|My Electric Vehicles
Mark D Larsen
For over a decade I have driven electric vehicles, powered by my rooftop solar. Driving on clean, free sunshine is such a joy that I would never go back to driving a gas car: EVs are not only cleaner, but more powerful, responsive, nimble, comfortable, quieter, easier on your pocketbook, downright fun to drive. People often ask me how the EVs I have owned compare, so I have compiled lists of their “pros” and “cons” below. You can be assured that, when I get my next EV in the future, I will add it to this page. I hope these comparisons help potential EV buyers consider which features and functions will best meet their own needs.
My 2012 Nissan LEAF
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PROs CONs At first I thought its heated steering wheel was unnecessary, but it quickly became my very favorite feature. Its biggest flaw was that its air-cooled 24kW battery gave it a very limited range: only a paltry 100 miles at best. If Nissan could have upgraded it with a 75kW battery and a thermal management system, I definitely would have kept it! It was easy to get in and out of the car, front and rear. Its A-pillar was thick and bulky, hard to see around. Its white color stayed cleaner than any car I’ve owned. It seemed to camouflage whitish dust and road spray better than dark colors. Tamara is not a fan of white cars, as they strike her as “bland,” resembling an ambulance. It had useful hand grips over the passenger and rear doors to grab if needed. Oddly enough, it didn’t have a hand grip over the driver door —although there was an indented space for one. Its gray cloth seats were very comfortable, with good side support, and easy to clean with upholstery cleaner. There was no rear seat armrest, but there were pop-out cupholders on the back of the front console. The driver had controls to raise and lower all the windows, partially or completely with one touch. The rear windows couldn’t go all the way down. The seats never became too hot in the summer nor too cold in winter. It didn’t have a glass roof or sunroof to let in extra light. Its acceleration was great —but not mind-blowing. There was no “frunk” under the hood for storage, only its electronic components. Its styling was cute, funky, and unique —but not a stylish head-turner. It was only front-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive. Its hatchback was very convenient, with a removable cargo cover, making it easy to fit in large, bulky items. Although its regenerative braking was very good, it did not have one-pedal driving (until later models). There was a large storage space behind the rear seats in the hatchback. I bought a Nissan cargo organizer to fit in that compartment that boasted 3 grocery hooks on its 2 lids when opened upright, and when closed they made the cargo area flat, level with the rear seats when folded down. Its onboard charger was limited to 3.3kW, and could only add 11 miles-per-hour from a 240V Level 2 EVSE. It was capable of fast-charging on highways, but only at a maximum of 50kW from 3rd party providers. In truth, because there were so few fast-chargers back then, only once did I successfully plug into one. Its fast-charge port was for CHAdeMO plugs, now very rare and slower than CCS1 or Superchargers. It came with an onboard cableset to charge the car from a standard household outlet in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, the cableset could only handle 120V. However, I upgraded it to also handle 240V with an adapter. Its headrests were adjustable to better accommodate occupants of different heights. Although it had a drive behind the touchscreen to load and play a CD, you could only load one CD into it. Rear seat passengers could control their heated seats using buttons easily reachable on the inner side of the passenger seat. Software upgrades were only available by taking the car to the dealership —not over-the-air. It had convenient, easily reachable buttons for the features and functions occupants use most, like HVAC vents and adjustments, opening the glovebox, adjusting the mirrors. On the other hand, it had too many buttons for less used features more appropriate for a touchscreen, like resetting a trip odometer. Drivers could easily increase, decrease, and resume its cruise control settings. However, its cruise control was not adaptive, traffic-aware. It displayed clearly visible “bubbles” and a “dial” graph to show the energy being used and regenerated as you drove. The clocks in its binnacle and touchscreen were not synched and had to be set separately by hand. Its backup camera was clear, with a very good view and helpful steering lines. It did not have front or side cameras, and thus there were no dashcam or sentry recordings. You could leave its climate control on for passengers and pets when away from the vehicle. The climate controls did not have dedicated “pet” or “camping” modes. Energy efficiency was displayed as miles-per-kWh, common in all EVs except Tesla. The navigation map allowed scrolling by touch, but to zoom in or out you needed to use the “+” and “-” buttons instead of pinching your fingers. You could remotely set, schedule, and control its climate control and charging via the CarWings app on both your phone and the computer. Nissan later replaced CarWings with NissanConnect, which wasn’t as user friendly or informative. The dashboard display included helpful, clear bar graphs that showed battery temperature, charge level, and capacity. The charge and capacity bars were merely rough estimates, instead of actual percentages. Its energy efficiency was outstanding: over my 6 years of ownership it averaged 5.18 miles-per-kWh. However, the energy efficiency would drop at highway speeds. Whenever I drove it to Las Vegas it would average only about 4.6 miles-per-kWh on the freeway. You could manually adjust the steering wheel up-and-down for your preferred position and angle. However, you could not adjust the steering wheel in-and-out. Nor could you save those adjustments or the seat position in a driver’s profile. The software had configurable reminders to alert you when to rotate your tires, change your cabin’s air filter, replace the 12V battery, etc. Unfortunately, the battery did not have a thermal management system. Consequently, Nissan had to replace my battery under warranty after it lost 4 bars at 65.30% capacity. I liked its separate binnacle that showed speed, time, temperature, and a “forest of trees” that multiplied when driving more efficiently. Its main screen not only showed the energy used by the motor, but also other systems in the car like the climate control. It would then estimate the additional miles of range you’d gain by turning off those systems. The car had a small solar panel on the top of the hatchback lid that would trickle-charge the 12V battery when parked in the sun. I really appreciated that it had a good rear window wiper whenever I drove in bad weather. It boasted 8 cup holders: counting those in the doors, there were 4 in the front and 4 in the rear. The driver and passenger had their own separate climate controls and seat heaters. The user interface was easy to learn and consistent throughout the 6 years of ownership.
My 2018 Tesla Model 3
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PROs CONs Its battery is large enough to take bona fide long distance roadtrips. Upon delivery, the range was rated at 310 miles. It is more difficult to get in-and-out of the car, as it is so low and sporty. Superchargers are so wide-spread, powerful, and fast, that you could drive the car anywhere coast-to-coast. It is only rear-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive. It is a real head-turner: sleek, stylish, and sporty. The faux-leather seats are rather hard, slippery, and uncomfortable, with little side support. Its midnight silver metallic color is gorgeous, giving it a sophisticated, luxurious look. It gets dirty easily, and needs to be washed fairly often, because the dark color doesn’t camouflage whitish dust and road spray very well. Its portable cableset is capable of charging at both 120V and 240V. It came with two adapters for those voltages, plus another for charging from a J1772 plug. Tesla no longer includes that cableset and adapters with the car: buyers have to purchase them separately. It has a good sized storage area under the trunk floor, as well as a “frunk” under the hood. However, because it has a trunk instead of a hatchback, you can’t haul large, bulky cargo. It has two convenient grocery hooks in the frunk. Tesla eliminated those grocery hooks in later models. Our Model 3 came equipped with Homelink, easily programmed to open and close garage doors and gates. Tesla no longer includes Homelink with the car: buyers now have to pay to have it installed at a Service Center. With button controls you can adjust the steering wheel both up-and-down and in-and-out. You can also save those adjustments, as well as the seat position, in a driver’s profile. You cannot adjust the headrests at all, making the seats even more uncomfortable for some occupants. It is blazingly fast. It is actually frightening, and too fast for me: if I floor it, I start to pass out and feel nauseous. It boasts adaptive, traffic-aware cruise control. The cruise control has no “resume” button; you have to reset the speed every time. It has multiple cameras front, back, and on the sides to record dashcam and sentry videos. Tesla has recently eliminated both radar and ultrasonic sensors in its cars, leaving only the cameras to detect your surroundings —which I deem a dangerous mistake that will come back to haunt the company over time. As long as the cameras can detect clear road lines, Autopilot can keep you in your lane and even change lanes for you. Nonetheless, recent upgrades have made Autopilot worse than when we bought it. It will erratically phantom brake for no reason, ping-pong between lanes, show a red steering wheel with a loud alarm that there’s an object ahead when there is none. Its energy efficiency is better than most EVs —though not the LEAF. So far, I calculate that I’ve averaged 4.01 miles-per-kWh in it. The energy readout uses Wh/mi, unlike all other EVs. Imagine a gas car displaying “ounces-per-mile” instead of MPG (miles-per-gallon). It has 8 cup holders: counting those in the doors, there are 4 in the front and 4 in the rear, two of which are in the fold-down armrest in the rear seat. It does not have any hand grips over the doors, making it hard for passengers to hang on when needed. Its glass roof adds a lot of airy light to the cabin, and is colorful on the outside when wet —which is no longer the case with newer models. Its faux-leather black seats get burning hot in the sun in summer, and cold to the touch in the winter. It is capable of charging at a maximum of 48A at home, putting 44 miles-per-hour into the battery. However, the charging electronics in the High Voltage Battery Service Panel started to break down after only 3 years and 9 months. Even worse, Tesla refused to cover the repair under its High Voltage Battery warranty. It is possible to connect your devices like phones and tablets via bluetooth to listen to music, display contacts and calendar events. In our model year, there is no heated steering wheel —a feature I really miss. The car gets periodic software upgrades over-the-air via Wi-Fi. Recent upgrades have made the user interface worse, not better. The main screen no longer displays key functions, so you have to open the control panels and click through various screens to access some information and settings. I purport that this makes for more dangerous driving because you’re taking your eyes off the road to navigate those menus. With these upgrades, Tesla has ignored the adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Our car came with lifetime “Premium Connectivity” cell service included for those upgrades, maps, music, and internet. Unfortunately, new Tesla owners now have to pay a monthly subscription fee for that service. After taking delivery, a later update enabled one-pedal driving, which I heartily applaud. The line on the screen that shows power and regen is very thin and so difficult to see that it doesn’t really help you drive more efficiently. Numerous upgrades have added a variety of games, toys, light shows, and internet access for browsing and watching videos. Personally, I purport that most of these enhancements are silly and unnecessary, since you can already open such functions on a phone or tablet. I mean, honestly… do you really need to have your car play jingle bells or make fart sounds? They were fun for a good laugh at first, but… are very rarely used after that. The Tesla app on your phone or tablet allows you to set and monitor charging, climate control, look through the cameras, etc. There is no Tesla app to access these same functions on your computer —unless you purchase 3rd-party software. The driver and passenger have their own separate climate controls and seat heaters, and the HVAC boasts “pet” and “camping” modes. Rear passengers cannot turn on, off, or adjust their seat heaters, because those controls are only accessible on the front touchscreen. You can easily swipe with your finger on the navigation map to scroll around it, and pinching your fingers lets you zoom in-and-out. The car has no screen that displays the battery’s current state of capacity, most unfortunately. The driver has controls to raise and lower all the windows, partially or completely with one touch. The rear windows do not roll all the way down. Recently an update finally included a screen to monitor energy use not only from driving, but also climate control, battery conditioning, elevation change, and other functions. On the other hand, the car does not give reminders for maintenance like rotating the tires, changing the cabin filter, but it will alert you when the 12V battery is growing weak and needs to be replaced. Our model is only rear-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive. The car does not have a rear window wiper, which can make for poor visibility in bad weather. The rear camera can help, but it also tends to get fogged up with moisture.