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Making the Switch to an Electric Car

By
Chad Yee
7
min
Feb 2024
Is making the transition from gasoline to electric difficult? Bruce and Marlene, from Toronto, traded in their SUV for an electric car five years ago. They've learned many valuable lessons which will may help you make your own decision.
A couple, Bruce and Marlene, standing in front of their Tesla electric vehicle
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The Switch From Gasoline to Electric

Making a transition in life is never easy. Transitions are often accompanied by hesitation, doubt, and uncertainty. Especially when it’s taking a road less travelled. Such is the case for consumers looking to make the transition from a conventional gasoline vehicle – also known as an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle – to an electric vehicle (EV). EVs are new technology, and many buyers have questions, particularly in areas that impact their lifestyle, practical needs, and commuting patterns.

A few years ago, Bruce and Marlene from Toronto, Canada, decided to make the leap to an electric car. Their family of five has owned many ICE vehicles, including a Ram truck, Honda Odyssey minivan, and Acura MDX SUV, as well as a Toyota Prius hybrid. Not surprisingly, they had many questions about transitioning to an EV. Would an EV fit into their lifestyle? Would an electric car be a practical and reliable mode of transportation? Would an EV be a financially sound investment? What adjustments would they need to make?

Going Electric: Environmentally Friendly and Financially Viable

With three daughters, Bruce and Marlene wanted a vehicle that was more environmentally friendly, practical, and financially feasible. According to Marlene, their decision to go EV was a “no-brainer,” not only for environmental reasons but also for cost savings in fuel and maintenance.

Buying another gas or hybrid vehicle meant continuing to pay more for gasoline with rising prices – as well as regular vehicle maintenance. They calculated an EV would dramatically reduce their maintenance costs, since EVs have significantly fewer moving parts than ICE vehicles. Charging with electricity meant that their operating costs would be significantly reduced, especially when using off-peak electricity rates.

In their five years of ownership, Bruce and Marlene estimate they have saved over $10,000 (Canadian) in gasoline alone versus a comparable ICE vehicle. Their Tesla Model 3 RWD has an estimated EPA rating of 131 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), or 26 kWh per 100 miles. With their annual mileage of around 12,500 miles, their Tesla Model 3 consumes 3,231 kWh of electricity – the equivalent of just 95 gallons of fuel.

Charging at home, at an off-peak electricity rate of $0.087 per kWh, equates to only $281 in electricity per year. In contrast, a comparable gasoline-powered BMW 330xi sedan has an estimated EPA rating of 28 mpg combined – and would cost over $2,400 in gasoline per year.

During their five years of EV ownership, Bruce and Marlene have also said goodbye to oil changes and routine maintenance required for gasoline vehicles. Aside from a few items covered under warranty, the only maintenance they’ve needed is changing their winter tires every season. “It’s such a different experience not having to worry about regular maintenance and engine wear and tear. Thanks to regenerative braking, we have over 80,000 km, or over 50,000 miles, on the car now and haven’t had to replace the brakes,” says Bruce.

Why Test Drives Are Important

When their Acura MDX was coming off-lease, Bruce and Marlene began their shopping and research online. However, physically seeing the cars and test driving them were critical to their decision.

“Test driving really opened our eyes around an EV’s power, quietness, and fun-to-drive factor.  Looking at the vehicle specs versus driving them are not the same thing. You really need to experience an EV,” Marlene says.

They looked at various EV models, like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt, but decided on a Tesla Model 3 RWD standard range based on its range, value for money, and practicality.

How Much Range Do You Really Need?

Range anxiety – fear of not having enough battery power to get to your destination – is a common concern for those considering an EV.  Living in the city, Bruce and Marlene’s commutes were relatively short, but they also wanted the flexibility to be able to drive to their cottage, and for the occasional road trip. Although they initially felt concerned about not having enough range, the anxiety eventually faded. “We had a good understanding of our commute and the distance to locations that we often visit,” says Bruce.

Marlene’s work was only about 43 miles (or 70 km) round trip – well within the Tesla’s 220-mile (354-km) EPA estimated range. Driving to the cottage was a 62-mile (100 km) trip each way, and they could charge on the way there, or at the cottage, providing more than enough charge to get there and back. Regular trips to see family outside of Toronto or to see their daughter at university, were no more than 124 miles (200 km) one way.

“Once you realize the actual distance of your regular drives, that range anxiety quickly dissipates,” Bruce continues. “And for longer road trips, the car is designed to help map out the route, showing you where you need to charge, how long you’ll need to charge, and your range.”

On a road trip from Toronto to Bradenton, Florida – almost 1,400 miles (2,200 km) one way – the couple kept an open mind. Like many, they heard of concerns on social media about broken chargers and long lineups. However, they experienced no issues on their drive. Stopping for 20 to 40 minutes to charge wasn’t a hassle at all, since it gave them the opportunity to take a mental break from driving.

EV Charging: Know Your Levels

Charging was a totally new experience for Bruce and Marlene. Understanding the different levels of charging was probably one of their biggest adjustments. At first, they didn’t realize the differences in charging speeds between Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 (also referred to as DC fast charging).

While at their cottage on a weekend, they tried to charge their Tesla using a Level 1 (110-volt) plug, only to discover that to fully charge the vehicle from empty would take well over 24 hours.

Their first experience with a Level 2 (240-volt) charger was during Marlene’s trip to see some family. After plugging in the Tesla and waiting 20 minutes, Marlene realized how little range she was able to add. However, Marlene was able to obtain enough charge to make it to the next Tesla Supercharger to get her quickly on her way. They learned that Level 2 chargers are generally designed for use at home or work, where they charge a car over a number of hours.

“Understanding which charging level to use in different situations is important,” Marlene says. Today, they use Tesla’s high-speed Superchargers for road trips. They’ve also installed a Level 2 charger both at their cottage and their home, where 90 percent of their charging is done. Since most of their daily commuting is well under the range of their Model 3, they don’t need to charge it every day. “My advice to new EV owners is to get a Level 2 home charger.  It’s convenient, you wake up to a full charge, and you don’t need to worry about range anxiety. For longer commutes you can use the DC fast charging networks,” Bruce says.

EV Ownership: No Going Back

Although Marlene and Bruce were aware of the benefits of EVs prior to owning one, actually living through the ownership experience made those benefits a reality.  

When asked if they would buy another EV again, Bruce replies: “Without hesitation. The environmental and cost benefits make an EV an obvious choice. Those concerns that you hear about range anxiety and charging are not an issue. Owning an EV helped us become more interested in other types of electric vehicles, such as electric snowmobiles, boats, and other recreational vehicles; we’ve become more pro-EV for transportation overall.”

Many consumers have successfully made the transition to an EV, and most have no intention of going back to gas. Bruce and Marlene’s experiences show us that a seamless transition is easily possible. It involves truly understanding your commuting and vehicle needs, looking at the facts of EVs, driving and experiencing one, and keeping an open mind.

Once you’ve made the leap like millions of North Americans, you’ll be rewarded with an experience that’s fun, sustainable, and cost-effective.

A young couple admiring the forest and trees next to their RAV4 Hybrid

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