I’d been toying with the idea of going electric for a couple of years when Mrs B was made an offer through her employer that was too good to refuse. A few months later we took delivery of a brand new Tesla Modal 3 on a 3-year lease.
That was back in March 2021. Eight months in, here are 10 things that have surprised me about running an electric car - and a Tesla in particular.
- When driving, I sometimes feel like I’m a time traveller from the future looking through the windows into the past. All those clunky fossil fuel cars are like horses and carts with just the occasional other electric car to remind me I’m not the only one. Kind of eery.
- Like most people I know, running a car meant owning a car. Not any more. Leasing a car for 2 or 3 years, then upgrading now makes way more sense. We don’t think twice about doing that for our phones. High-tech cars are no different. What’s the big deal about ‘owning’? Access is what matters. Why buy a car when you know it’s going to be obsolete in 2 or 3 years time?
- I love the way the car silently upgrades itself overnight. Again, just like a phone. The car just gets better over time. (This might seem to contradict my previous point but of course I’m talking about what can improve due to software upgrades. The hardware limits what can be done which is why the physical car needs to be swapped out once in a while.)
- I’d always just assumed that I’d be charging the car overnight - every night. Now this may be because I don’t do a huge mileage but I’m finding I only have to recharge once every 2 or 3 weeks.
- The one reason people I talk to give for holding back on going electric is the fear of running out of miles. The Tesla 3 has a range of around 340 miles. We don’t do many long trips but we’ve only had to charge the car away from home once or twice per long (say over 100 miles) trip. The Tesla super-chargers are seriously fast and I’ve never seen one out of order or had to queue. All other charges have been on our home charger. Except once, where we had complementary charging from an old-school country house-type hotel. I didn’t need it but topped-up for free because I could.
- I am struck by how quiet the ride is - at all speeds. Even when accelerating at up to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds - which is kind of terrifying. I absolutely love this quietness and calm. The downside is that now while I’m a pedestrian I find the ugly noise of all the fossil fuel cars, vans, motorbikes, trucks etc… almost unbearable.
- The appearance of the car from the outside is not that different from its fossil ancestors but inside it’s a different story. I am talking about the Tesla here and so other brands may vary but… wow, what a change! No knobs, buttons or switches. Like NONE. Apart from the stalks for lights and switching between forward and back, all the readings and controls are done on the huge screen. This is even more striking in the dark when the whole space behind the steering wheel is totally distraction-free. The novelty of all this has worn off now but for the first few months it was striking. My 80-year old Dad by the way much prefers physical controls. But there’s no reason why an electric car cannot have physical controls.
- I really like the way Tesla have taken full advantage of not having a long history in car-making. As a result, they have reinvented from the ground-up what a 21 century car can be using today’s technology. For example, why restrict air vents to two or 3 tiny plastic holes with flaps? Instead, air comes out ALL THE WAY across the dashboard. Another example is being able to turn on the climate control from the car app on my phone before I even leave the house. The car then unlocks automatically as I approach, and I step into the perfect temperature and clear, de-iced, de-misted windows. If Mrs B had driven last then with a single tap on the screen, the seat and steering column automatically adjust for me. Perfect!
- Because there’s no engine we get extra storage space under the bonnet. OK, it’s not huge but still, nice! (Sorry Tesla but we don’t do trunks let alone ‘frunks’ in the UK!)
- Finally, I LOVE not having to visit filthy petrol stations anymore to fill up with fossil fuel. I cannot deny the warm feeling I get from knowing the car we drive now is powered by 100% renewable energy.
I am well aware that not everyone can afford an electric car at this point but the good news is that choice is increasing and prices are falling. Fast. I suspect we’re close to a tipping point where virtually all new cars will be electric and this in turn will feed through to an affordable secondary market.
The challenge is to provide enough reliable, and fast charging points for all. Clearly, not everyone has off-road parking and so we’re going to need creative solutions near people’s homes as well as en-route. This needs to happen fast. I’m optimistic but let’s see what happens…