One Year with an Electric Car

It was a year ago this week that we traded in our 2000 VW Jetta for a 2016 Kia Soul EV, and thus traded gasoline for electricity as the source for our transportation energy (I have not visited a gas station in more than 365 days as a result; I do not miss it).

The spark of the kernel of the idea for moving to a battery-electric car came from Karri Shea who, at the memorial for her late husband Josh Underhay, laid down a challenge:

Please don’t let their deaths be only a senseless tragedy, let them be a call to action and a catalyst for a change that you make in your life. For Prince Edward Island, for the world. Plant a tree, donate blood, put solar on your roof, buy an electric car.

From the planting of that idea, Trudy White, friend of the blog from the east, enhanced the momentum by showing up one day, weeks later, to take me for coffee in her brand new Chevy Bolt; a few weeks after that she let me drive the Bolt to a meeting of the electric vehicle association in South Melville, where I got to meet a ragtag group of EV owners and aspirants who, one by one, successfully batted away any of my lingering doubts.

I continued to dip my toes in the water by renting a Bolt to drive from Montreal to New Hampshire and back in September, which proved a success.

It was at that spring meeting of the EV group that Mike Kenny announced his plans to open up an all-EV dealership, a plans came together over that summer, so that by November we could take a Kia Soul EV he’d just imported from Quebec for a 24 hour test drive.

Catherine proved the catalyst for the final push: she could see how antsy I was about continuing to drive the Jetta, and how I couldn’t conscience replacing it with another gasoline powered car. 

In the end, buying the Kia Soul EV we’d test driven a month earlier was the last thing we did together, as a couple. We picked it up on December 3, a cool, rainy, late autumn day not unlike today.

The thing that pleases me the most about all this is that the story from there is, well, pretty mundane.

A year ago tonight we took our first “long distance” trip, to Victoria (the last trip we ever took together as a family, as it happened). We got a level 2 charger installed on the side of our house. Oliver and I drove to Halifax and back in July, and to Cape Breton and back in September. Otherwise, we used the car for regular everyday things: trips uptown for groceries, trips to the beach in the summer, trips to the doctor. With COVID-19 it’s difficult to say that it’s been a typical year for car travel, as there have been far fewer places to go; but the places we did find to go, the Soul took us there.

As to the Soul itself, I’ve no complaints whatsoever: it just works. It hasn’t needed any maintenance over the last year (save for a replacement windshield, my fault, and switching out the winter tires). It doesn’t need fluids (other than washer fluid). And, to be honest, the futuristic sheen of driving a car made in 2016 (Bluetooth! CarPlay! heated seats! air conditioning!) after driving a car made in 2000 (cassette player! turn signals!) has yet to wear off.

The only time I’ve experienced range anxiety, an often-cited reason to avoid electric vehicles, is on our trip to Cape Breton, where the high speed EV charger in Monastery was offline when we arrived, meaning we had to drive into Port Hawkesbury and use a slower level 2 charger; otherwise, it’s not a factor. This is, mostly, because 95% of our trips are within 20 km of our house, so we’re never far from a charger at home or otherwise. Worrying about charging simply isn’t a fact of our daily life with the car: we go somewhere, we come home, I top up the car to 80% with the home charger in a couple of hours or less, and we’re ready to go somewhere else.

In the end, being an EV owner seems pleasantly normal rather than cutting-edge-revolutionary. If your travel patterns are similar to our own–and I imagine that’s true for many households–and you’re looking to replace a fossil-fuel-powered car, it’s hard to make the case for anything other than buying a used EV (Mike, who in the year since our purchase, has amalgamated Pure EV into the larger All EV, has plenty of vehicles available, starting at $12,000).