What I Learned Owning an Electric Car
By Tom Moffatt
A lot of people are wondering about purchasing an EV in the near future. What’s owning one like, especially here in Canada? Here are a few thoughts after reaching the 10,000 km mark on my Mustang Mach E 4X. At this point, I can say it’s well and truly broken-in, and I’ve seen most of the challenges and benefits that come with owning an electric car.
The buying experience for electric vehicles is terrible. Most car companies don’t have any, can’t get any, and most dealers have no clue how they work or what their features are. The typical purchase process involves making a reservation, sight unseen, and waiting – perhaps years – to get one. Luckily for me, Ford has some good forums, where other potential owners researched the answers to technical questions and updated production schedules. I spent a lot of time there, during the nine-month wait for my vehicle.
Thanks to Tesla, EV manufacturers are combining the building of electric vehicles with many other advanced features, and most controls are now touchscreen buttons on a computer screen. This is a pain and very unsafe. Trying to explore a bunch of nested computer menus while driving a car is distracting, as you can imagine. Given time, you will learn where most vehicle commands are, and your searches will be faster. I still prefer dashboard buttons. It continues to take me five minutes to recall how to pop the trunk (Choose: Car / Controls / Access – it’s under Access! / Liftgate). Unfortunately, this trend is spreading to all cars.
The EV has proved much superior to gas vehicles. Fuel? Oil? Don’t need it. Starting in a winter deep freeze? First time every time. Acceleration? Insanely fast. Braking? It brakes itself, with one-pedal driving, so smoothly you can hardly feel it. I never have to touch the brake except in an emergency. Noise? Very quiet. No more drowning out the radio. Exhaust fumes? Gone. I really notice the smell when I drive a carbon-burner now. The Mach E suspension is stiffer than I’d like, Ford chose a ‘sport’ setup over comfort.
Driving around the city, I plug in the car in for a few hours about twice a week. Electricity bills have not gone up significantly. I installed a dryer outlet in my garage and mounted a car charger on the wall to recharge at home. This can be scheduled using the car or smartphone software. You may need to get a newer phone to be compatible with your car – they demand the latest technology.
Driving long distances can present challenges. Public charging networks are in their infancy and still have growing pains. I’m fortunate there are enough public chargers in Southern Alberta and B.C. that I’ve always found one when the battery gets low, during my initial travels. The summer range of 270 miles is as promised. What if a charger was out of service, though? There’s no easy way to get a mobile charge in most places, although those services are coming. For this reason, planning ahead is important. Other issues: buying a charge on most networks requires a membership; DC fast chargers are throttled after reaching 80% charge; some chargers are slower than others; charger software is glitchy and may not work with your car. Depending on the speed the DC fast charger can provide, it can take as little as 25 minutes up to as much as 45 minutes to recharge from 20% to 80%. A typical cost to recharge is $16.00.
Driving range in the winter is reduced. Running the heater is a serious power drain. Using air conditioning in the summer is nowhere near as intensive. My car doesn’t have a heat pump, which improves the range in the winter. Most new EVs are adding this feature. Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve yet to do enough long-range travel in winter to determine an average range.
The only user maintenance feature you’ll find under the hood is a fill cap for windshield washer fluid. The rest of the space is a frunk for cargo, with a handy drain hole in case you want to fill it with beer and ice. The motors are along the axels. Having a local dealership is recommended, if possible, since brand new models like EVs tend to have teething troubles. I’ve had the car in the shop for some fixes and recalls, all solved pretty quickly, but they would have been inconvenient without a local dealer. The driver’s door button stopped working, for example, which in the end was a software problem. Overall, the build quality is good, with a few small exceptions. The flimsy plastic Mach E 4X logo on the door won’t survive long.
The electric vehicle is here to stay. The difference in quality, performance and simplicity means they’ll certainly replace fossil fuel vehicles in short order. Cheaper to operate, with the added benefit of not destroying the planet, expect them to be as common as dirt as the prices fall further and automobile companies start to actually stock them. Batteries, range and electric engines are getting exponentially better as the world pours research dollars into them. The future is bright for electric vehicles and great fun for those that drive them.