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Driving Electric

IMG_0725.JPGI’ve been driving a Fiat 500e for over a month now. When I noticed an article in Green Car Reports for an $87/month lease, I rushed out to my nearest Fiat dealership. It was quite a deal and I had been looking at elective vehicles (EVs) for a while test-driving the VW eGolf, Ford Focus EV, and Nissan LEAF before making a decision. I hadn’t checked out the BMW i3 or Kia Soul EV as they were both on my short list, but I acted fast with the Fiat 500e offer, since the cars were selling quickly at the dealerships around LA and inventory was getting low.

I went with Fiat Downtown LA who had an orange and white model with black interior. I did a quick test drive and worked out everything with the dealership over email and my hour lunch break. The sales guy delivered the car to my home the following Saturday morning. It was definitely the quickest and easiest car buying process ever. No nonsense and a great deal as advertised.

But that was the buying experience. The more interesting experience has been driving an electric vehicle. There are a lot of articles from automotive journalists, electric car enthusiasts, and various EV owners who talk a lot about things like range, instant torque, and how viable the electric vehicle market is long-term.

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I mostly bought an EV to help reduce wear and tear on my 8 year-old BMW convertible. So the Fiat is basically my BMW preservation plan. Now with a new job and a slightly longer commute, I didn’t want to run up my miles sitting in LA traffic. With a fairly inexpensive, almost breakeven cost due to significantly lower “fuel” costs and lower maintenance costs for an out of warranty BMW, an EV made a lot of sense. So I fall into the EV as third-car in our household. It wasn’t replacing a gas vehicle, it was simply allowing me to use my gas car a lot less and that is definitely happening as I just passed 1,000 miles in the Fiat and added only 120 miles on the convertible in the past 7 weeks.

Driving the Fiat is a lot of fun. What I didn’t expect is that I would enjoy driving this tiny, 111 horsepower Fiat more than the 2007 BMW 335i convertible I still own. Clearly, I’m just in a state of new car euphoria, right?

Possibly.

What I do know is that driving an electric car is a lot of fun. The instant torque of an electric engine that can beat just about any gas car in a 0-5mph race is perfection for commuting. The 500e can quickly merge into any lane and it just takes off without any hesitation. It’s quick at a second’s notice and that is a really fun benefit.

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It’s also an interesting game to see how many miles I can get out of a charge. I don’t do it because I’m concerned about making it home every day. Instead, it’s interesting to see how my driving habits impact how many miles I can get each day. Seeing how I do with eMPG performance and percentage of battery used is my daily game that I’m sure will get less exciting over time.

What’s also interesting about owning an electric car is how consumed you become with understanding your electric bill at home. You start looking at cost per kilowatt and options available through your electricity provider. I know clearly now what I pay per kilowatt and I am now experimenting with a Time of Day billing approach provided by Southern California Edison. We’ll see how that goes or if it makes more sense to get a Level 2 charger that not only charges significantly faster (3 ½ hours versus almost 24 hours to charge from zero to 100%), but also charges connected to its own electrical meter at a significantly lower cost per kilowatt. Understanding these options has helped me better understand energy costs at home, even beyond just the car’s needs. I would look at solar, but we currently rent. It is definitely an option I’ll consider after we buy in a couple years.

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Driving an electric car is a blast and I can’t imagine not having an EV, now that I have one. I keep contemplating selling the BMW and may do so, but I want to make sure it’s not just due to the short-term enjoyment of something new. So, I’ll wait 6-months to decide about that. For now, I’m just having a great time being an EV driver and the Fiat 500e is a great way to experience electric with its quick, sporty, go-kart like driving experience.

  • Congrats, I have exactly the same one and I just stumbled into a Fiat dealership when servicing my Subaru BRZ. The while HOV sticker was the first magnet but since the BRZ had to go. Made no sense and was just in the way on the driveway. 1y later, extremely happy but fund some quirks. Automatic lights and software over the air updates (Not to have to spend 1,5h every 6 months at dealership even if its for free) better bluetooth support (My wifes 4s does not pair and Android not collaborating). There is no perfect car but as a commuter this one comes very close. Btw kids named it Luigi after the cars movie.

    • @gronowski:disqus Thanks for sharing your experience. Yeah I’m enjoying it as a commuter. Just a lot of fun all around.