My Journey with Electric Vehicles: A Personal Story

Chase Drum
Jun 2024
For some drivers, an electric vehicle is a practical purchase that helps save money, reduces emissions, and provides an easier ownership experience. For others, the interest in electric goes far deeper. GreenCars contributor Chase Drum has been in love with EVs since 2005; learn about his journey here.
servicing an EV

A Lifelong Fascination With Electric Cars

From a young age, all modes of transportation fascinated me. Planes, trains, boats, automobiles…you name it! But, it was during my high school years that I had my first experience with electric vehicles (EVs). In 2005, I elected to take our high school’s “applied engineering” course, which involved building and racing electric vehicles in the Electrathon America competition.

This hands-on experience with EV technology gave me a deep dive into the mechanics of an electric powertrain. I was always fascinated by just how efficient, and powerful, electric motors were. Not only were they more efficient to operate, but you could even use them to recuperate energy when braking. Plus, adding the thrill of an EV’s torque to racing cars was exhilarating, and set the stage for my future explorations in the EV world.

close up of the hood of a Tesla

EVs Become More Than a Science Experiment

While building and racing electric cars in high school was fun, the EV community back then was still a very “homebrew” community. Back then, any EVs on the road were old cars that had been converted to electric.

While automakers like General Motors had made vehicles like the EV1 back in 1990s and early 2000s, they were never for sale. You could only lease them, and while the vehicles were popular with people, they were generally destroyed at the end of their leases. However, even in 2007, there were a couple of startups and companies talking about EVs.

Indeed, there was a small Bay-area company called Tesla Motors starting to stand out from the others. They were going to release a small, two-seat roadster based on a heavily-modified Lotus Elise. Coincidentally, in 2009, I had the opportunity to drive a Tesla Roadster in Palo Alto.

This experience proved to me that not only can companies make an electric vehicle, but electric vehicles could be very fast and fun to drive even compared to a traditional car! The Tesla Roadster, with its groundbreaking performance and sleek design, proved to me that electric vehicles were the future of automobiles. The drive solidified my passion for EVs – and made me a fervent advocate for electric transportation.

Are EVs More Enjoyable than ICE Vehicles?

In 2012, Tesla started delivering its first clean-sheet EV that people could purchase, the Tesla Model S. The Model S took some of the great tech first shown in the Roadster and built on it further – demonstrating that an EV could be more practical than a traditional vehicle. With a huge hatchback, and storage under the hood, the Model S was spacious, fast, and packed with tech that made it revolutionary. It was also so easy to live with that even the most ambitious Home Depot runs for weekend projects were no issue.

In 2013, I was fortunate to have a Tesla Model S as a work vehicle. Benchmarking it against other types of vehicles, it was still expensive – if less expensive than prior iterations. But the Model S also proved that, if a startup could build not just an EV, but a really good car that happened to be electric, what was going to hold other automakers back from eventually stepping up and building their own?

That same year, I attended the opening of the first Tesla Supercharger station in Woodburn, Oregon. Before then, the best way to charge was to use Level 2 charging – and that really made EVs just good for around town. The Model S did have sufficient range for many road trips, but you needed a place to charge once you got to your destination. With the introduction of the Supercharger, a Level 3 DC quick charger, EVs became an option for road trips – and even an option for a one-car family.

While it’s taken a century for the combustion engine to become as efficient as it has become today, in just a decade, charging speed and availability of chargers has only accelerated.

Hands-On Experience at EV Startups

In 2015, I found myself working in the San Francisco Bay area, collaborating with engineers with backgrounds at traditional auto OEMs and former Tesla executives on an exciting project: getting support for the first electric rallycross series, and engineering EVs to push the technical boundaries within it.

This venture combined my love for racing with cutting-edge EV technology. It aimed to push the boundaries of what electric vehicles could achieve in the demanding environment of rallycross racing. Working on the venture was an incredible experience! While it was a bit ahead of its time, and thus ended prematurely, it allowed to me work alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry, and to contribute to the evolution of high-performance electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure.

Launch of the Tesla Model 3

During my time working in the Bay area, Tesla launched the Model 3, a mass-market EV with a planned volume that seemed unfathomable to others – but set a record for the amount of reservations for any new vehicle overnight.

The Model 3 was a car that pushed legacy auto brands to finally realize they needed their own strategies for electrification – and to actually start building their own EVs. Along with the continued expansion of the Supercharger network, the Model 3 represented a pivotal moment in the affordability and availability of electric vehicles. It made high-quality EVs accessible to a broader audience, and fueled a resurgence in American automobiles.

grey Tesla Model 3 in the woods

Living in Central Oregon and Picking an EV for Road Tripping

In the summer of 2022, I finally purchased an EV for my own personal use: a Tesla Model Y Long Range. While there were other EVs starting to enter the market from other companies, I was looking for a new car that had great range, good efficiency and great charging.

At the time, I was living in a charging (and literal) desert. Over the next 18 months, I clocked an impressive 47,000 miles on the Model Y’s odometer, embarking on numerous road trips. One of my most memorable journeys was a 3,600-mile round trip to the Midwest, followed by multiple road trips to Phoenix, AZ. I’ve now made multiple 1,200-mile trips from Phoenix to my home in Bend, OR, in a single day – which has shown me the vehicle’s capability, and the reliability of the charging infrastructure.

Updating Classic Cars for the Electric Age

Last year one, of the road trips I took to Phoenix was to attend a weeklong course taught by Legacy EV. As I had mentioned at the start of this article, for a long time, the only EVs available were conversions of old ICE vehicles. Since completing the course, I’ve been slowly restoring a 1987 Land Rover Defender 90 – and plan to convert it into an electric vehicle - allowing me to combine my love for classic cars with my passion for electric technology.

My journey with electric vehicles over the past two decades began by building and racing EVs in high school and has led to converting a classic Land Rover to electric power. It’s been wild to see all of the changes in the industry, and the evolution of the technology.

Today’s discussions around EV adoption and usability just wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago. Things are moving so fast – and that’s why I continue to be excited about the future, and the role EVs will have in being a sustainable transportation option for the long term.

Front view of a Tesla Model 3 driving through canyon roads

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