A few weeks ago I attended Electrify Expo, a local convention where consumers, experienced or not, can test drive the hottest electric vehicles on the market and pose their most burning questions to industry leaders. The two-day event here in New York was packed with well-known automakers like Toyota, Kia and BMW and some more exotic ones like Polestar, Lucid and Aptera.
As approved As a gas guzzler owner—and someone who writes for a publication that covers all things technology and innovation—I had many questions. After a weekend of demystifying my preconceived notions about EVs and hitting the road in a few market-ready cars myself, here are my key takeaways.
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1. Automakers are patient with us.
Electric cars may sound like the future – and they are – but those built for the modern era remind me more of traditional vehicles than anything else. This balance of innovation and familiarity is fairly common, and automakers have taken drastic measures to reassure petrol car owners that the EV experience isn’t as radical as they might think.
Take Dodge’s new all-electric Charger, for example. By incorporating fake engine sounds through the car’s external speakers, muscle car enthusiasts who live and die by the growl of exhaust pipes (and can’t stand the silence of EVs) can rejoice and hopefully make the leap to clean energy.
Aside from an implacable belief that single-pedal driving and touchscreen climate control is the way of the future, most of my first driving experiences with the Kia EV6, Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40 Recharge felt familiar and familiar. The steering wheels may have a bit more flare and the shifters don’t look like it…gait changeable like conventional. But once I sat down and started driving, everything felt normal and not as far away as I expected. Let’s automakers just dive into a new era of cars?
Likewise: An electrifying weekend with Polestar 2
2. Loading times are faster than your phone.
Ahead of Electrify Expo, I thought charging—both speed and accessibility—was a major setback in the EV transition. So you can imagine the look on my face when the Kia rep pulled out her flyer and read that the EV6 only needed an 18 minute charge to go from 10% to 80%. That goes for any DC fast charger, including those provided by hundreds of Electrify America stations across the country. My smartphone can’t charge that fast.
Then, of course, there’s home charging, which delivers the same electron energy at a slower, more controlled rate. So if you’ve heard stories of electric vehicles taking hours to charge, the numbers may just be taken out of context.
More: The best home EV chargers you can buy
3. Zero to Sixty is exhilarating, heartbreaking, and impractical.
At a certain point during my Polestar 2 test drive, I was told to pull over to the curb. But instead of asking me for my driver’s license and registration, my driver suggested that I step on the pedal and let the vehicle fly. And I did. My head snapped back quickly as the Polestar sped through the winds of New York City with its near-silent acoustics. It was a short lived but exciting experience.
Of all the reasons presented to me to “switch” that day, the vehicle’s flooring was the most anticipated and least convincing. It’s an eye-catching feature that often finds its way into EV ads, posters and marketing campaigns; how the cars can accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour in a matter of seconds.
But in those three or four seconds, as I saw life flash before my eyes, I asked myself, “What exactly is the reason for this?” I’m not a Formula 1 driver. And I certainly won’t be entering any of those Fast & Furious drag races anytime soon. I asked the driver the same question and was met with a perplexed laugh. He had no idea either.
More: I loved driving the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6. There’s only one reason I can’t buy one
4. Electric scooters and bikes are cool too.
There’s one aspect of electric vehicles that I haven’t touched on yet, and that’s the sustainability factor. Almost all manufacturers present, including manufacturers of e-scooters and e-bikes, made it clear that switching to electric helps the environment.
It’s true. When you choose an electric vehicle, you effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and therefore also well-to-wheel emissions. What’s more, you don’t have to commit to a full-fledged electric car to improve the planet. E-scooters and e-bikes are also clever alternatives to conventional petrol vehicles. For example, my current scooter is this one NIU KQI 3 Prowas very handy for short-haul trips and the occasional morning commute.
Likewise: The $800 Lectric XP Lite e-bike is a pure joy to ride
5. I can’t wait to switch to an electric vehicle…but I have to.
As you can probably tell, my overall impression of electric vehicles – or at least the ones I’ve tested – remains positive. Driving the cars physically certainly helped open me up to what’s available when my 2017 Mazda CX-5 is due for an upgrade.
But even if I were willing to switch today, my options would be limited.
My ZDNET colleague Jason Perlow did an excellent job in his recent report explaining how global supply chain issues have impacted the current state of electric vehicles. In summary, unless you have months (or up to a year) to spare, expect to pay significantly more than the sticker price for any EV currently available. As you find your ideal make, model and configuration closer to retail, perhaps taking the EV leap is just your calling.
I’m curious, do you own an electric vehicle? If not, what’s holding you back? If anyone could give me a real world use case for zero to sixty acceleration I’d love to know what it is. comment below.