First EV road trip for EV veterans

I’ve been driving an electric car for a while. But my 2011 Nissan Leaf, while reliable and fun, is a first-generation, range-limited EV and has locked me into an 80-mile radius of my home. When I was planning to take a road trip from my home in Kentucky to visit my nearly 94-year-old father in Connecticut, I agreed to take my wife’s trusty old 2012 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid as I have it over and drive most of the distance on dirty and expensive gas.

Enter my very good friend Daniel Monroe. Daniel is an EV evangelist par excellence. He actually has a guest book of people (most of them strangers) he’s allowed to keep drive his 2018 Tesla Model 3. This guestbook number drives 300 drivers! (yes 300) So when he asked me if I wanted to trade our decades-old plug-in hybrid Volt for his Model 3, I knew he meant business. He has good reasons for being so passionate about going electric, and EVs that use a domestic and “peaceful” fuel are high on his list (you can read more about that in my podcast episode with Daniel).

The vehicle handover took place in my driveway, where Daniel gave me the Tesla key card and showed me how to use it at night in the freezing cold. We then paired that card with my phone and my daughter Eden’s phone. He then walked us through a quick orientation session where we parked the Tesla at one end of my driveway and walked to the other end until the car beeped (indicating it was locking). We then both went to the car to see if our phones were recognized by the car and then we were able to open the car and it let us in.

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

Daniel escorted us to a nearby Tesla Supercharger and let us charge for about 40 minutes to get it full (about 300 miles range). We made good use of the time by strolling around the Meijer store and then he walked us through the on-screen navigation and other basic functions of the car. When we got back to my house, it was my turn to show him the Volt. That was pretty easy in comparison…key fob, how to open the charging port, and push button to start the car. I didn’t show him how to open the fuel filler flap as I filled it up before handing it to him.

It seems kind of silly even writing this, since so many Tesla owners already know how easy it is to drive from state to state on the robust Tesla Supercharger network. But even though I’ve lived in the EV world for years, this was all new to me. The Tesla seamlessly guided us on our route from Supercharger to Supercharger. It even calculated the ideal time we should spend at each stop to make it as efficient as possible. We chatted to some nice folks at the West Virginia Supercharger – their turquoise Model 3 was a great icebreaker.

In light of oil-rich Russia’s war with Ukraine, it was particularly satisfying that not only were we saving money on gas, but more importantly, in our own small way, we weren’t contributing to this horrific scenario.

I even got my brother, who loves sports cars and owns a Corvette, to take it for a spin and he was quite impressed.

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

The other thing that was a bit of a challenge was getting the wipers to work at the right speed on the way home. Eden and I had a system where I would push the button and she would estimate what speed the wipers needed to be and she would push that setting on the screen. I understand that this function could probably have been performed using voice commands, but we hadn’t learned that before and it wasn’t something I was spontaneously keen to try.

Overall, while I liked the large center screen and can appreciate how minimal and attractive such a setup is and must simplify the production of the car, I lacked some of the more manual controls I was used to from my older cars.

We went home and swapped cars. There was a little hiccup as the Volt wouldn’t start for Daniel. I have a feeling that maybe he didn’t hit the power button to turn the car off. There’s no power switch on a Tesla, and when you leave the car it just turns itself off. But the Volt sprang to life as soon as it was started. Daniel also once assumed that the Volt would have the same acceleration as the Tesla and promptly found out otherwise. I also had some minor issues like forgetting I wasn’t in the Volt and trying to use the right stalk to turn on the wipers. Well, the car promptly beeped me both times I tried to do that, like the Tesla going into reverse. I was very happy to know that the Tesla cannot be accidentally slammed into reverse on the Autobahn! In general, for those who drive a lot, our cars can tend to become an integral part of us, much like our shoes, and suddenly “wearing” something completely different can be a bit of a transition.

This experience really showed me how far electric vehicles have come since the days of the LEAF and the Volt. I got to experience my first all-electric road trip and see how easy it was.

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Tesla Supercharger in Bergen, image courtesy of Tesla


 

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https://cleantechnica.com/2022/04/03/first-ev-road-trip-for-ev-veteran/ First EV road trip for EV veterans

Jane Marczewski

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