Driving Electric (car post)

For the past year and a half, I have been leasing a Volkswagen E-Golf.  It’s the 2016 base model with an average range of 80 miles/charge.

(representative photo, not my car)

There are many quirks that you will have to adapt to if you’re driving electric.

First off, the range can be wildly “optimistic” After a full L1 charge, my car has claimed a range of 104 miles.  Of course, after I drive for a bit, it loses range quickly until it’s back down to the 80s.

Second is that real issue, range anxiety Because of it’s stated 80 mile range, it’s great in San Francisco and the immediate area (north to Marin and south to the Airport).  Due to the City of San Francisco’s stupid policy of traffic calming, the car actually works fine in Eco+ mode getting around the City (because you’re not really moving due to bad congestion that’s created by the City, I mean “traffic calming”).  You don’t actually get 80 miles to drive, although the car may claim it has an 80 mile range.  When your range drops below 20, it automatically goes to Eco mode.  When it drops below 10, you’re in “Limp home mode” AKA Eco+.  On the freeway?  Forget about it.  There have been times when I was driving rideshare when the car would hit “limp home mode” coming off 280S at John Daly.  I would coast down the hill to Westlake, recharging the battery so I’d have enough power to get from the stoplight to the DC charger in the shopping center.  And speaking of DC charging…it charges the battery to 80%,  That’s enough to get you home in 60 mile chunks.  100% charge is achieved with either an L2 or L1 charger.  Cold?  The E-Golf has seat warmers that work well..  The heater works best in “Normal” mode and takes at least 10 miles off your range.  It doesn’t work in either Eco or Eco+.  The new generation of electrics have longer range (and hopefully better heaters).  The Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Type 3 (with it’s big booty) have 230 mile ranges which is practical for California driving.  The latest versions of the Nissan Leaf and the E-Golf have 120 mile ranges.  An improvement but not there yet.  What’s needed now with electrics having longer ranges is more DC charging stations.  And speaking of DC chargers…

Long trips require planning (and apps).  I’ve taken the E-Golf up to Sacramento several times and I can say that in the hinterlands between Vallejo and Sacramento, WalMart is your friend.  Besides having reasonably priced groceries and organics, the WalMarts in Fairfield, West Sacramento and Dixon have DC chargers.  There’s also a DC charger in the Vacaville Factory Outlets (along with an In & Out and Chick-Fil-A).  PlugShare is your friend.  Download the app so once you’re up in Sac, you can do things near the plethora of L2 chargers up there.

Conclusion:  Always lease, because electrics are hella expensive and the battery is expensive to replace when used up.  Technology is moving forward fast so you’ll want the latest out there (because it usually means a longer range) and since the car manufacturers need to have these cars on the road, there will usually be some nice deals out there.  Sometimes they pop up on Leasehackr.