EVs are high tech, right? And they go really fast with little effort. They also come with fewer concerns about fuel cost, repairs, even just driving, especially if they’re all-electric.
EV drivers know all that. But what I find intriguing and valuable about EVs is how much more their high tech puts drivers in touch with the natural environment—which seems paradoxical.
Because of the relative scarcity of charging stations and the lower driving range of all-electric vehicles, every trip of some distance has to be planned more. Of course that means finding routes that have sufficiently powered charging stations. It also means thinking about speed in ways others rarely consider: EV drivers know that the simplest way to improve battery range is to slow down.
That may mean driving too slowly for a major highway. Okay, then take country roads! Many an EV driver has learned that doing that has created experiences that would have been missed on the faster highways: in scenery, small towns, places to eat or stay, people met. Ironically, these fast cars may help us to slow down, to notable benefit.
More directly, EVs require us to consider aspects of the Earth that gasoline-car drivers also rarely think about. I don’t mean exhaust emissions or carbon footprint, important though those are. I mean environmental features that affect battery range most: outside temperature, precipitation, elevation change, and wind direction.
While driving our EV with my wife, I’ve often remarked that the wind speed or direction has changed. We have no gauge indicating that; I just feel it in the driving, and can substantiate it by noticing the car’s energy consumption (Wh/km) rise or fall.
Where possible, I also look for a route with fewer steep ups and downs. Because EVs don’t regenerate electricity on the downs as much as they use it on the ups, more level roads are better for battery range.
As for outside temperature, slight changes don’t matter. Radical seasonal changes do, also sometimes the difference between night and day (literally). Our car seems to prefer temperatures between 15° and 25°C, so maybe, given a choice on a long trip, we’ll drive more in the daytime in winter or in the evening of a hot summer day. That affects what we do in non-driving time, including our interactions with the environment.
All this does relate mostly to battery range. But it doesn’t have to. Even when charging stations become as common as gas stations, it will often be better in a fast, high-tech electric car to be in touch more with the natural world and life in the slow lane.
Getting there is at least half the fun. EVs make it easier to appreciate the journey itself, and for people to recharge too.
© by Paul Rapoport, 2015. May be reproduced in short fragments or in its entirety with credit to the author and no changes, for non-commercial use only