2015 was the year of the electric car for us

eGolfAtHouse.png2015 was the year of the electric car – good bye gas cars and petrol stations.

After one year of owning a Volkswagen eGolf I can say I truly love it. The only real hard issue with it is that my wife wants to drive it most of the time and leaves me with the gas guzzler since she has a 20 mile commute and I don’t. We drove it for about 13,000 miles in 12 months.

Let me first tell you about the cars I compare it to, and then focus on the eGolf with issues I found annoying, and also the advantages that make me love it in spite of them. Too many reviews I read are just a reiteration of other reviews, so I promise that none of what I detail is not directly from my personal experience and impressions.

The cars I am comparing are the 2015 eGolf, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta S 2.5 I replaced with the egolf, our 2014 Honda Oddysee that we bought as our family van in 2014, the tesla S that I test drove 2014 in the 85kw version and 2015 in the P85D version, and the Chevvy Volt 2014 that I test drove in 2014.

Characteristics of each car that I find noteworthy:
– 2006 Jetta 2.5 is a sporty roomy car, and with the tires I put on it had excellent cornering, temperamental sporty drive, a modern dynamic responsiveness to the gas pedal that makes a friends ford mustang of the same year feel dated and inaccurate, same for goes for
traction when accelerating fast. Being the 2006 version, it does not show the MPG, so I calculated those at the pump between filling up and while it beats the van, its not excellent, and I flirted with the idea of replacing the car with a TDi for a while,
higher cost and less availability of diesel at gas stations is what kept me from doing it. Thank goodness now that the VW Dieselgate truth came out.  It seats 5 which is good when picking up my kids and a neighbors kid at the same time, and is a lot of fun to drive on my daily commute.
– 2014 and 2015 Tesla win hands down on any aspect except cost, the experience of test driving those can be best summarizes as ‘WOW’ not just from the driving / handling but also all the other engineering aspects from the large display, charging station navigation integration, automated adaptive cruise control (no need to push gas/brakes in stop and go traffic), keyless entry is also buttonless start, ‘start’ really means turn on electrical system of car by putting foot on brakes after sitting down without pushing any on/off button, turn off the car by leaving the car with the key in your pocket and closing the door. It seats 5 comfortably. 7 is not really true, unless you want to seat two small children in seats you can buy as an option rear facing in the trunk area. So I consider it a 5 seater. Cabin lights are bright and full despite of using LED because they actually use hybrid lighting with conventional bulb and LED light to give you the full light experience with low energy consumption.
– 2014 Honda Oddyssee seats 7 on a trip to the Ski resort and has so much room for luggage more than any other mini van out there. For commute the MPG it gets are somewhat miserable, like 16-18 in the city and 24 on highways. Coming back from tahoe with lots of hypermiling tricks I got 34 mpg. Range of course is excellent, I can make it on one tank to Los Angele. Automated doors and high quality picture rear camera when backing up as well as blind spot camera when signalling right are great. Electric driver seat moving forward and backwards slowly with the button when switching drivers is very annoying, opening and closing side and trunk door from remote and from car buttons at driver seat are excellent. Drives like a street car and not like a truck, which is both fun and safe in any weather.
– 2014 GM Chevvy Volt – a plug in hybrid that at first impressed with 0-30 mile acceleration, but at highway speeds the handling does not seem safe to me, it just does not have enough responsiveness and power for room to get out of sticky situations. Also its a 4-seater since the battery protrudes into the cabin between the two rear seats. I seriously considered it for a while and it put the idea in my head that I can afford a vehicle with at least some electric range. I heard the 2015 and 2016 are a lot better in terms of handling too, but never test drove one again because of the short comings experienced on the 2014 model.
– 2015 Volkswagen eGolf – an 86 mile range pure electric vehicle, very impressive 0-30 mile acceleration leaving most gas cars behind at the light (probably even my jetta s),
reasonable 0-60 mile acceleration. So smooth it makes you feel like mounting a dinosaur when going back to drive a gas car.

Here are the good and bad things about the car and electric driving in general that I discovered:

Issues:
– ac automation: while air conditioning works well when outside temperature is very low or very high, in the 70’s it does not seem to hold it stably at the 72 that are dialed in automatically after turning on the engine, feels more like 69. Not so much an issue for me, but my wife complains 🙂
– resetting adjustments on power off/on: it does not remember when I change the ac from 72 to something else.
– noise maker: its quiet except they put in an electric noise generator for low speeds to warn pedestrians which I find annoying because it sounds downright ugly, and you can’t override it or customize the type of sound it makes. It ruins the fact that this car is so excellently smooth and quiet when it takes off.
– range anxiety: the range anxiety is real, if you venture out beyond its range and dont want to plan on a lenghty stay at a charging station, you start turning off air conditioning and music and get nervous. they mitigate that with the road side assistence promise below, but depending on how you use the car you can feel the anxiety. For me driving it shorter distances it is a nonissue, but visiting friends 40 miles away this has become an issue before. Lunch rescheduled from noon to 2pm. Thankfully finally we have some DC fast chargers from NRG EVGO to help out in a pinch…
– mobile app features: mobile phone app car-net could be better, i.e. responsiveness and using it from two phones at the same time can lock one out, I curse at it a lot but would not want to miss it at the same time as it is a major plus in usability.
– charging availability: DC fast chargers (80% full in 20 minutes) didn’t really exist yet at the beginning of 2015, but NRG EVGO caught up on the buildout, unlike BMW and Volkswagen who promised to put money into chargepoint to build that out 2015, but so far I have to rely on Level 2 chargers that can fill it up from empty to full in 4 hours, in my case I am just topping it off in however long I want to park there, usually it is full in 1-2 hours. Still much faster than in my garage at 110V outlet. It seems there are more Chademo chargers out in the wild january 2015 that the eGolf does not support than the DC Combo that it does support. I know of exactly one charge point DC charger in the bay area.
– 86 mph limit – yes they put a speed delimiter into the car. While its beyond the slow legal speed limits in the US, in case of any emergency I would want to be the one to decide about that and not the car. I got used to it and dont notice it anymore, but I don’t agree with it at all, imagine tsunami or other emergency.
– different charging networks at first seemed annoying (blink/nvgo/chargepoint/…) – volkswagen gave me two chargepoint cards and their network is large so I don’t mind too much and end up using charge point exclusively except for when I have to DC fast charge, which I can do for $10/use with NRG EVGO.
– LED lighting in the cabin could be more bright, compared to the 2006 Jetta this looks very weak. That is why Tesla uses hybrid lighting which combines LED’s and conventional bulb for a low energy full light experience.
– Charging Plug lock – when you charge the car, the plug gets locked so nobody can mess with it while you are away. When you come back you have to unlock it with the key remote button, so keyless entry does not apply to it. Sometimes it takes several attempts of unlocking before the car lets go of the charging plug, which can be annoying.

Advantages:
– clean: no visits to stinky gas stations, no guilt driving past a bicylist polluting the air they breathe in heavly, happy to park in my garage without concern of gas/oil getting into things stored
– less hassle and expenses: no expensive oil changes, no smog check appointments on registration renewals, no service appointment for two years until cabin filters inspection. I get about 4 miles per kWh so even when not charging for free at my gym every now and then the cost per month is a lot less than it used to be. Also after adding solar to my home and adding an L2 fast charger in the process means I can assume my energy was created clean, and the car is ready in the morning.
– quiet: this changes your perception on your other gas car – suddenly gas cars seem old and shaky and loud in comparison, despite of the excellent sound insulations cars have nowadays. I am not kidding, I did take the Oddysee in to service to find out why it was shaking, because I had driven the eGolf for a while and just was not expecting it to be normal again.
– just go: charging overnight in the garage means no planning on visiting a chargepoint station unless you drive it around for more than the 80 miles a day, basically I just drive it around, plug it in when I got back in the garage and forget about it, next day it is full. In the winter I preheat it in the garage while it is still connected to the charger. While at breakfast, from the iPhone. Besides comfort, this also means the impact of cold weather on range is less because the car is fully charged and its cabin preheated.
– safety: road side assistence button, if I ever get stranded out of electricity they will come and tow me home or to a chargepoint station if I am more than 100 miles from home. Have not had to use it yet (knock on wood). In fact they will call you in your car and ask if you are ok when the air bags get deployed in an accident…
– mobile app features: allows me to find where I parked it, how much range it has and how much longer it will charge until full, it allows me to turn on air conditioning from the restaurant table while waiting on my bill to get the car’s temperature to acceptable levels, especially going to be important in the hot summers here in CA
– premium parking spot finder: The chargepoint app allows me to find a free parking spot with a charger, typically located at the bottom of a parking garage, and it tells me if occupied or not. This translates to finding premium parking. The chargepoint network is pretty good in the bay area and in san francisco, but it depends on where you go. For me its a huge plus. I also use plugshare to find NRG EVGO DC fast chargers.
– sporty: acceleration from 0 to 30 is excellent, immediate torque and no shifting means you will pull away from the green light faster than pretty much any gas car around you, and you don’t worry about the inefficiency of it because the rest of the drive regenrative braking and low consumption still give you a good 4 miles per kWh for your trip.
– looks: I love the accent lights in the front and the general look of the car.

So in summary – I love it and hope that one day we will replace the honday oddysee with a tesla X and I wont feel bad about my wife taking the eGolf any more, which I will one day also replace with a tesla 3 🙂

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~ by MrMichaelWill on January 20, 2016.

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