Electric vehicles have been in my life a few times in the last 50 years. The first was an electric Marathon c-300 I was testing for the military. Built in Montreal by the Marathon Electric Car Company, the c-300 had a top speed of 60 km/h, pulled from an eight-horsepower DC electric motor with 12 six-volt car batteries under the rear seat.
It was obvious no one was going to win a war in a modified golf cart weighed down by 700 pounds of batteries and a driving range of 50 kilometres.
There were others through the decades but not until recently did I have a chance to live, day in day out, with an electric vehicle, one with a lot more brains and grunt than the c-300.
In a casual relationship with a 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV
For four months, we had a Bolt EV, we affectionately called Boltie Bolt. We had the chance to drive it daily for work and play. It was the go-to driver, with missions that included loans to a slew of auto journalists. Through the fall and winter months, Boltie Bolt racked up 13,000 kilometres around five provinces.
Its longest road trip was competing in le Grand Rallye Électrique, a meandering five-day 3,000-km rally from Halifax to Ottawa. Faced with creative challenges and countless checkpoints, Boltie Bolt did quite well in the action-packed competition.
Of course, living with an EV takes some getting used to. It’s so quiet! Its silent, whip-like acceleration is like an eerie muscle car.
“Hey, I’m running on electricity and I’m going to save the planet!”
Before considering an EV, there are questions: How far can I go on a charge? How do I charge it?
Ah, charging the battery. Eventually it needs to happen. It quickly became apparent that a home-installed Level 2 charging system was a must. Our house is just shy of a century old and, even with a freshened up 100-amp service, plugging an electric car into the 110-volt garage outlet often tripped a circuit breaker.
Over those four months, we had to check in with each other: “Is the car plugged in? I want to re-heat my coffee / turn on the basement lights / watch TV”.
Hey, I admit, maybe an exaggeration, but the TV, microwave, basement lights and garage plug were on the same circuit. To add to the frustration, the only plug near the driveway is inside the garage, so the bay door had be left open a crack for the charge cable whenever the Bolt was plugged in. So convenient.
Without a Level 2 240-volt charger, it could take days to top up any EV’s batteries.
Opening the garage door and laying out the charge cable to gain a paltry 30 or 40 kilometres of range was something both Lisa and I avoided.
We decided every 300 kilometres one of us would drop by the Flo DC fast charger a few blocks away.
I did most of these assignments and found it a relaxing experience once I figured out the Flo application on my smartphone. With a Harvey’s across the street, a cup of tea (even fries!) was just steps away. A sanctuary to lounge in, picking at a snack, feeling no guilt because I was waiting for my EV to charge.
Oh, those electric vehicles sure like your time, but I soon realized there’s lots to do while charging an EV.
You can tend to all those emails, messages and social media posts that are just soooo important. What about going old-school and scrawling in a day planner or jotting hopes and dreams in a journal.
Bothering friends and loved ones with claims of loneliness gets no sympathy.
The key is to do something productive while waiting for the EV to ‘juice up’.
Detail the interior, clean the windows, read the users manual, get to know the navigation system, delete some of the 20,000 pics on your smartphone. Or just go for a walk, look around and relax.
Life at the DC charger soon became something I looked forward to. An hour of me-time.
I thought range would be an issue in cold weather driving but learned to live with the 10-15% range reduction. On longer trips, a parade of numbers spun around in my head: consumption rates, ETAs, distance to the next charge. All compelling brain exercises to keep those neurons firing.
It took a couple of months to feel at one with the EV world. Charging wasn’t a big deal and I enjoyed unplugging and slipping into me-time mode when I plugged Boltie Bolt in at some remote charging station.
Fun-to-drive Chevrolet Bolt EV
The Chevy Bolt is fun to drive. Quick and nimble, we always looked forward to strapping in. We loved the one-pedal driving, an entertaining way to recapture most of the braking energy upon deceleration. We would compete to see who could do the longest stretch without touching the brakes.
When we turned Boltie Bolt back in to Chevrolet, we knew we’d miss it.
For days, I felt guilty when applying the brakes on any non-electric vehicle. It didn’t feel right to have braking energy simply dissipate, never mind the wear on the whole system.
With charging times and battery capabilities of electric vehicles constantly being improved, along with the finite nature of earth’s resources needed to operate vehicles with internal combustion engines, the idea of owning and living with an EV is not some far-off futuristic possibility but a reality that everyone will be considering.