In this new weekly series, automobile journalist Michael Bettencourt will provide Wheels readers with a firsthand account of what it is like to own, drive, travel and live with an electric vehicle. An early EV adopter, he will offer practical insight but also share the advice he has learned from a decade of owning plug-in vehicles.
The bright yellow sales bill on our family’s all-electric Nissan Leaf is dated Dec. 29, 2011. This was back when our youngest was just starting school, and our oldest was missing his two front teeth. You can see it in the photograph of us taken by our sales rep when we bought the vehicle. The car and its charging station were both cutting edge tech, for its day.
Then again, so was the Blackberry 10.
A decade ago, Tesla Motors was a tiny and financially struggling California EV startup.
There was no such thing as a Tesla Supercharger network, or any charging network back then. My job as an auto journalist had brought me into the orbit of early versions of EVs like the Tesla Roadster and Leaf. But my wife, who would drive our new Leaf daily, had her trepidations. Just as I’m sure many potential EV buyers still have concerns today.
Potential EV drivers will be pretty much every driver in Canada at some point, barring some unforeseen breakthrough in fuel cell vehicles. The federal government has declared only zero emission vehicles will be sold by 2035, with a goal to reach half of all new vehicles sold by 2030. We enjoy the pioneering and clean car aspects of EV ownership, but we also dealt with a fair share of financial and unexpected headaches along the way.
Headaches we’re hoping this regular column on EV life will help you avoid.
For sure, EV technology has improved tremendously, even in the past five years. That’s roughly when we traded in our battery electric (BEV) Leaf for a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), a used Ford C-Max Energi we appreciated for its flexibility to run on gasoline occasionally.
Lower temperatures, battery degradation and a desire for sauna-challenging cabin heat have beaten down real-world all-electric range from about 40 kilometres when new, to closer to 25 kilometres in colder weather and roughly 15 kilometres of winter range now. So, we’re now starting to look again at full BEV options, or possibly even longer-range plug-in hybrids.
As of now, we won’t buy another vehicle without a plug: the smoothness, the fuel savings and the overall ownership experience still feel incredibly futuristic. With our oldest now driving himself, this column will dive into what we’ve discovered in a decade of EV life and explore what future EV owners should know – cutting edge or otherwise.
Have a question or topic you want Michael Bettencourt to explore in this column? Email us at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MCBet10court