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Does spontaneity end when you drive an Electric Vehicle?

August 1, 2013

Spontaneity is encouraged at Buck’s in Woodside, California where the walls are covered with weird and fascinating stuff, but can you be spontaneous when driving an EV? My husband and I ended up finding out when a simple dinner run to Buck’s met with a few challenges.


In a word, that was one of the biggest arguments I made  against my husband’s decision to lease an electric vehicle for the next three years.

When it comes to getting the car, I lost that debate, of course. But what about this question of being spontaneous? Is it possible to accommodate an unexpected change in plans when you are driving a 2012 Nissan Leaf, which at best will give you about 80 miles in a single charge.( My husband’s best is 83 miles).

The answer, I am finding, is well, maybe.

Last night my husband was flying into Mineta San Jose International Airport, returning from a business trip. He called before boarding and we decided that he would call me when he landed so that we could arrange to meet for dinner. Easy enough, right?

No so fast. His plane was scheduled to land at 7:45 p.m., but he did not call me until 8:15. Head winds had delayed his arrival, and he was waiting for a shuttle bus to take him to his car. The restaurant in Woodside, California that would be our meeting place closes its kitchen at 9 p.m. which is all well and good if my husband could just jump in his car and drive there. The map on my iPhone said that it would take about 30 minutes for him to get there.

But what about the car?’ How much charge is remaining?’I had to ask.  He confessed that he might have to stop at a charging station on the way to the cafe, all but nixing our chances of making it on time.

Don’t worry, he reassured me.

We decided to go for it.

Meeting for dinner after your husband’s flight is quite an ordinary thing to do, but it is quite a spontaneous thing to do when you are driving an EV and not everything has gone according to plan.  Last week, we went out to do some shopping for an upcoming hiking trip, then, went to dinner and a movie. Driving home, the last thing I wanted to do was stop, but we had to top off the charge to make it home.

We were lucky to have access to DC Fast Chargers on the route we chose, and found one at EverNote in Redwood City, California.  It was about 11:30 p.m. so we got there in time before it shuts down at midnight. The parking lot, by the way, felt a little isolated at that hour so I would avoid going there alone. Safety at charging stations was one of the topics I blogged about during my EV Road Trip from Silicon Valley to Malibu.

Now back to our little dinner trip. Had it been in January, when my husband was still testing the boundaries of the Leaf, we’d likely be eating peanut butter sandwiches at home rather than take this risk, but here he was, asking me to order him dinner when I arrived  at Buck’s of Woodside so that he would not miss the chef’s 9 p.m. deadline.

I waited and waited, nursing a glass of wine.  And, then, five minutes before his stuffed chicken breast dinner arrived, my husband did. After saying hello, I, of course, had to ask. How many miles does the meter say you have left? Now, remember, there are no public charging stations between Woodside and Half Moon Bay, California that we know of. Plugshare lists a couple residential ones in the region that people are willing to share, but they are quite a distance away and not along the route.  Driving several miles off course and disturbing someone at home just before their bed time because we did not plan ahead did not seem like a good option to me.

My husband’s  answer was 16 miles. I quickly pulled out my iPhone and checked our destination. It said 18 miles.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it. I’ll just drive slow,” he said. “I just need to make it to the top of  the hill without seeing the turtle.”  The “turtle”  is the symbol which comes up when you are perilously close to the end of your charge. SOL, would be a better term for it. And, realistically, if the turtle appeared, even at the top of the hill, my husband would not make it home because the charge he would recoup from going down hill still would be insufficient to carry him home.

Perhaps it was the wine, or maybe it is because we are becoming bolder the longer we drive an EV, but I was not worried about making it home as we dined and caught up.

Still, when it came time to leave, I insisted on driving behind the EV.  The iPhone map had suggested I-280, but we both knew that Canada Road was a shorter distance. Also, being a two lane, rural road, it was an easier place to drive slowly and conserve battery charge.

The drive was stunning. Crawling along behind my husband’s vehicle, I had time to look up at the stars, and to easily avoid the three deer that meandered into the street.  Before we got onto Rt. 92, and its winding uphill stretch, I flashed the lights, and my husband pulled the car over to give me a thumbs up.

Arriving home, we had a whole six miles to spare, and another EV journey under our belt. Can you drive an EV without giving up your spontaneous nature?  Tell me what think.

  1. It seems that only driving an EV is rather like only riding a bike, or only taking public transit. It isn’t as convenient as a longer range car, but you eventually get used to it and make the best of it.

  2. Hello Donal
    I think that is a good comparison. I think it is because I do not drive the EV as much as my husband that I sometimes forget we are not driving a traditional car. Therefore, I put higher expectations on what it can do.

  3. GGPA permalink

    If the same circumstances present themselves again you could consider meeting in Los Altos downtown, where there are 4 chargers and many restaurants close by.

  4. Michael B. permalink

    Life is full of trade-offs, no? So I think that

    1.) What you may lose in one kind of spontaneity you may very well make up for in another, or other new experiences — eg, a stunning drive, slowing down/driving in “the slow lane”, seeing the stars above, etc.
    2.) Spontaneity isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be, and conversely, living *deliberately* is often underappreciated. I think good old Thoreau had a bit to say about that. (And I suspect that he would love EVs for this and many other reasons!)
    3.) Plane travel also crimps spontaneity (especially when they run late), but presumably the benefits outweigh that. Restaurant hours similarly restrict our “freedom”, but reality necessitates it. So why only blame the car? 🙂

  5. GGPA permalink

    I know someone who makes good money but lives beyond that and he has to keep track of his charge cards and their limits and due dates etc, and often when he makes a purchase he panics whether his card will be accepted or not.

    I think his situation is self-imposed, just like my decision to have an electric car with a limited range, but I really prefer my problem to his.

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