It was time to say goodbye to my minivan. I’d wanted an electric vehicle (EV) for years to reduce my carbon footprint, but they didn’t come in a size large enough for my family. With my youngest moving to the East Coast after high school and a ton of new models on the market, it was finally time to make the switch.
Initially, I wanted to purchase a Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid that was powered by both electricity and gas. With the RAV4, I could drive 40 miles on electricity and then the car would switch to gas. Since I rarely drive over 40 miles a day, I could use electricity for most of my trips. I had range anxiety and was nervous about buying a fully electric vehicle without having the backup of a gas engine. Unfortunately, when I went to buy the car, the waitlist was long and there was a markup in the sticker price due to high demand. Dismayed, I drove the minivan home and resolved to drive less to reduce my emissions.
A few months later, I went to a showroom just to “look”. As I entered, a Volkswagen ID.4 all-electric SUV was pulling in. Someone had cancelled their order and this car was available! I took it for a test drive and the ride was impressive–the smoothest and quietest I’ve ever experienced. The car handled really well, had a range of 240 miles, has lower maintenance costs than gas-powered cars, is allowed to use the HOV lane, and is eligible for toll discounts on Bay Area bridges. Plus, it was in my favorite color. I was sold!
I was still nervous about buying an electric car; I had visions of running out of charge and getting stranded. So far, my worries haven’t materialized. I use a Level 1 charger at home that came free with the car: It uses a standard three-pronged plug. The regular Level 1, 120-volt AC charger is slow–it has about a 1% charge per hour, allowing me to get an 8-10% charge overnight. Since most of my trips are local and rarely use more than 10% charge a day, I can keep the car fully charged most of the time. My husband also offered to take the car to work to charge it in his building (secretly, he really just wanted to drive the car). Unfortunately, they only have Level 1 chargers, but the building manager has agreed to install Level 2 chargers in the next few months so he can get a full charge while at work.
We’ve done two road trips so far–the farthest one was to Sacramento. While we could have gone to and from on a single charge, we wanted to see how hard it would be to charge the EV while traveling. We used an app that helps you locate chargers and found a Level 2 charger at a grocery store in Sacramento. We charged the car during our 45-minute shopping trip for a 25% charge. With my Volkswagen, I also get free charging at Electrify America’s charging stations, which host direct current (DC) fast chargers at Safeways near my home and can charge my car from 0 to 80% in about 40 minutes. A full charge costs me about $25; it used to cost me $100 to drive the same number of miles in my minivan.
There are a lot of apps you can use to find charging stations; I use ChargeHub. ChargeHub allows you to enter the model of your vehicle and shows you chargers that are compatible with your car. The app also helps you plan a trip based on your car’s range and the location of chargers along the way. Another way of finding available chargers is by typing “EV charging stations” into Google Maps to see what stations are currently available, the port types, and charging speeds.
My family and I plan to add a Level 2 charger to our home. The Level 2 charger will allow us to fully charge our car from 0 to 100% in about 10 hours. This charger will also allow us to program the time when the car is charged, so we only charge it when electricity is less expensive. Level 2 chargers cost $200 to $1,000, but there are incentives and rebates that can reduce that cost by around 30%. There is also an app called EV Match that allows private EV charging station owners to rent their charging station to members of the public, which can also offset the price of purchasing one.
There are a lot of incentives to make purchasing an EV and EV charger more affordable. For example, California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project offers rebates of up to $7,000 for qualified vehicles. A list of EV-related incentives can be found on the California Air Resources Board website or on ElectricForAll’s website.
I’m really pleased with my new car and I love to give people rides to show them how great EVs are. Three people who have ridden in my car have already reserved EVs for themselves!
Cover image: Haixin Guo