We bought an EV - now what?
WHY DID WE GO ELECTRIC?
Last year, we bought an electric car. A 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric, in “pulse red” — whatever that is. We opted to go for the higher trim version with leather seats and all the bells and whistles - because if we’re already spend that much, we may as well go all in.
Both my husband and I believe that crude oil is a commodity that should not be used unless absolutely necessary — for example for badly needed products that can only be made of plastic. Burning it is bad for the air and wasteful, especially as we have so many renewable resources around us. Solar, wind and water energy is plentiful, and especially in British Columbia, where we live, 91% of electricity is generated with water power (no wonder the local electricity company is called “BC Hydro”!). The rest is wind, burning wood scraps, and in remote communities, burning oil and/or coal. So let’s just say we are pretty independent from other countries or even areas in Canada when it comes to electric energy. Considering how volatile the crude oil market can be, having a local supply of power available is very comforting.
We live in a fairly populated area of Western Canada. In summer, there is a lot of smog, and when there is little wind, the bad air just sits in the valley. Driving a vehicle that has zero emissions makes us feel like we are not contributing to the bad air. Now if they would just stop spreading manure in the valley, it would be even more awesome.
Maybe we are lying to ourselves by imagining that we are saving money, but having to spend $ 80 each time we drive 500 km is just not something I want to keep doing, when there are other options out there. We paid a big premium to detach ourselves from gas pumps, and it will be a long time before this purchase has paid for itself, if it ever will. But not having to give fuel companies any more of our money feels kinda great.
I should also mention that my husband wanted an electric car because it is a lot of fun to drive. Instant acceleration, quiet ride, snappy all around and a completely new experience on the road. Do I think it’s great? Yes! Did that matter to me? Not much. But I was already on the bandwagon anyway.
WHY THIS PARTICULAR MODEL?
As our son recently moved about 300 km away, we needed a car that would give us a bit more range. The Hyundai Kona EV has an average range of 415 km. Average. Not “up to”. It can do better, but it could also do worse. There are plenty of electric cars out there that are suitable for everyday driving, and if we lived for example in Germany, I would have been happy with a much shorter range, but as the situation stands, with us driving 300+ km a couple of times a month, we felt that a vehicle with this size battery would suit us best.
Erik was very intrigued by the Tesla Model 3, and we managed to even get to a dealership and sit in one. But in the end, the local Hyundai dealer won the race for us. The Tesla has certainly a lot of benefits. It’s beautiful, large, a gadget lover’s dream, and it has the range, but it also has a few, rather large negatives. For one, the whole purchase process isn’t very transparent. Maybe it’s because of Covid, but we couldn’t really get a definitive answer as to how much this Tesla was going to cost us a month. There are some other nitpicky details about servicing, communication, needing a strong wifi signal in the garage, etc. etc., but the biggest issue was the whole purchase process. We don’t have a ton of money to risk on something we’re not 100% sure about, and we just got a bad feeling. So we opted for the more conservative approach and an 8 year, bumper-to-bumper warranty.
The Kona EV is big enough for Erik and myself, and, if needed, we can squeeze some smaller people on the back seat, but that’s for emergencies only, because it’s crammed back there. This new vehicle however is mainly for the two of us, and for just the two of us, it’s plenty big and super comfortable.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN IN DAY-TO-DAY DRIVING?
Charging Instead Of Filling
You don’t need to fill up with gas anymore, obviously. Gas stations are on every corner, and it’s a five minute stop. Put your credit card in, open the tank, fill ‘er up and off you go. With an electric vehicle (EV), it’s a bit more complicated. There are charging stations all over the place, but they’re not as frequent, and with an increase of EVs on the road, they are often busier.
There are 3 levels or chargers:
Level 1, which is your regular 110V outlet at home, can take over 26 hours from zero to 100%. But you can plug that charger into any outlet, anywhere. It comes with the car, and you should always keep it with the car.
Level 2 chargers, which require 240V connections, are the chargers that have been popping up everywhere in front of grocery stores, restaurants, malls, car dealerships… and they’re the ones that you can have installed in your garage by an electrician. Those level 2 chargers supply between 16 to 30 kW of electricity, and charging is 4 to 8 times faster than a level 1 charger. Which means that if I come home with a depleted battery in the evening, the next morning the battery will be full. 8 hours in the garage will do the trick. But that’s still 8 hours, and nobody wants to have to spend 8 hours in a mall. Not even me.
Level 3 chargers are called fast chargers. They supply between 50 to 350 kW per hour and are becoming more frequent. PetroCan has started to add these charging stations to their gas stations. It will cost you though. $ 0.27 cents per minute, which for the Kona means about $ 16.00 for a full charge. While they may be able to put out up to 350 kW per hour, the Kona is only able to accept 74 kW or so, which means it will still take over an hour to fully charge up. But that’s an hour, and not 8. So, if I run dry somewhere on the road, chances are that I can keep continue my trip within the hour. Still way slower than the 5 minutes we’d spend at a gas station. Basically, this “charging up” business means a shift in priorities. You have to get organized. You have to map out your itinerary. You have to plan for breaks. And you have to bring time. You may invest less money, but you are definitively investing more time. Patience, grasshopper. But it’s not all bad news with the EVs. If you charge your vehicle in your garage, you will never have to get up earlier in the morning to gas up your car because you forgot the night before. Being able to charge up your vehicle in the garage overnight brings a bunch of conveniences that you are certain to appreciate.
There are many charging station providers in BC, for example, BC Hydro, PetroCan, Chargepoint, Flo… you will have to apply to accounts to some (or all) of them, since you need to be able to unlock the charger and start the charge. You will need to have a card or a mobile phone app — don’t try to charge a car with cash. It won’t work.
Getting A Charger Installed
While we would not necessarily need one yet, we opted to get it out of the way and have a level 2 charger installed in our garage. That isn’t cheap, and it isn’t great to have to spend another bunch of money (between installation and charger, about $ 1,500 and up!) but this additional purchase makes it — in my opinion — a more viable competitor to liquid fuel.
I am already planning every road trip we take to the nines. (Furkot.com — check it out). But now this planning will become essential. Trip to Grandma’s house? Stop over in Kamloops for a bite to eat and a fuel top-up. Where are we going to eat? Close to a charging station, of course. Road trip across Canada? A bit more complicated, but possibly still doable. Road trip down to California? Easy. Road trip to Alaska? Forget about it.
One note about cold weather: in a typical combustion engine car, it’s the air conditioner that decreases your fuel efficiency. In an electric vehicle, it’s also the heater. The cold weather, combined with the draw of heat, has the potential to reduce the battery’s capacity by as much as 33%! Another good reason to choose a vehicle with a large capacity for Canadian weather. Even on the tempered West Coast, the EV battery struggles in the cold.
THE BOTTOM LINE
We have had the car for almost a year. So what I wrote above I got from doing some research, watching YouTube, and quite a bit of actual driving. It’s great to have a charger in the garage and a car that’s always “filled” up. It’s wonderful to see the battery replenishing itself when driving downhill, or hitting the breaks. Even after the novelty wore off, we still enjoy the car immensely. Fact is, we were ready for a change. Going electric also meant going from owning 2 cars to a 1-car household, because we cannot afford more than one of these vehicles. Erik and I will have to share the car, with all the issues and problems this may bring. I am banking on my more flexible work schedule that will help us with it. We jumped in with both feet. Let’s hope nobody throws a power cord into the water.