Gas Guzzler No More: Confessions of a New EV Owner

Confessions of a New EV Owner

Yes, The Dog Fit Into My New EV

Note: MicrogridKnowledge.com’s Lisa Cohn decided to walk the talk and lease an electric vehicle. In this series, ‘Confessions of a New EV Owner,’ she describes her experience — for the good — and bad.

Part One: My EV Purchase: Impulsive, Emotional and Fun

After years of procrastinating about buying an electric car, a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists spurred me to take action.

My acquisition of a VW e-Golf SE was sudden, emotional, and I admit, impulsive. I didn’t know what I was getting into—and still don’t.

Today is Day Three of my EV Adventure. If I had understood three days ago all that I didn’t know about EVs, I probably wouldn’t have moved so quickly.

But then, I probably wouldn’t be so engaged, challenged and inspired.

For six years I had leased PZEV Subaru Foresters, telling myself that leases would give me the freedom to jump in and buy an EV when the time was right. My most recent lease was due to expire in a few weeks when I received the Union of Concerned Scientists’ magazine in the mail.

“Recent research by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that driving and charging an electric vehicle anywhere in the United States produces fewer global warming emissions than driving an average new gas-powered vehicle,” an article in the magazine said. What’s more, two-thirds of Americans live in regions where driving an average electric vehicle is “better for the planet than even the most efficient hybrid vehicle on the market,” an article in the magazine said.

The report basically refuted the view that in many areas of the country, powering an EV with electricity that includes some “dirty” sources is bad for the environment.

After I read the report, I scolded myself about how my procrastinating on buying an EV affected my three kids’ future. I vowed to end my stalling, excuse-making and anxiety about whether an EV was capable of transporting me and my family safely from our home in Portland to the Oregon Coast, the mountains, or California.

Questions only a reporter can heap

A few days later, a conversation with Anne Smart, director of government relations and regulatory affairs for ChargePoint, moved me to immediately call dealerships in Portland and inundate them with the detailed, annoying and exhausting questions only a reporter can heap on a sales person.

First of all, Smart reminded me about all that Oregon is doing to promote EVs. Recent legislation—which gets Oregon off coal and moves it to 50 percent renewables by 2040—includes language that protects choice, competition and innovation in Oregon’s EV industry. The new law also allows utilities to provide rebates to property owners (shopping malls and car dealerships, for example) that install charging stations, she said. What’s more, residential buyers of charging infrastructure are eligible for state and federal tax credits.

I already knew that Portland boasts numerous charging stations, many of them free to users. I’m quick to point out the gleaming, mysterious “pumps,” often powered by solar, to my kids when we see them downtown near PGE’s headquarters, at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and in the parking lot of the Beaverton library.

But what really spurred me to action was a single sentence from Smart: “There are 18 models of electric vehicles and all dealerships are offering great leases right now.”

A few hours after my conversation with Smart and about half an hour after my bothersome calls to multiple dealers, my 7-year-old, Michael, and I found ourselves giddily cruising around the lot of Herzog-Meier Volkswagen in a 2016 e-Golf SE.

The car met the five-star reviews I had just skimmed from my iPhone.  It was remarkably, almost eerily quiet, incredibly peppy, and so comfortable it made me feel guilty. With a range of 83 miles, I figured it would take me as far as the Oregon Coast.  I was so enchanted with the car that I forgot to think about how I might get home once we landed on the coast (more on that to come in this series).

The original non-electric Golf, I learned, was built with electrification in mind; the EV feature was no add-on. And the Golf boasted VW’s much-lauded engineering and safety. The battery is housed in a steel casing below the car, which means that we’ll likely be safer in a head-on collision.  When I asked about possible bicycle-car accidents that might occur because the car emits no noise (or smells, for that matter), I learned that VW had included a fan on the passenger side that mimicked the sound of a traditional car (although I can’t hear it from the inside) to warn bikers and pedestrians.

Fits my golden retriever

After our salesman, Ben, promised that our 85-pound golden retriever would be comfortable in the back seat, we started negotiating.

Mind you, I hadn’t even driven the e-Golf on the highway. Come to think of it, I haven’t given the e-Golf a spin on the highway yet, three days later!

After a fair amount of negotiating and a few calls to other VW dealers, we settled on VW’s eye-popping national leasing deal: I’d provide about $2,500 down and sign a $169-a-month, 3-year lease for the car, which otherwise sells for about $30,000. The lease includes an approximate $7,000 rebate from the federal government. Of course, my less-than-admirable credit score and a few minor additions pumped the monthly price a little higher.

Once we signed the deal, we were handed over to Ayman, the dealership’s knowledgeable, patient, tolerant, forbearing, stoic—and did I say patient?—EV expert. I peppered him with questions for hours while my 7-year-old practiced gymnasium moves in the dealership’s lobby. Most importantly, I learned that:

  • It would cost about $6 in electricity to fully charge the car from a charge of zero
  • I could (and should) purchase faster charging equipment from any of a number of vendors
  • I could sign up for time-of-use rates with my utility, Portland General Electric, to lower my electricity bill if I charged the car at night.
  • I should download onto my phone an app that identifies all nearby charging stations
  • I should use the ChargePoint card (or cards from numerous vendors) to use the stations, including one about a mile from my house located at a BMW dealership.

In many cases, the electricity would be free, Ayman said. I never asked how long I would have to hang around these stations to attain a full charge.

And now true confessions of a new EV owner

Three days later, Ayman is my best friend. I call or text him four or five times a day, and he dutifully responds to my questions with no signs of annoyance or regret he ever met me.

After signing the deal, I learned from Ayman that I had just purchased a car — the lowly SE model — that I couldn’t fast-charge because it isn’t good for the battery. In fact, charging the car completely would require 18 hours of at-home charging using the equipment VW provided.

That important fact didn’t sink in until later. I drove home, parked, and with the help of my eager son, plugged the charger into an electrical outlet in front of our house. I was so thrilled with my purchase I could barely sleep. When I did snooze a little, I dreamed about someday using my EV’s battery to feed electricity to Portland General Electric during periods of peak demand. I would save money and help my utility avoid investing in expensive, dirty power plants!

The next morning, I awoke to find that rather than charging the battery, I had somehow managed to drain it. How was I ever going to make it to the school field trip located 35 miles away? I was supposed to leave in an hour or so.

I reached for my phone to call Ayman.

TO BE CONTINUED

EVs are expected to be a growing part of microgrids. Read more of Lisa Cohn’s first-hand confessions of a new EV owner by subscribing to the Microgrid Knowledge newsletter. It’s free.

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Comments

  1. D Stilson says:

    Great article—low on specs and big on real-world-stuff. Have you thought of taking a long (>=200 mile) trip in your new eGolf? I’d be interested where you found charging stations, and how long it takes to get back on the road. In short is this car practical for these type of trips. Thanks for being on the bleeding edge.

    • Dave,
      When I fell more comfortable I’d like to take a longer trip. Ideally I would find charging stations where I could charge at night. Or in towns that I’d want to visit. Today I’m charging in downtown Portland and running around town on public transportation. It takes a lot of planning to do this…but shouldn’t we all be thinking a little harder before jumping in our cars? The so-many-miles-left meter reminds me that our resources are limited!

  2. With appreciation of hearing about another 1st time EV buyer it unfortunately sounds like the stereotypical female car buyer. I’m not so gullible to believe there was no prior knowledge of its slow charging requirement or not even charging it properly overnight. All the while I realize life happens, & there can be reasons/excuses for lack of insight; the kids, the dog, the dealerships impatience. My experience was one of youtube video research to see both good & bad about these amazing vehicles AVs 🙂 . The dealers were reluctant to sell, now I realize because nothing breaks as the mechanicals of a gas engine or transmission are none-existent. Also the dealers I talked to knew far less than I’d hoped for, I wanted the VW but it consisted of a drive from Pittsburgh to hagerstown MD, & they didn’t even know the tax credit worked. My loss was a win, with my lease of a base model Nissan leaf 2015 with Quick charge port. It was my birthday month, so I took it on a nice trip to Detroit & back with no costs except the restaurants chosen by myself; a self proclaiming foodie!

    My only issue was the dislike from someone nearbye my apt putting a nail in my tire, thankfully there’s an air pump in the back although no donut/Spare tire, & thankfully I didn’t use the fluid seal that’d damage tps or whatnot. All & all, it takes a well informed person who stays informed as well to sussessfully partake in EV car ownership.

  3. Joshua,
    Thanks for writing! Why do you suggest I’m a typical female buyer? You mean emotional and impulsive? No, I didn’t know that it would charge that slowly, but you’ll learn more in Part Two about how I’m dealing with that issue. My aim with this series is to show readers–male and female–what issues might arise if they, too, fall in love with the EV idea and run out and get one. Maybe I’ll inspire others to take the plunge, like I did! What do you think?

    • I only say it sounded like that kinda story, but I know new stuff has it’s changes we all have to get used to.. I guess the stereotypical guys out here have to have a truck, and will hate EV cars because they seem too different as if it’s replacing them already. There’s always a big truck trying to speed around me climbing hills on freeways or city streets just acting impatient; especially Country/suburbs where it’s a rarity lol. These little cars are perfect for most city dwellers, even lyft or Uber drivers (myself) included. I don’t need a tall vehicle to feel big, especially not a wasteful one that sounds like the biggest, loudest struggle going up hills our cars breeze up in a snap! At the same time , I realize there’s a real need for EV trucks too & especially buses, (school buses) which spew sulfur filled diesel into lungs of developing youth- our future. Living in cities so much helps me appreciate nature so much more, it’s becoming the new symbol / identifyer of success. To explore and preserve the real world without so many synthetic overlayings distracting is being closer to earth, like camping & Fishing. Too many gas cars & lack of conscern would ruin any outdoors mens dreams of being close to nature.

  4. Hi Joshua,
    Good for you for using an EV as your Uber car!
    With my series about my EV purchase, I’m hoping that more people will be impulsive and emotional about the state of the environment and buy EVs like yours and mine! I don’t regret my decision for a minute!

  5. Lisa,
    I am encouraged and very respectful that you took action based on your beliefs and conviction. Is it difficult to substantially change your daily routine? Absolutely. Please keep the reports coming and share both the good and bad of this transition.
    Thank you.

  6. I like that car. Fun to drive, has nice regen choices (my most favorite is to have paddles…), and nice looking.

    If I lived on the west coast I’d definitely have the DC charging option – though that car has CCS and there may not be so many of those around. The 120 mile Leaf with Chademo might have been a better – though much less fun to drive – choice out there.

    My car only has 3.3 charging. So slow it’s hardly worth installing 220 to my garage. I hope your car has 6.6 on board, or you’ll be waiting a long time before coming back from the beach.

    Good for you for taking the leap! Feel free to contact me if you have questions you don’t feel are getting well answered.

    • Hi Ted,
      Paddles? Tell me about them!
      I chose this car in part because the Golf has been on the road for awhile as a non EV. And it’s safe. And a pleasure
      To drive. And VW offered a lease price I couldn’t refuse!
      I plan on charging it at home using a 220 volt system. It will arrive tomorrow. Stay tuned for part 2 of my series, coming this week!
      Lisa

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  1. […] Note: In Part Two of “Confessions of an EV Owner,” MicrogridKnowledge.com’s Lisa Cohn finds herself coasting down hills in search of an […]

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