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Charging, road trips, maintenance, and more: 8 EV owners reveal the realities of going electric

Charging, road trips, maintenance, and more: 8 EV owners reveal the realities of going electric
photo collage showcasing public charging stations, such as Blink's "lifestyle" curb-side charging solution in parking lots, Electrify America, and also featuring home charging images of a Tesla and a 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Many early EV drivers from across the US have installed their own chargers and say taking road trips while driving electric is easier than it seems. Blink Charging; Electrify America; Tesla; Chevrolet; Alyssa Powell/Insider
  • Insider spoke with dozens of EV owners as plug-in cars are gaining traction.

  • We compiled the experiences of eight EV owners across the country.

  • From California to the East Coast and from Tesla owners to Ford owners, here's what they said.

We tracked down EV owners from across the country to hear exactly what it's like owning, charging, and even taking road trips in plug-in vehicles.

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Charlotte Scot, 76 — Old Lyme, CT — Kia EV6

A woman in a sweater stands in front of her red car.
Charlotte Scot has had three EVs.Charlotte Scot

As I got older, I wanted to do something for the planet, and I certainly don't drive as much as I used to. So, what's more perfect for a senior than an electric vehicle?

My little BMW i3, named "Orangina," was adorable. I bought it when it was about a year old, in 2015. I would only have to charge maybe once a week, even with just a 100-mile range. It was small, it was capable, and it was how I could afford to get into electric vehicles back then. It really eased me into EVs. I learned pluses and minuses.

Technically, it held one gallon of gas, so it was — sort of — a hybrid.

I wanted more range, but I liked not having to go to the gas station. I installed a ChargePoint charger at home. The utility gave rebates, so I got my charger for practically nothing. Now, I don't think my home charging costs more than about $20 a month, and an office down the street from me also has free chargers. I never really looked at another gas engine.

Planning was a big thing to know — where you could get a charge if you needed it. I also bought an adapter so I could use Tesla chargers. I traded Orangina in for a Hyundai Kona EV about three years ago. It's a wonderful car, compact, with a range of about 250 miles, so it was quite a leap forward.

I'm not a fan of Elon Musk, so I never considered a Tesla. I leased the Kia EV6, named "Snazzy Radish," about five months ago, and Kia took about $7,500 off its price.

I have a bumper sticker on the back of the car that says, "I identify as an electric vehicle." I think I identify with it. It's like, "Hey, folks, you can do this. You don't have to buy a Tesla. You don't have to spend $100,000. There are vehicles that are available."

Rick Samuels, 71 — Portland, OR — Tesla Model 3

A man stands in front of a Tesla EV charging at a Tesla charger.
Rick Samuels, retired from the IT industry, drives a Tesla and a Nissan Leaf.Rick Samuels

The Nissan Leaf was the first affordable, practical EV. We leased our first Leaf for three years in 2011. I was commuting about 30 miles a day, which was an ideal range for a first-generation Leaf. We then bought a 2-year-old, lease-returned 2013 Leaf.

In 2014, when the first lease ran out, Nissan was practically giving 2014 models away. It was $1,000 up-front and $100 a month for a two-year lease. At the end of the two years, in 2016, Nissan gave us another 12,000 miles and kept the payments the same. At the end of the third year, we ended up buying the Leaf for $9,200. We had the 2013 and the 2014 models for some time.

In early 2021, we wanted a car with more range, so we ended up leasing a 2020 Leaf SV Plus with about 200 miles of range. The lease price reflected federal and state tax credits, plus a factory incentive. We live in a floating home, but a nearby members' club allowed us to put Level 2 chargers in the parking lot.

Last fall, we took our first real road trip, and that's when we found out how abysmal public-charging infrastructure is.

The problem was finding chargers that worked without issues. At that point, we said, if we were going to drive an electric car, and we wanted to take trips, pretty much our only choice was a Tesla, so we bought a used Tesla Model 3 and sold one Leaf.

We have taken several trips in the Tesla and have never had a problem charging. We've had it for a year and have not had any significant problems with it. Our Leaf, which now has over 80,000 miles on it, has also never needed any significant repairs. We've only had to get the 12-volt batteries replaced.

I tell people that if it's going to be your main car for trips, the only electric car I would get right now is a Tesla. In two or three years, that may be different, but right now, their public-charging infrastructure is much better. You don't have to worry about a card reader not working or about a screen being vandalized.

We see no need to have a gasoline-powered car. And we hope we will never have to buy another gasoline-powered car.

Jim Selgo, 66 — Goodyear, AZ — Volkswagen ID.4

A man stands in front of a white SUV in front of a desert scene.
Jim Selgo, a retired public-education principal, drives a Volkswagen ID.4.Jim Selgo

In February 2019, I was still working daily and driving about 50 miles round trip. I had an interest in electric cars and bought a new 2019 Nissan Leaf. My wife had a 100-mile round-trip drive two nights a week, so we also bought a new 2020 Chevrolet Bolt for her.

The Bolt looks small, but inside had plenty of room, and it got about 270 miles of range — while the Leaf only had about 170 — so that's why I decided to sell the Leaf two years ago and keep the Bolt.

Recently, I traded the Bolt in for the Volkswagen ID.4. I got the $7,500 tax credit, and it was listed at just under $52,000, but with discounts, I got it for less than $40,000. They're great to drive, the torque and the speed are awesome, and I really like regenerative, one-pedal braking.

When I was first shopping for an electric vehicle about four years ago, even the dealer didn't have a good understanding or knowledge of EVs, so I kind of went into it blind. Then I learned a lot about them, and really the only negative that we had then — and it's getting better — regards long-distance traveling and finding charging stations. When you purchase the Volkswagen, you get three years of charging at Electrify America — Volkswagen's nationwide charging subsidiary that it established in 2016 — so I could technically drive across the country and use their stations at no cost.

We also have sunshine most of the time here, so I put a solar rooftop on my house. It's been 36 consecutive months that I have not paid a dime for electricity or gasoline because I charge the Volkswagen at the house. I've never paid a dime for maintenance or repair, either. The only thing we have to take it in for is tire rotation, and that's done for free. I will not go back to a gas engine.

We are really happy we did this, and not just financially — they're nice cars, just powered differently.

Portia Zwicker, 43 — Schenectady County, NY — Chevrolet Bolt

A woman, a man, and a young child inside a car.
Portia Zwicker and her husband each own a Chevrolet Bolt EV.Portia Zwicker

My family has an overall goal of lowering our carbon footprint and weaning off all fossil fuels.

It took a little while to be ready financially, and we did a lot of research before making the choice. In August 2020, we started a lease on a 2020 Chevrolet Bolt. About two months later, we bought a second, used Bolt. Both have about 259 miles of range.

The major reason we chose the Bolt was that it was the most affordable option. I chose to lease because I figured the EV landscape would change a lot over the course of the lease, and at the moment, that was the best financial decision. I ended up buying out the lease, too.

The Bolt is the slowest of the fast-charging cars, and that's the biggest downside to it. What I didn't expect was the pooh-poohing at Bolt drivers, specifically because our cars charge slowly. Other EV drivers get upset at us taking up time at charging stations. The next EV for us will be something that can charge faster — we've got our eye on the Chevrolet Equinox.

We only have Level 1 charging at home because we don't need anything else. My husband has free Level 2 charging at work, and I also had that for some time. We charge publicly when we road trip, so that's the most we ever pay. Something I've become used to, though, is always having a backup plan. EV owners need to make sure they understand how fast charging works.

Bob McGill, 78 — League City, TX — Tesla Model 3

A man stands in front of his Tesla in a driveway.
Bob McGill drives a Tesla.Bob McGill

At the end of August 2022, I received my new Tesla Model 3.

I'd been thinking about it for a while for all the usual things, such as not having to buy gas. I'm also a retired computer nerd, so I like cutting-edge technology. I considered the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt for a little while.

I primarily charge at home and rarely charge outside the house. I bought the home-charging unit from Tesla, and an electrician friend installed it for me. It costs about $50 a month for electricity, but I don't plug it in every night. I get about 300 miles on a charge, and I have over 22,000 miles on the car now.

You don't have to do any maintenance. There's a bit of a learning curve about charging — I was a bit nervous at first about being able to charge whenever I needed to. But it turns out there's plenty of charging infrastructure for Teslas around. It's not difficult to do that. I took a trip to Alabama in May, and I've never driven the Tesla over there, but I was able to find places to charge it.

If somebody feels like an EV is what they want to get, they should. They're a little more expensive, but the increase in savings on gas will make up for that.

Lisa Holland, 59 — Atlanta, GA — Ford Mustang Mach-E

A woman stands in front of her silver SUV in front of a lake with green trees.
Lisa Holland owns a Mustang Mach-E.Lisa Holland

I really wanted a Leaf when it came out, but the range wasn't very practical because we go to Florida a lot. Teslas soon became more affordable and, over the years, have developed more range, and I toyed with that. I was driving an SUV at the time, and it was costing too much to fill up, so that's when I started seriously looking for an EV.

I bought my Mustang in 2021 — with the California Route 1 trim — for about $45,000 with the $7,500 tax credit. There were absolutely no problems that needed maintenance, no oil changes, and no transmission issues — just a car sitting on a battery.

When I charge at home at night, my utility company gives me a discounted rate to charge during off-peak hours, so my power bill has only gone up about $13 a month at most. They also gave me a rebate when I had an electrician put the outlet in my garage. Ford provided the charger. Last December, I traded in the first Mustang for the Mach-E.

The thing I was concerned about most was the range and the ability to get out of state. Traveling is a little difficult for me here in the Southeast, especially going to the Panhandle in Florida.

Most people that I talk to are concerned about batteries and the cost of replacing them. I think that's a big misconception. It's just been great for me because I'm saving so much money and not spending it on gas or maintenance. It's easy.

Jason Luu, 31 — Los Angeles, CA — Tesla Model 3

A black Tesla parked in a lot.
Jason Luu drives a Tesla.Jason Luu

I got my Tesla Model 3 in 2019. One of the biggest reasons I got it was to not have to go to the pump anymore. I like tech-savvy things, so I thought I'd get ahead of that curve. Another selling point for me was, at the time, the tax incentives. I did get the $7,500 federal tax incentive, and the state of California also offered $2,000. My utility provider also offered another $1,000.

I installed a 220-volt outlet in my old home, and I've done that in my new home as well. I know that that might be a deterrent for some.

In a very densely populated city such as LA, those living in either condominium buildings or apartment buildings might not have that kind of infrastructure to charge overnight. But then I've been pretty impressed with the Supercharger network, and luckily, my work has charging stations where I can charge for free.

I feel like when people think about purchasing EVs, they get a little hesitant about range. But on any given day, the average person is likely not clocking more miles than the full capacity of the battery, and you can plug your car in at night and wake up to a full charge in the morning. From a charge perspective, having it installed at your home and having that capability really is a game changer.

But to the average person, you map out your day. There's not much uncertainty in terms of where you're going. You're going to work, going home, or stopping by the grocery store. You can plan ahead.

Jerry Schotz, 59 — Champaign-Urbana, IL — Chevrolet Bolt

A white car and a red car parked side-by-side.
Jerry Schotz has two Chevrolet Bolts.Jerry Schotz

We had two gas-powered cars. In May 2021, I purchased my first EV, a new 2021 Chevrolet Bolt. When we tried the EV, we were a little leery of what it was going to be like, so I kept my Toyota RAV4.

In November 2021, we found a used 2020 Chevrolet Bolt, trading in my wife's 2017 Nissan Altima for it. We were fully electric by the beginning of 2022. The vitriol that we get from people because we own EVs has surprised us a little bit, but we've been very happy with our EVs since then.

We replaced both batteries during the recall. The only maintenance we've had to perform has been tire rotations.

I put a 220-volt outlet in the garage and plug in the car there since about 90% of our travel is local. Between the electrical-panel upgrade and the outlet, it was about $1,500 to have everything installed. This year is also our first year having our own solar on the house, so now we're driving basically for free. Before we did solar, it was probably adding about $50 a month to the bill.

We took our first road trip to Branson, Missouri, from central Illinois — a good eight-hour drive, and I plotted out the routes with planners and PlugShare, an EV-charging station map. It was a little hard to find fast charging, but we made it there and back without any problems.

We took a trip to Wisconsin, and we've taken trips to Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The Electrify America network saves us all the time. I think one of the biggest surprises about charging is how slow even fast charging gets in the winter because of all the protections for the battery.

Regenerative braking is the coolest thing to me. We're happy about the lack of emissions coming out of our cars — we're not contributing any sort of greenhouse gases from driving.

Read the original article on Business Insider