Going EV “all in”

This summer we did something I did not expect to have to do. We BOUGHT another car. After having two cars (one has been a hybrid for the last couple of years — Prius, BMW i3 and then finally breaking fully into the EV space with the Tesla Y), I frequently complained about paying for a car that was sitting around most of the week.

For the last 20 years, I have worked in NYC and lived in places I could and take a train (or bus) to work. It was convenient, easy, and generally without incident. This past spring I left my role in the city and moved to a job in Montclair NJ (Montclair Kimberley Academy) which is about 15 miles and 20 minutes from my home in South Orange. My wife is in real estate and works locally so drives around a lot, she does not really drive too far.

My oldest son is now a high school senior and has his license so driving himself (and his brother) the 45 minutes each way was a no-brainer. We have done it for years but it gives him some responsibility and us a few hours.

For our high-schooler, we went with a used 2019 Nissan Leaf from Carvana. It had about 10k miles on it and was in good shape. It will go about 150 miles on a charge (so enough to/from school two days IF he forgets to charge). It is not fancy or too peppy (and for a 17-year old, that is perfect).

The Tesla Model Y has been serving us very well. Long-range and dual motor allows us to go about 270 miles per charge and in the last 15 months since we purchased it we have tacked on over 26k miles — by far the most we have ever driven one vehicle in a year.

We have had one flat and aside from a tire rotation when we took it in for an issue with the trunk “sticking” when it was opened, we have not invested anything else in the car.

As we looked for our 3rd car, we wanted something comfortable, did not have to have the same range or physical size, and could get us around reliably. We went for our second Tesla, a model 3 (standard range plus). The sticker price of the Model 3 was close to a 2021 Nissan Leaf and after having a Tesla for a little more than a year, spending anything close on in sticker price, another EV manufacturer did not make sense.

The 3 (2021) is lower than the Y, has a little less room in the rear seats and the trunk is more confined (without the hatchback). We can go about 240 miles on a charge (both the Y and the 3 can push the total charge up another 30–50 miles for “trips”) and that works fine for our needs.

When we got the Y, I switched out the JuiceBox charger (that was giving me some issues) with a Tesla charger. The cost was comparable and we could set the charger and the cars to limit their maximum draw to about 34 amps (40 amp circuit). I have not blown the fuse and with an adapter (Tesla to J1772) the Leaf can use the Tesla charger and charge faster than off of 110v. The electrical work PLUS charger runs $1000–1500.

What I have appreciated most about Tesla is they have done an amazing job of building a charging network for trips in reasonable locations. The car is smart enough to know when and for how long you need to charge and the Supercharging costs are very reasonable. Generally to “fill up” the Y during a trip costs about $12 and takes about 35 minutes (usually 150kwh Supercharger).

The Leaf is limited in the charging area and takes about 3 hours to put 50 miles on the car using the Tesla adapter which exceeds the input of the 110v charger. We have worked out a car dance daily. The Model 3 goes in the back of the driveway (and can be charged as needed), the Leaf is nose-in to access the charging port and can plugin as soon as the boys get home. I park the Y last as the end of the driveway and usually do not charge it daily — I have been charging on the weekend or if I’m getting “low” (in my mind this is below 90 miles — on a gas car, a quarter tank makes me anxious), I may go to a Supercharger for a half-hour.

I recently took note of our utility bill for July. We have central air (which is a new addition) but our total monthly bill came to about $200. Keep in mind, this is gas and electric — hot July days and AC running a lot plus 2 cars charging regularly. If I just look at the total bill and assume that ALL the costs go to charging 3 EVs (which it does not), that comes out to about $66/month. With gas at $3.25/gal (+) that is about 20 gallons/car (which I think would be tough for most cars on a monthly basis with average use).

Are EVs for everyone? Nope. Do some people have strong feelings about Elon? Yep. Do EVs have a way to go? Yep. Are they a big step in the right direction? Without a doubt. Would I buy a car that does not have over-the-air updates and upgrades? I cannot imagine it any longer. Getting an alert there is an update to my car is awesome! Sitting down 30 minutes later (after the car reboots) and seeing that a number of changes and advancements have been made (some fun and games — literally, and some improvements in the UI, battery information, or safety functions is something that would be hard to step away from).

The last thought from me is, when looking at any car these days, I cannot believe the car companies are not trying to more fully replicate with Tesla is doing? The screen, the UI, the updates. For me, one word, elegant.

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