieties I took the EV leap.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that part of the reason I made the jump to an EV was because Local Motors has an electric vehicle subsidy program for all employees. Employees choosing to lease or purchase an EV (whether it be a car, SUV or motorcycle) now receive a subsidy of $250 per month toward their payments.
Here’s a quick list of seven things I’ve learned in my first month of EV ownership.
Charging can be a pain...
I didn’t think that this would be much of an issue, but charging the car every night — or even at work — is a bit of a hassle. I have to constantly remind myself that this is the price I pay for never having to worry about getting a new transmission, radiator, starter or frequent oil changes.
...But charging is also easy if you know where to go
Every Nissan dealership has a free Direct Current Quick Charge (DCQC) station that can get me from 0% to 80% charge in about 30 minutes. I was unaware of this option when I bought my Leaf, but was very excited to discover it. Fortunately there is a dealership close to my office. If I ever need to make an extra trip during the day I stop by to charge up.
Don’t believe the numbers on the display
On my Leaf I will only get close to the displayed range estimate if I do the following:
- Use “Eco” mode, which limits your acceleration
- Use “B” mode, which applies regenerative braking more aggressively
- Don’t use the AC, which isn’t really an option for much of the year here in Arizona
- Stay off the freeway. Speeds over 55 MPH seem to drain the battery more quickly.
Range anxiety is real, for a little while
For the first few weeks I couldn’t take my eyes off the range number and my remaining battery capacity. In fact, a round trip to the airport (about 60 miles total from my house) without a full charge found my wife and I getting back home with less than 5% left in the battery, but we made it. Since I’ve discovered the Nissan DCQC, I’ve been able to strategically augment my regular charging routine as needed.
It’s a fun and comfortable ride
Even the Leaf, which no one ever mistook for a Model S, is pretty quick at non-highway speeds. The instant delivery of torque is invigorating even in a vehicle that is mostly perceived as an economy car.
It’s not the perfect commuter car, but it’s close
In Arizona, as in many other states, I get to ride in the HOV lane with my EV. That has been a blessing, as it has actually reduced my overall commute time. But the aforementioned range degradation at freeway speeds means longer-than-normal commutes might be problematic for some.
I drive much more carefully
Everything on the instrument display encourages me to drive less aggressively because aggressive driving has a direct impact on your range. Consequently, I feel like a safer driver.