Friday, March 29, 2013

Reflections of

the way life used to be...

Admit it, you heard Diana Ross' voice in your head as you read the title of this blog post.  Anyway, its been just over a year, and a scosh over 10,000 miles of all electric driving since I took delivery of my ActiveE last March, and just about four months since my last post.  Somehow life (also known as the holidays and a Food & Drug Law class I'm taking) has gotten in the way of my being able to post lately.  But don't take that to mean that I'm not just as excited as I've always been about this car or EVs in general.  Since its our one year anniversary in the ActiveE and its has been so long since I've put together a new blog post, I thought it might be fun to reflect on how life has changed since we took the leap into an Electric Vehicle.

Before that fateful day when the BMW mailer ended up in my mailbox, I was going through life at 20 mpg.  Even then it was frustrating as hell.  My brother used to have an '88 Honda CRX that got more than 50 mpg, and the fact that we can't seem to approach that type of performance any longer due to US safety standards and American's perceived need for more power rather than gas mileage drove me nuts.  We Americans sure like to b!&@# about gas prices, but most of the folks who like to complain don't seem willing to change their habits.  They just want the government to do something about the high prices.  Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox now.  Anyway, after a year I find the ActiveE completely liberating.  No more frustration about 20 mpg.  No calculating how much each trip cost.  Before the ActiveE this is how my brain worked: 

Grocery shopping: $4.00
Trip to my mother's house: $7.20
Trip to a Certain someone's parent's house: $20.00

Now?  Not only do I not think about how much a trip costs, I don't even know how much gas costs.  When people complain about rising gas prices, I have to ask how much it is up to.  And considering that I had a PhotoVoltaic system installed, I care even less about 'fuel' costs.  At $4 saved per 20 miles driven the system will be paid off in 7 more years and all my future fuel costs will be completely free. Not surprisingly, this is a great segue into another wonderful change brought on by EV ownership. 

No more spending time at a gas station.  And I hate going to the gas station. Mostly because of the time it took - especially when you were running late and you realized you needed gas.  A lot has been made about the time necessary to plug an EV in, but I'm here to tell you that it is nothing compared to stopping at the gas station.  On average I spent about 10 minutes* per week at the gas station before the ActiveE. At ~520 minutes per year, that's a shade under 9 hours of my life back.  Time needed to plug the car in and unplug it each day?  Under 12 seconds combined (although admittedly it can be a bit longer in the winter when the frozen plug cable gets unwieldy).  Since I'm only averaging about 30 miles/day, I don't need to plug in every day.  In reality I only need to plug in ~2x per week, But even if I had to plug in daily, it would only be about 1.25 hours for the year.  That's 7.5 hours more per year that I can do whatever I want.  Doesn't sound like much to you?  Over your driving lifetime that's 17.5 days.  17.5 days of not dispensing and exposing yourself to a hazardous chemical.  In a world where we're all on a limited timeclock, I'll take any time I can get.

Other beneficial changes from the way life used to be?  A designated parking spot at work for EVs, feeling more in tune with your surroundings while driving due to the lack of engine noise, and no longer having to put up with the vibrations of a combustion engine.  To be fair, an EV actually highlights the level of vibration in an ICE when you're forced to drive one after owning an EV.  Prior to owning one I found ICE vibrations to be pretty innocuous.

To be fair and balanced in this little journey down memory lane, I must also highlight those EV traits that are either frustrating or require more effort than is necessary when one owns an ICE.  There's a lot of irony in my first frustration.  We're a four car household with a one car garage.  Suffice it to say that the ActiveE isn't the car that gets to sleep in the garage.  Winter in New England has its challenges and snow and ice are pretty high on the list.  Removal of ice from a car with little to no ability to warm itself up can be a challenge to say the least.  And in a time where many municipalities have enacted laws to make it a crime to drive around with snow or ice on your vehicle, this can be an issue, even with the car's ability to pre-condition and warm up the cabin prior to departure.  Fortunately it's only been a bit of an issue once for me, but a different type of winter could result in more issues.  Live in SoCal or have a garage, probably not much of an issue...

Another challenge is long distance travel.  Typically its not an issue for us as we just take the A6 Avant when distances make the EV untenable.  In a few short weeks, however, I'm hoping to make it to an ActiveE gathering in NJ.  Its 150 miles each way, and the weather forecast currently hints at temps well below the sweet spot for battery life.  Between reduced range due to temperatures and living in an area with a derth of EVSEs, planning for this trip has been challenging to say the least.  Hopefully it will be warm enough and I'll be able to adequately charge the ActiveE so that I can make the event (and the bigger challenge of making it home).  If I do, you'll get to read about it here.

*Note that I define time spent at the gas station as the moment I begin slowing down to pull into the gas station, until I am back at speed after leaving the gas station.