Moving from working 5 days a week to working zero days a week can seem like a major move … and very often one that is avoided for as long as possible. From a career to Retirement … that is the rub!
So, along with retiring from a 40-something year career as as Electrical Engineer and Computer Software Developer, I entered the retirement phase of my life by trading in my “gas Guzzler”, first on a series of Prius’ hybrids, followed by a Prius with an after-market 5 kwh Li-Ion battery pack in the trunk. Then, my excellent intention was to modify this Electric Hybrid Prius to become a totally electric Prius by removing the engine, transmission and gas tank and replacing these with more Li-Ion batteries.
Excellent plan, right?
Well, it was … until Nissan came out with their all-electric car, the LEAF, initially in 2012. Originally in the mid- $40,000 bracket, I was a tad slow picking up on this opportunity.
But mid-2013 changed all of that.
When I dropped into a Nissan dealership, they offered me an $8500 discount from head-office, coupled with the Ontario $8500 rebate and the dealership itself threw in an additional $1000 incentive. If you do the math, that reduced the price to something like half the original price on the very last available 2012 LEAF in Canada. Poof! I forgot about my Prius electrification project, donated my Prius to my wife and drove my new LEAF everywhere. I was ecstatic and loved my new, silent drive and didn’t miss driving into a stinky gas station every week for a $50 tank of gas! I simply plugged in nightly for a simple and clean $1 nightly charge. Again, do the math, and my $50 weekly gas tank shrank to a $7 weekly electric charge from the comfort of my own garage … that took 11 seconds to plug in and another 11 seconds to unplug the following morning. My reward was a “full tank of Electrons” every morning.
Within the first couple of months, I heard about the LEAF “100-Mile Club” (162 Km) and decided that I had to become a member of this elite club (remember back then the 2012 LEAF, with a 24 kWh battery, had a nominal range of some 120 Km). So, I drove around town (between Toronto and Thornhill or within the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) for 3 days without charging overnight. As I approached the 150 Km point on the third day, my remaining battery range was down to a “comfortable” 11 Km, so all looked good. By 160 Km, the battery range dropped to 1 Km, so I stayed close to home and circled my area as the range “disappeared” when I hit zero range.
So, did the car immediately stop? Absolutely NOT!
The zero just remained and the car continued to drive around the block. After another 5 or 6 Km, I got bored driving around the block, so I drove home, content that I had made the 100-mile target with even an extra few Km for good measure!
So, my next challenge was a family drive from Toronto to Niagara-On-the-Lake, an easy 150 Km drive. But, on the 400 series highways, range tended to drop quicker than around town. So, to reassure myself that I would not be embarrassed by running out of electrons in front of my wife, I left home the week before our scheduled weekend trip, alone, and drove exactly half way to our destination (at the posted speed limit), checked my remaining range, 77 Km, and turned around and drove home. Success!
So, I felt that our drive to the Niagara area would be an easy drive and booked our Hotel that offered an EV Charger that would replenish our electrons overnight. The drive was easy and the overnight charge was a free charge from the Hotel.
Now, I had a problem! With retirement came the purchase of a Condo in Florida for an annual “Second Summer” and an annual drive from Toronto to Boca Raton, some 2400 Km and a 3-day drive. With help from online planning tools, our 3-day drive in a LEAF would be more like a 3-week drive in a 120-Km range LEAF!
That didn’t sound like a reasonable option.
After some personal deliberation and trepidation, I realized that I had to bite the bullet and make a never-before considered purchase … a Tesla. This was back in 2014-ish. A Tesla Model “S” was available and the more affordable, $35,000 (US) Tesla Model 3 was “promised” by Elon Musk, but, by about 2016 or so. (Actually, the first Model 3 was delivered to California residents mid-2017.) So, I could patiently wait or bite the bullet once again and execute an online purchase of the rather expensive Tesla Model S for almost immediate delivery. I chose the latter. My compromise was keeping the expensive options down to a few that I really needed, like a larger battery and AutoPilot. I asked Tesla to deliver my Model S at their showroom in Toronto for April 22, 2015, “Earth Day”. It just seemed to be so appropriate that I even made a party of this purchase, inviting my group of Hybrid & EV friends and members of my Toronto Hybrid & Electric Car Club (www.TorontoEV.club).
Towards the end of that year, 2015, we were getting ready for our sojourn from Toronto to Florida in my new Tesla Model S. This would be our first really long Tesla EV drive, so I was slightly trepidatious, but really excited! Imagine, a silent, smooth and powerful (meaning, fast) drive to our Florida condo.
One of the 1000 reasons to drive a Tesla is the promise of free Software downloads for life as they become available. So, the Tesla is never really “old,” but virtually stays “current.” With the latest download of the S/W, my Tesla now had “Auto-Speed Aware” and “Auto-Steering” on highways, known as “AutoPilot.” Furthermore, the GPS was totally aware of my destination and all of the Tesla SuperChargers along my route. The GPS planned our drive down south, showing us the required 14 charging stops along the I-75 route, taking us around the Appalachian Mountain Range on the west side (across Ontario on the 401, via Detroit and then heading south). The beautiful thing with the GPS specifying our route and required “Rest Stops” was that there was no discussion that we could skip a stop now and then … if the GPS said “Take a Break” for 22 minutes at this SuperCharger, we stopped without any discussion! Back then, this was also new to Tesla and the GPS had us stop at EVERY SuperCharger along our route and one of these stops was at a small Airport … for 10 minutes! I questioned the logic of this stop when we could have easily stayed an additional 10 minutes at the previous stop. But, as I said, if the GPS said “Take a break”, we took a break!
By the way, by the time we returned to Toronto in April, some 4 or 5 months later, Tesla had tweaked their GPS software and eliminated this 10-minute stop. In fact, the number of “breaks” was reduced to 12.
So, the miracle was that we arrived safe and sound at our Florida condo about a two hours earlier than we had ever arrived before when we had the Prius. Paraphrased, the frequent “rest stops” that were used to recharge the Tesla did NOT add to the total trip time. As an Engineer, I had to give this a long and hard rational think. How could I arrive at our destination earlier than when we had only stopped 3 or 4 times for gas? The answer was simple. The “gas” drive tended to be slower (usually at the posted speed limit) and I had to take several “sleep” stops and “eat” stops and pee stops along with the required “gas” stops. With electrons, we only stopped at the SuperChargers and I got my “Shut-eye” rests, coffee, lunch or dinner and pee breaks all together at the same time as the car just happened to be “refueling” with new electrons. So, these “Charging” stops did NOT add more than 22 seconds to our total drive-time and now you know why I say “I never stop to charge!” … but I always plug in while I stop for every other reason. Which means that I actually stop fewer times for electrons rather than when I had to stop for gas. Of course, the other reason that I arrive at my destination sooner is because, with electrons, I drive at the speed of other drivers, generally some 10 or 15 KPH above the speed limit. Of course, because of these “required” stops, I feel more relaxed and might I suggest, probably a safer driver, too.
Now, fast forward to today, and now we have 3 available routes to Florida:
- East of the Mountain Range;
- West of the Mountain Range via Detroit; or
- Straight OVER the Mountain Range (the shortest and most direct route) via Niagara and Buffalo.
BTW, now with better GPS Tesla software, we only stop 10 times for my coffee, snacks and pee breaks. Furthermore, our drives now are so fast that we could actually do it in only two days rather than the 3 of yester-year. Also, today’s batteries in the Tesla’s of today, coupled with the new faster and more powerful Tesla SuperChargers, the current stops are shorter by almost a factor of two. Personally, this added speed of charging is not that important because my body still needs the shut-eye time, the coffee or lunch … not to mention my bladder that still requires emptying from time to time!
Another perspective is comparing to our working life: we had Breakfast first, 2 hours later we had a coffee break, 2 hours later we stopped for lunch, followed by yet another coffee break 2 hours after lunch and then we went home for dinner 2 hours later. So, why not repeat this procedure when driving inter-city? No one can comfortably drive for a thousand kilometers without a break. So, plugging in every few hours is really not such a big deal. Especially when the GPS shows you exactly where to go for a break and you know that the break will include a reliable and fast SuperCharger along with coffee or a restaurant and sometimes, even a motel. Most SuperChargers are in large shopping Malls, although a couple are now in larger gas stations. The other factor is that while there are many EV Fast Chargers (called DCFC – DC Fast Chargers) around the country with one, two or perhaps even 4 chargers at a specific location, Tesla SuperChargers generally never have fewer than 8 “stalls” and the newer locations tend to have 20 very reliable charging stalls.
One other really big factor with most EV’s and the Tesla, in particular, is safety. Generally, EV’s with their very heavy batteries mounted BELOW the floor and between the 4 wheels gives the typical EV a substantial safety factor. It’s almost impossible for an EV to roll over with this heavy weight mounted so low on the body. The Tesla, in addition to this low “centre-of-Gravity”, has a 5-star crash rating on all sides. As an example, one of my close EV friends had a terrible “T-bone” crash with a driver who ran a red light. His Tesla Model “Y” was hit with such a force that his car spun around 360-degrees and was written off by the insurance company. Meanwhile, my friend stepped out of the car, shook off the debris on his clothing and got a lift home with his wife. No whiplash. no hospital visit, no rehabilitation … just had to order a replacement Tesla online (covered, of course, by his insurance!).
Let me leave you with one final thought, Maintenance. You know, those annual maintenance requirements with gas cars, that soon add up to several hundreds of dollars, or even a thousand! Well, back in 2015, after a year of trouble free driving, Tesla, at that time, recommended an annual checkup. So, i followed this suggestion and booked my $200 checkup. They checked my tire tread depth, replaced my two windshield wipers, washed the car and, ah, yes, changed my battery … , no, no, not THAT battery, my little key fob battery. For $200? So, first of all, I’ve never gone for another “annual” checkup, but more importantly, today, Tesla no longer recommends this annual checkup. Just remember to still rotate your tires.
To be fair, I do tend to have to change my tires every couple of years … but, tires can be sourced from any tire supplier. Battery replacement? Well, yes, you still should replace your 12-volt battery occasionally, perhaps after 8 or 10 years. But, the big expensive battery (called the Traction Battery) … no, it’s under warranty for 8 years but should last the life of the car, or at least as long as an engine have would lasted. Rubber windshield wipers still require replacement now and then. Oh, and EV’s still get dirty and like to get their face washed!
Did I forget to mention those almost bi-annual brake jobs? No, I didn’t forget them … because they aren’t required in an EV. As a general rule, your brakes will last you the life of the car. Just as long as you use them every once in a while to keep them from “locking up.” Normally, the electric motor will do the bulk of the braking for you (we call this “regen” for “regenerative braking”).
Have you thought about the moral of this story? If you’re not driving an EV yet, I want you to seriously consider your next car being driven by clean, reusable electrons rather than single use, polluting carbon. If your drives are totally local, you would do well in any of the EV’s available today. They are all well designed and post their typical range so that you can choose the correct EV with a range that would give you a relaxed drive every day. However, if inter-city driving is part of your driving profile, then you must consider the Tesla first, second and third. Only after those 3 considerations should you look at any other EV. Of the 1000 reasons to consider a Tesla first, the first three reasons are:
- Safety. The 5-Star crash rating;
- The phenomenal, almost ubiquitous Tesla SuperCharging network crisscrossing North America;
- The Free-for-Life S/W updates that keep your car almost current.
We are still a 2-car family with the 2012 LEAF providing my wife with excellent drives to her almost daily outings to her senior centre, her grandchildren visits and, of course, grocery shopping and retail therapy.
Please remember, “We never stop to charge” and always, “Think Outside the Pump!”
Enjoy your non-polluting, silent EV drive …
Erik Haltrecht, P.Eng.
“Think Outside the Pump!”