I haven’t put gas in a car in six months. I can’t really remember the last time I was even at a gas station but I know I was sitting in the passenger seat while Greg filled up his car. Greg and I have been working really hard to reduce our carbon footprint and identify environmentally sustainable updates we can make to our lifestyle. We bought a Chevy Bolt six months ago to replace my old car. It’s 100% electric, so it doesn’t take any gas. The gas thing is obviously something I knew about going into the purchase, but there are some other things about electric car ownership which have surprised me:
- Electric car maintenance is next to nothing compared to a traditional gas-powered car. There’s no oil in the engine, no transmission fluids. The consistent maintenance milestones are just tire rotations and air filter changes. There are still some systems, like the brakes, which have similar maintenance schedules to gas-powered cars, but I’m saving a ton of money by not needing oil changes.
- The mileage of the battery is variable depending on the driving conditions. Technically, my Bolt has a 250 mile range on its battery. In good weather with a comfortable temperature outside, that’s pretty accurate. The thing about an electric car, however, is everything is powered by the battery. I notice this the most on cold days, when the battery runs out really quickly. A gas-powered car uses the heat from the engine to help heat air that’s flowing to the cabin on a cold day. An electric car doesn’t have an engine heating up, so it has to use its energy to run the heater. So far these different battery ranges haven’t posed a problem for me, but it’s definitely something that surprised me. It would also be a good thing to keep in mind if you live in a more extreme climate, like somewhere with snowy winters.
- The electric car is QUIET. Everyone notices this the first time they turn on an electric car because you don’t get the roar you’re used to with a gas-powered engine. I don’t think there’s any major pro or con to this. It’s mostly just something interesting we’ve noticed.
- Like a lot of electric cars, the Bolt has regenerative braking. This uses the energy generated by breaking the car to help charge the battery. Depending on the route, we’ve actually had some drives where we ended up with more charge on the car than when we started. It’s kind of trippy!
- Different types of outlets charge the car at different speeds. This has been the biggest logistical element of electric car ownership to get used to. When we bought the car we had been planning on buying an electric car as our next vehicle, but we weren’t expecting the timing we ended up with so we hadn’t installed a higher-output charger meant for an electric car. The city of Austin currently has a program where electric car owners can pay a one-time $25 fee in exchange for unlimited charging at participating public charges stations for six months. There is an outdoor mall in North Austin that has a bunch of public chargers, and we end up there several days a week for dinners, shopping trips, etc. That, combined with my short commute to work, means the public charging option is typically enough for the mileage I put on the car each week. If I had a longer commute that probably wouldn’t work as well. We can charge the car at home with the regular outlet in our garage, but it only charges at a rate of 4-8 miles per hour. By comparison, the public chargers I usually use charge around 20 miles per hour. Eventually we’ll get a higher power charging system at home, but right now it’s not necessary.
- The last thing that has surprised me about electric car ownership might be specific to the Bolt. I don’t know very many other people who have electric cars right now so I haven’t been able to compare notes. I’ve found that sometimes my car isn’t happy about how a public plug fits into the car, so every once in awhile I can’t get the car to recognize that it’s actually plugged in. I think this is sometimes related to how much tension is on the charging cable (like if the cable has to cross from one side of the car to the other to reach the plug). So far it hasn’t been an impassable issue, but it is annoying.
Do you have any questions about electric car ownership? I’m not an expert in the technical side of things by any means, but I love talking about environmentally sustainable swaps and would be happy to touch base if you have any questions I didn’t cover here. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Instagram, or by email. And make sure to sign up for our email newsletter to get a weekly update on new blog content!