My Three Years Driving an Electric Car

And some love for the internal combustion engine

Let’s start with the good.

I charge my car in my driveway every night. Ninety-five percent of my driving consists of going to places within a hundred miles of my house. I can go to these places and come home on a single charge, plug in the car in my driveway, and be ready to go the next day. For these trips, my electric car is easier and more fun to drive than any gas car that isn’t an exotic or collector car.

And then the bad

Charging on long trips is a pain in the ass.

If I am going somewhere that is 150 miles away from my driveway and I want to get back home, I need to plan on charging during the trip. In my gas car, I wouldn’t worry about it. I’d watch that little falling pointer on the gas gauge and when it got toward the bottom I’d pull over at one of the many gas stations in our country and fill up. With my EV, I have to have a plan.

The Economics of EV Charging

When I drove a gas car I bought ninety-five percent of my fuel at the gas station near my house. It was owned and operated by the Sanchez family and doubled as the local source for cigarettes and malt liquor. When I was away from home, I bought gas at a station that served some other community. The owners of the gas stations I used — whether close to my home or while traveling — had an entrepreneurial interest in serving their local community. Every morning they made sure the gas pumps were working and the hot dogs were on the rollers. As a traveler, I got the benefit of the owner’s dedication to his local customers.

Location, location, location.

Currently, public charging stations are found in two kinds of places. Some EV charging stations were built to advance a public good. (Or in the case of Electrify America stations, built as penance for Volkswagen’s diesel fuel fraud.) These chargers tend to be found on government-owned facilities such as municipal parking lots or transit stations. I once charged in a small Oregon town in the parking lot of the Public Utility Commission. Proximity to a hot dog when charging at one of these public-service stations is not guaranteed.

Charging Takes Time

There are three levels of charging for my EV. Using an ordinary wall socket, my car will charge about four miles per hour. Using a “level 2” charger like the one I have at home, it will charge about twenty-five miles per hour. Using a “level 3 fast charger,” I can charge to 80% capacity in about half an hour. (Because of the way batteries work, fast charging doesn’t work beyond 80%). At its fastest, my EV is ridiculously slow compared to filling a tank with gasoline.

Charging Stations are Unreliable.

There are three different types of plugs for electric cars and you have to match your car to the plug on the charger. The EV world may be inching toward uniformity, but it is still a long way off. Once you have made sure the charging station you found on Google maps has the plug you need, then you pray that it will work when you get there.

A Maudlin Conclusion

After a hundred years of constant tinkering, the internal combustion engine is a marvel of human engineering. It explodes gasoline to create transportation in a manner that is reasonably clean, fairly quiet, and generally reliable. The engine has hundreds of parts, yet is inexpensive to produce. Cars using the internal combustion engine are often fun to drive and occasionally works of art. If I needed to drive from my home in Oregon to Jasper, Wyoming, I would rent a nice internal combustion car and enjoy every minute of the trip. The fueling problems of taking my EV on that trip are just too much for me to justify in the name of adventure.

I am a retired elder law attorney who lives near Portland, Oregon. I write legal mysteries for Salish Ponds Press and articles for the blog, Aging in Recovery.

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