Editor’s note: Cindy Circo is sliding behind the wheel of an electric vehicle and documenting her experiences for the Clean Charge Network. See the full series here.
Can you say below-zero? It’s a real test for this EV today. I had a longer trip to Lawrence on my agenda and was feeling good about it. This car has plenty of range and my destination has charging stations. It’s been chilly over the past few weeks, so I’m already familiar with the drain on the charge that happens with the heat on full blast. But I’m not sure I had really factored in this degree of cold outside.
In the EV, I’m feeling toasty. Seat warmer, check. Steering wheel warmer, check.
I make sure I’m bundled up and – because KCP&L talks safety 24/7 – I also bring water and an energy bar. You know, just in case Google takes me off-roading and I get lost driving around the country roads of Lawrence. I’m prepared for anything. In the EV, I’m feeling toasty. Seat warmer, check. Steering wheel warmer, check. Heat on high, check. But as the miles go by, I see the battery draining faster than I expected and get a little nervous. I turn the heat down a bit and put my stocking cap on, and the range rebounds.
Now, I make it seem like the range was falling dramatically. It wasn’t, and I wasn’t at risk of not getting where I was going, but it did make me pay more attention. I know that every time I get behind the wheel, I’m going to learn more about how this car works. It’s a fact – as awesome and easy as I am finding this electric car to drive, I do have to pay more attention in the winter.
I pull into my destination, but both spots available for charging are filled with EVs. Now, I’d much rather see an electric car in that spot than a gas-powered car. When a gas car blocks an EV charging spot, it’s basically the equivalent of blocking a gas pump. (Not cool.) So, I was happy to see fellow EVs getting a charge. But it still presented a challenge, because I’d rather have a range cushion on a frigid day. That’s where EV etiquette comes in, especially as driving electric becomes more popular. Share the love with fellow EV drivers and move your car when you’ve got the charge you need. All the cool kids are doing it!
At my lunch break, I look out and see both cars still parked there. The receptionist directs me to another charger I hadn’t seen, typically used to charge a fleet van. I plug in and get back to my meeting, and by the time my meeting was over my range had charged up from 76 to 171 miles. It was a 40-mile drive home, so you know what that meant: heat on full blast all the way home.
A quick postscript: A few days later, I took another trip to Lawrence on a single-digit-temperature day. This time, I set the climate control fan to auto and used cruise control. I rolled into town with more range than last time and found the charging stations open and ready to give my EV a boost. Toasty warm the whole time, and no stress. Did my actions make a difference or am I getting more confident in the car? Regardless, I’m learning.
No more oil changes? Yes, please. And I am just getting a taste of the feel-good factor I associate with no emissions.
In fact, I’ve learned a lot in just two weeks of driving electric. I know I’ll keep learning too. I haven’t driven it long enough to experience the benefit I hear a lot of other EV drivers talk about – an almost total lack of maintenance. (No more oil changes? Yes, please.) And I am just getting a taste of the feel-good factor I associate with no emissions.
But the biggest surprise, to me, is how driving an EV could feel completely new and familiar all at the same time. It’s like a regular car, just a little different. I’ve heard most people who opt for an electric car never buy a gas car again. In these two weeks, I’ve started to see why.
Cindy Circo is the public affairs manager at KCP&L. Her long-term commitment to supporting Kansas City includes stints as Mayor Pro Tem, City Councilperson and Board member of Visit KC.