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In my previous experiment, late last year, I realized, I don’t need an electric charger at home to be an early and active participant in the world’s transition to electric.
Prior, I had made an assumption that owning an electric vehicle was just not for me yet. Because I live in a multifamily residential area where no chargers are currently available. And because considering adding them as a community amenity would likely require a complex and lengthy review of our 1970s community-based power consumption cost-sharing business model’s potentially antiquated policies, a bureaucratic process no self-respecting Restonian would likely undertake as an early adopter.
Thanks to Polestar and Electrify America, I learned three things that led me to this mega finding:
- 1. It’s easy to find and navigate to a charger from the vehicle’s on-board navigation system
- 2. Public chargers are more prevalent than I thought
- 2. The process of charging really is simple
Subsequently, I discovered a world around me where I am already navigating my life amongst conveniently located charging stations in my community. I got more curious and more excited to explore my journey to my first EV.
You don’t need an electric charger at home to own an EV.
I decided to get serious and go deeper.
I made a commitment to myself: in 2022, to get even closer to customers, I would study and report on the perceived barriers to the mass adoption of EVs. I would put myself in the market as one of them: as a consumer. Because aren’t we all? Even those of us working in the automotive business? And because, using my voice, my expertise and my training for this moment feels like a great place for me to belong. In this moment.
It was time to go further. Literally.
This Experiment: Range Anxiety
Aren’t those the perfect words to describe this common first resistance in one’s journey to considering electricity as a primary power source for private transportation? We are programmed that way. My experience with using these words in everyday conversation with the people I interact with is that everyone gets it. Everyone is empathetic to the feeling. The reason is simple: everyone has wondered about it.
Likely in internal thoughts or audible sentences that usually go something like:
I won’t be able to go as far as I do on a tank in my current car.
I don’t think I’ll make it to my destination.
I’ll run out of power before I get to a charger!
Range Anxiety. It’s a real emotion. Until it isn’t anymore. In a 2020 AAA survey, 96% of EV owners reported they would buy or lease another electric vehicle the next time they were in the market for a new car. I just had to figure it out for myself.
The Use Case: Take a Day Trip in an EV
I knew I needed to get somewhere that was far enough to warrant the anxiety. And I also wanted to use up most of the expected battery capacity to require a full charge while on the trip.
I would recruit the family’s help for this experiment. Somewhere culturally significant in Virginia, preferably somewhere I had never been before, at about a 2-hour drive distance from DC.
We chose Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia residence and plantation, Monticello. Located just outside Charlottesville, Google reports a ~110 miles (~175 Km) one-way journey from my home in Reston with a corresponding 2h10 driving duration estimate. I recommend.
We picked a January weekend when everyone was available and began the planning.
My job was to find an electric car…
Extra Credit: 5 Stars for Turo
I’d checked out the peer-to-peer car sharing platform when I first heard of it while doing work-related research in 2016, following its “hot start up” listing on Forbes.
If you don’t know Turo, it’s like the Airbnb of autos. It’s in 56 countries.
I’d never used it before, but for this specific use case, I instinctively knew it was the place to find what I was looking for. I had briefly investigated renting from a traditional car rental company – namely out of curiosity for what that business is like in 2022. I had quickly realized that most of the buzz about said rental companies’ electric fleets was mostly that, buzz. Turo, on the other hand, had a respectful inventory of EVs available in the 10 mile radius around my home.
Also appealing to me was Turo’s car sharing model, where owner and renter exchange keys in-real-life, as opposed to renters unlocking the car themselves using some mix of hardware + software = digital experience contraption.
As I imagined myself picking up a car from someone’s home, it had to be a Tesla.
Because Tesla owners are a different kind of breed.
I had to get one of them to let me officially borrow their car and take it on a joyride to Monticello. I found and booked one nearby.
Related Article – Tesla: An Ode to Owners
The Experiment: How It Went
What kind of person rents their Tesla out anyway?
As I pulled up to my host’s home in Vienna, VA, the answer to that question started to appear right in front of me. I was entering an above-average Northern Virginia neighborhood, well stocked with large brick colonial-style more-than-a-million-dollar-i-imagine kinda homes. Someone who can afford to. Of course.
I spotted my rental 2018 Model 3 in a driveway and parked my 2008 Wrangler JK in the nearby round-about. Then, as the garage door opened slowly unveiling a Model Y parked in it, the answer to my question became obvious. Someone who owns more than one Tesla. Naturally!
And Ravi didn’t disappoint. We shared stories for 37 minutes. I had to pull myself away to keep on schedule with a pre-planned arrival time for our guided visit, some 100 miles away.
It wasn’t my first time driving a Tesla. But it felt like it. I was reminded upon my sitting in the driver seat, that in a Tesla, the whole experience of driving is completely different. All of the usual suspects of a normal drive are reconsidered: no key, no ignition, no gears to shift, no dashboard, no gages, no lights. Everything happens from a couple of levers adjacent to the steering wheel, and from the large display screen. It takes a pivot and a side step to figure it out. At first. And that’s all the more fun.
I particularly enjoyed observing my companion, Clark Kent take his first pass at driving both an electric and a Tesla. I watched him sit at the wheel, grab the steering wheel and start laughing like a kid. “I don’t even know what to do!”
Every driver in the world should experience this feeling. It’s magical.
That experience unifies people. Find what unifies people. <That moment is what change feels like>.
Our plans to charge at Monticello were immediately crushed upon arrival: the location was not equipped with Tesla compatible chargers. Yet I didn’t feel any anxiety. We had more than 20% battery left, a marker Ravi mentioned to as a benchmark. As an easy alternative, the on-board navigation system recommended a Tesla supercharger 2 miles away that we decided to hit up on the way home. Everyone was delighted at my proposal: “After we are done with our tour, let’s grab a bite at this nearby Mexican joint while we charge!”
The car charged all the way up to Ravi’s preset top limit of 90% in less time than it took us to enjoy our tacos.
<Midnight cowboys pic, it’s a must>
In an interesting turn of events, a winter storm came though that night. Like THE DC-area snow storm of the season. I couldn’t help but think of Ravi: this poor guy keeps this car in pristine condition, garaged, next to the other Tesla in the garage, and cares for it like an obsessed gardener manicures their perfectly groomed grounds. This car would get snowed on tonight, probably for the first time in its life. I felt the responsibility to share in the caring of this special machine.
While I had hoped to spend the second day of my 2-day rental driving around locally and exploring the on-board digital experience more thoroughly, these Northern Virginia roads were simply not safe enough for any driving that day. I can however attest that its all-glass roof’s powerful defrost feature made cleaning up a sizable wintry mix off this Tesla a breeze.
I can also share that extremely cold weather indeed has a slight negative impact on the battery’s remaining power. I went from 38% when I parked the car after Monticello on Saturday evening to 31% when I started it up to head to my local Tesla supercharging station on Monday morning. It took me 32 minutes to top back up to 90%. I grabbed a fancy coffee at Reston Station’s Starbucks, checked on all my social media channels while drinking it and headed back to the car to take a call while the charging completed. Easy.
Range Anxiety is not a Real Thing
In general, […] anxiety is seen as a diffuse, a kind of unfocused, objectless, future-oriented fear.Psychology Today
And a correlated finding: in my attempt to bring attention to a perceived anxiety I wasn’t sure I even I had, I found absolutely no reason to be afraid. That’s interesting.
In other words…
Unless you are going on an actual road trip, you don’t need as much range as you think you do. The average American drives 35 miles a day. In observing my own driving rituals, unless I am going on a journey, which happens only about once a quarter on the 2020s, I don’t “need” “range” to get to where I am going. Noteworthy: a recent MIT study that reported that “87% of vehicles on the road could be replaced by a low cost electric vehicle available today”. That would have a significant impact to the carbon-emission fire that is currently burning our planet out…
When you do need to go the distance, a little planning goes a long way. Sure, it takes time to charge. The key is to turn the charging experience into something that makes good use of that time. Ravi throws a football around the car with his family. Christian prefers the romance mode’s fireplace to chill, or Netflix. I eat tacos. We can all start practicing doing other things than driving around, and in our cars. It’s the future.
And consider this: a “normal” pit stop in a traditional vehicle that includes refueling, letting the dog out, walking around to stretch your legs, using the bathroom, getting a meal or even just a drink and a snack, takes just about the same time as the act of recharging your EV at a supercharger. Give or take 10 minutes. Go ahead, time your next pitstop!
Batteries offer more range than you think. Gone are the early days of less than 100 miles per battery charge you heard about in the movement’s earlier days. Today’s batteries on average, offer a range of ~200 miles (~320 Km). And they just keep getting better and better. It’s Moore’s Law.
Dealing with Range Anxiety: Call to Action
Still got range anxiety? I recommend 3 strategies for overcoming it.
One: Observe your driving habits. For one month, make a mental note of how long your trips usually are. Take an actual note for trips that are over 2 hours.
Two: Look around in your community. Turn up your attention to electricity and start noticing those electric chargers popping up everywhere around you, especially if you live in a more urban area. Once you start, you won’t be able to miss them.
Three: Take a test drive.
I am a strong believer that every driver today should test drive an electric.
It’s absolutely necessary! And if you can find an electric vehicle to try on for size, you must! It will make you fall in love with driving all over again. It doesn’t have to be as dramatically different as a Tesla. Although everyone should do that too! But driving is the only way to experience the feeling. And feeling is believing. That we can all have an impact on the planet’s prosperity.