After taking the time to give the matter some serious thought, I’ve finally arrived at what it is I really appreciate in particular about my electric car: absolutely everything.
Uh-oh, yikes, here it comes (I know what you’re thinking): another blowhard electric car driver who’s going to spout righteously off about the piss stinking virtues of his damn ‘e-car’ (I bet he calls it that!). ‘Ooh, my little carbon footprint! And did I tell you its exhaust is composed of only the dreams of happy hobbits and baby unicorn breath?’
I will spare you all of that. Yes, I’m pro-environment, and yes, I’m pleased to do my little part—along with having taken camping showers at home now for over two years in honor of the drought—in defense of the same. But it’s not like the power needed to fuel my car comes from nowhere. PG&E, our electric utility provider here in northern California, has to burn something along the way to fuel my car. Though the baby unicorn breath smells really beautiful….
Rather, it’s the performance of the car and what you don’t have to deal with that makes owning the thing so great. Now, granted, I own a very good electric car—a Tesla X. And the thing is packed with so many technological features, there’s a lot of creature comfort in the thing that adds to my enjoyment. Can’t say how much of these are in other electric cars, so maybe my satisfaction is similar but different from other e-car owners.
A quick run down on what I like.
I like how the thing accelerates. Acceleration in gas powered cars, if mapped on a grid, would be a series of curves and plateaus as a result of the car changing gears. In my car, it’s a straight line. In a gas car, you hear that procession in the sound of your engine revving up before it drops to a higher gear. My car is pretty much silent. Smooth as hell and silent—it’s a pretty big difference.
I like how the thing decelerates, for that matter. I remember a physics teacher one time talking about how braking in a car is a vast waste of kinetic energy, that if you could somehow capture the energy from all the friction involved in that act and use it, you’d reduce your energy needs at least some overall. My car does that. It has what’s called “regenerative braking,” so when I take my foot off of the accelerator, I assume something clamps onto the wheel discs that both slows the car down and channels the energy produced back into the battery. It was a little odd to get used to, and then I loved it. Most of the time now I don’t have to touch my brakes until the very last need to stop, these things work that well. So less braking wear and tear there.
What else I love are all the whizbang techno-features with which the car is endowed. I get in, put my foot on the brake, my door automatically closes (I can open and close all doors using my touchscreen). Doing likewise to open any door, the car has a million sensor eyes that open doors according to its immediate physical environment, and opens them safely and without dinging the next guy (this is the case for the passenger seat gull doors—they don’t open just by swinging upward, they adjust their out and up motion according to what space they have to work with). The touchscreen in these cars is huge. When I put the car in reverse and the image behind me shows up, it’s practically like I’m sitting on the back of the car, the image is that large and that wide (they’ve engineered the car to in fact discourage you from twisting around to look back). Last, they didn’t overengineer the controls in this car. The controls are simple, intuitive, and relatively few in number.
Oh, and much like the many gadgets and apps you own that periodically get upgraded via software updates? That happens with my car all the time,new features being introduced as I sleep at night.
What I don’t’ miss about gas cars.
I drive by lots of gas stations—every one of them, of course. I don’t stand there anymore inhaling fumes and being harassed by those awful television endowed gas pumps. When I get home I push a button on my key fob, a little door opens, and I plug this very futuristic looking cable into the car’s port. “You have to do that every day?” Yes, and gladly. It takes less time to do it than I spend fumbling for my house key to unlock that door.
I don’t miss servicing my car. When I picked this car up for the first time (after about a 15 minute orientation—the service person said, “Just go ahead and drive it. It’s pretty intuitive so you shouldn’t have many questions”), I did pause to ask him, hey, what’s the service schedule on this thing. He gave me a patient-yet-slightly pained look—the same look, in fact, I received from the IT guy back in ’95 when he first added internet access to my work computer and I asked him, “Okay, so how does the internet work?” The Tesla service guy said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. It’s not very much, the car will tell us what you need, and we’ll give you a call.”
When I first learned that Tesla put an air filtering system in place that literally can provide bioweapon protection (I shit thee not), I thought, Now is that really necessary? But here’s the point: my car always smells clean. Heck, it doesn’t even smell clean, as in “that new car smell.” It would be more apt to say, it smells pure, like nothing at all. I really didn’t notice this until I got back into Ann’s and Claire’s cars and felt suddenly assaulted by the smells in them—of leather and petrochemicals and perfume and gum and dog. And don’t get me wrong—they keep their cars as clean as can be. It just is what it is where the usual interior of a car is concerned. So, hate to break it to you, folks, but…your car stinks!
I guess the last point to address is one I just haven’t had to yet—driving for distance and the pro’s and con’s of needing to power up at an electric car station. I’ve had this car for about six months now and have only driven around town, thus only fueled up at home. Word has it that if you go to a Tesla Supercharger station (the costs for which are considered built into the purchase price of your car, so “free” in the moment), it takes about 30-45 minutes to fully charge your car (at home, using a beefed up 240v wall unit) it takes only an hour or two to recharge from what I usually use, about 4 hours to charge up from scratch). So that’s an aspect that awaits discovery.