BOISE – As more people consider the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV), whether to save money on gas or to adopt a new technology, AAA offers tips to help adapt to a new driving experience.
“Electric vehicles have been around for years, but most folks still haven’t experienced one first-hand. Some aspects of an EV are very different from what you may be accustomed to,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde. “As with any other technology, correct use is the key to getting the most benefit out of an electric vehicle.”
AAA recently conducted a focus group consisting of first-time EV drivers with an average of 32 years behind the wheel. In response to their feedback after driving two popular EV models, here are some things to keep in mind:
Electric vehicles rely on batteries to power their motors. Therefore, a full charge is critical to the vehicle’s operation. Once connected to a power source, the EV’s charging port and onboard charger work to convert the power into battery charge.
Level 1 chargers are typically used at home, with a standard household outlet and the charging cord that comes with the vehicle. Level 2 chargers use 240 volts, like your oven, for faster charging, and require a special installation. DC fast chargers (usually public charging stations) offer an even faster charge time – or a short burst to ‘top off’ your vehicle until you make it home. Based on your driving habits and charging system, fully recharging may require careful planning.
“Sustained highway driving and extreme temperatures both deplete driving range faster, so plan to use about 60-70% of your driving range before recharging,” Conde said. “Developing a ‘recharge route’ and studying up on how charging stations work ahead of time (including how to pay for the service) will further eliminate anxiety.”
Electric vehicles are generally faster than their gas-powered counterparts, as they need less time for energy to transfer to the wheels. While they offer more torque, some first-time drivers found the lack of engine noise confusing.
“Use a smooth accelerator pressure to help maintain a moderate speed and a safe distance from other vehicles,” Conde said. “You’ll also need to closely monitor your speedometer to get a feel for how pushing on the pedal translates to faster speeds.”
EVs don’t emit any engine or exhaust noise, which makes for a quiet ride, and many electric vehicles have a low center of gravity that offers comfortable handling. But it may take time to familiarize yourself with various touch screens that control Bluetooth synchronization, climate controls, etc.
“Playing with the control interface before the vehicle is in motion is always your best bet,” Conde emphasized. “Lack of experience with a new technology is never an acceptable excuse for distracted driving that could put lives at risk.”
In a gas-powered vehicle, the brake pads use friction to slow the vehicle down. But in an EV, instead of coasting, the system automatically uses the electric drivetrain and (depending on settings) can cause the car to slow down without the brake pedal engaged. This is known as regenerative braking. The energy from the braking process can be used to recharge the battery and extend the overall range.
Participants in AAA’s recent focus group shared that while initially, regenerative braking was a surprising change, most were able to adapt to it without too much difficulty.
What to know if you’re renting an EV
“A rental is a great way to try out the technology and do a little research,” Conde suggested. “As people get more comfortable with how EVs work, they can make an informed purchase decision.”
Before you rent:
- Do some research and watch a video or two about how electric vehicles operate.
- Expect differences between EVs and their gas and diesel-powered cousins.
- Plan your route to ensure adequate charging and driving range along your trip.
- Select the right insurance coverage for your rental (and your trip in general).