Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to drive a number of different electric cars. Whether you are considering buying or leasing an EV, or renting one on vacation, there are special considerations.
Driving an Electric Vehicle: What You Need to Know
The most important consideration is how far you are going. Electric vehicles have ranges up to about 300 miles, so you need to plan your charging. I like to leave some things up to chance when I travel. Should I stop at this donut shop? Do I have time for a quick hike at this state park?
Figuring out EV charging cannot be left to chance. It takes planning.
EV drivers act like they’re part of the club and they are happy to welcome new members. The first time I drove the electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, guys who were charging their EVs kept running over to check out the electric SUV and offer advice.
The most important tip I got from other drivers of electric vehicles: download PlugShare.
PlugShare consolidates info from many different electric chargers, including ChargePoint, Electrify America, FLO, EVgo, EV Connect, and Tesla.
In addition to that overview, you’ll want to consider downloading the app for the electric charger brand designed for your EV. That will get you discounts when you charge through the app.
Do this BEFORE your first road trip. My husband desperately downloading different apps and trying to find us a charger as I anxiously eyed the dwindling range of an electric car is not an experience I would wish upon anyone else.
I was actually happy when we hit traffic, because the regenerative braking – the captured energy from the brakes recharges the battery – gave us a few extra miles.
How Does Electric Vehicle Charging Work?
Basically, there are two types of connectors to EV chargers – Tesla… and everything else. It’s sort of like Apple device chargers and everything else. If you have an Apple iPad, you need to have your Apple charger when you travel. You can’t just use a charger for a Samsung Galaxy. Same with Tesla.
To further confuse drivers, non-Tesla charging stations say they can be used by any type of electric vehicle. They can IF – and this is a very big if – you have a special adaptor. That special charger doesn’t come with your rental Tesla.
Whatever you think of the politics of Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, the Tesla Model X is the gold standard of electric cars. Its super-fast proprietary charging network is one of the main reasons for that. Teslas can be fully charged in about 20 minutes at these superchargers. And to help spur the adoption of its electric vehicles, Tesla built an extensive network of chargers.
Even the entry-level Tesla Model Y SUV has a range of more than 300 miles on a single charge.
If you buy or rent a Tesla, you can drive with relative ease, knowing you can find Tesla chargers almost anywhere. And, if you happen to have that little adaptor, you can charge the Tesla at any other electric charger
On the Horizon
Tesla is opening up its chargers to other EVs.
Hyundai, Genesis, Kia, BMW, Toyota, Lexus, Subaru, and Lucid will all soon be able to use Tesla chargers. And you just know other car companies will get on this bandwagon.
Although car companies are competitors, they all want people to buy their cars, and having a robust network of chargers is one of the best ways to make buyers feel comfortable buying EVs.
Avoid Range Anxiety
If you own an electric vehicle, or properly plan ahead with a rental, range anxiety is mitigated. For example, when I drove the Lexus RZ 450e, I downloaded the Lexus app. It gave me information on nearby available chargers. And you can plan a route on the app, with info on where to charge.
And Audi eliminates range anxiety, at least for a week when you buy an e-tron, its line of prestige luxury electric cars. You get a free week in a gas-powered rental if you plan on going off the grid and/or think won’t be able to find electric vehicle chargers for a road trip.
How to Extend Your Range
If you find yourself running low on charge, know that climate control can eat up precious range. Just like running the AC causes you to burn more gas, using climate control can cause your range to drop faster.
Also, using wireless charging or connecting your phone via Apple CarPlay uses some power, too. So if you are worried about having enough juice to get somewhere, charge your phone at home before you drive.
And of course, speeding also eats up the charge. Or, rather, driving fast. I was recently on a road with a 70 mph speed limit, but driving 65 in the right-hand lane extended the charge.
There are a lot of incentives when you buy an electric vehicle. There is a federal rebate, and many states also offer a rebate. Buying or leasing a Hyundai IONIQ or BMW ix gets you two years of free charging. And entry-level trim models on many electric vehicles rival prices of gas-powered cars.
The Audi e-tron models I drove all cost more than $100,000, but Audi makes similar gas-powered models that are also in that price range. And that doesn’t include the government incentives on electric vehicles.
The Luxury EVs I Have Tested
The Lexus RZ 450e is the first fully electric car in the luxe Lexus brand.
The premium trim model of this electric SUV includes lots of the luxury touches expected in a Lexus: a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and a panoramic sunroof. The premium model I drove included a head-up display, lane change assist, and front cross-traffic alert, a heated rear seat, and an upgraded sound system.
The emergency braking was a bit hyperactive, engaging when I was parking, and still several feet from any obstacle. But it would be helpful in real-world situations with new drivers.
The Lexus infotainment system connects wirelessly with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I appreciated that there was both a touchscreen and an old-school volume button. There is also wireless charging (for your phone, not the car) and five charging ports throughout the roomy car.
I drove the Lexus when all three of my grown-up kids were home and there was plenty of headroom and legroom for our family of five. And the ride quality was excellent, even from the backseat.
Charging the Lexus 450e
The Lexus 450e has all-wheel drive and safety features like a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. The range is 220 miles with 18-inch wheels and 196 miles with 20-inch wheels. That is plenty of range for just driving around NYC on a single charge, but I took trips to Westchester and Long Island, in addition to Bedford, so I had to charge.
But my anxiety level was low – I just worried about normal mom things like my kids’ health and happiness, and normal adult things like the wars in Ukraine and the Mideast. I didn’t have car-related anxiety.
I used public charging by Flo, which is now on streets throughout NYC. Each station has 2 chargers, and no one is supposed to park there without charging. But I have seen regular gas cars parked there. I don’t know if they are ticketed.
I also found that some electric car owners are not very cooperative. They parked at the charging station without actually plugging in. So when you check the Flo app and see that there’s a charging spot open, you might drive over and find out that someone is parked there, blocking access to the charger. The app can’t tell you that.
But all in all, it was a very chill experience. I parked the car there and the Flo app told me how much I would have to pay.
Lexus app told me how long it would take to charge. If you leave the electric vehicle at the charger, still plugged in, you still pay, even after the car is fully charged. It behooves you to pay attention.
Charging costs $2.50 an hour during the day, and $1 an hour at night. It is far cheaper than gas.
The Lexus RZ 450e starts at $59,000 for the premium trim model. The luxury model starts at $65,000.
Audi Electric Vehicles
When you buy an Audi EV, you get 2 years of free charging with Electrify America. And though the Audi Q8 e-tron has a range of 285 miles, you needn’t worry if you have an even longer trip planned. Audi offers e-tron owners a week of ‘Audi on demand’ – you can borrow a gas-powered car for free (plus gas) for those trips.
I took turns driving both the Audi Q8 e-tron and Audi RS e-tron GT around southern Connecticut.
Audi Q8 e-tron: No Range Anxiety
The Audi e-tron, an electric SUV, is great for a family car, or for adventurous couples who want to throw their bikes in the back.
It has an improved battery pack and can charge from 10% (worrisome) to 80% (Zen) in half an hour. Longer than gassing up the car, true, but the last time we had to fill up a regular car on the New Jersey Turnpike, there was a long gas line. And between going to the bathroom, taking the dog for a walk, and checking emails, we spent 25 minutes at the rest stop anyway.
The Q8 e-tron SUV has massage seats that make driving truly pleasurable. The Bang & Olufsen sound system adds to the fun (the Bang & Olufsen speakers are in both vehicles). The adaptive cruise control also helps make the ride relaxing.
Also relaxing: the range. The 2024 Q8 Sportback e-tron has an estimated range of 300 miles for the top trim level with ultra package, a 30% increase over the 2023 e-tron Sportback.
Audi RS e-tron
With its low, aerodynamic roofline, the RS is a sporty performance car. You feel like you’re in a cockpit, but with plenty of headroom since you sit so low. Not sure how it would feel to get in and out of the Audi with a tight skirt on.
The entry-level Premium Plus RS e-tron starts at around $105K, and the premier model, which includes a head-up display and heated rear seats, is $113K. The top-of-the-line RS, which I drove, starts at $143,900.
It has a 637-horsepower powertrain, which means it can take off like a rocketship. The e-tron GT can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, but if you do that a lot, you probably won’t reach the EPA range of 249.
Electric Vehicles: Yes or No?
In some ways, this is a chicken or egg problem. Most car manufacturers have pledged to convert to electric motors, so we will all have to go there eventually. The question really is, do you switch now and pressure your local area to install more electric vehicle chargers, or do you wait till you have to switch and forego all the benefits of driving green now?
In my Brooklyn neighborhood, many electric vehicle drivers run extension cords from the street to their houses to charge their cars. If you have a solar roof and an EV, you are doing your part for the environment.
My brother, who bought the first-generation Toyota Prius, had actually put down a deposit on the Lexus RZ 450e, so when I drove it to his house on Thanksgiving, I wanted him to see the one I was driving.
Despite having a garage where he can charge at home, he is worried about how far he can go on a single charge. Until he has a portable battery pack he can bring along, he won’t pull the plug.