Saturday, May 19, 2012

The E Has Landed In The I.E.

My Active E has finally landed in the I.E.

Me and my E
I took delivery of my Active E last week. In actuality, it was hidden in plain sight, as they say, because I received the dealer demo. So the same car that I test drove and posted a picture of on this blog back in February is the car that now occupies my garage.

Good vs. Evil in my garage
Since the Active E lease comes with unlimited miles, it makes no difference that the odometer read 400 miles when I took delivery. I'm happy to be part of the EV club now, but in driving the Active E for just a couple of days I realize I have much to learn about electric motoring. In some ways, the car drives the same, or even better, than a gas-powered jalopy. In fact, in pulling onto the freeway for the first time, I zipped up to speed so quickly that I forgot I was driving something radically different from all the cars around me. The only sign of disparity, aside from the funky graphics on the outside, is the regenerative braking that kicks in and slows the car down when taking your foot off the accelerator (can't call it a "gas" pedal anymore).

In other ways, The Active E is very different. Such as in getting the most range out of the vehicle. While the car is capable of going 80 to 100 miles, or more, on a single charge, it takes the "right" kind of driving to reach those numbers. If you drive it like a gas-powered car, with quick acceleration and high speeds, then the range will be limited. For the first two days of driving I was averaging 2.8 miles per kilowatt-hour, which translates into about 75 mile range. On most days, a 75 mile range will be more than enough for me because my total commute is only 40 miles round trip. But on days when I need more range, I'll need to change my bad driving habits.

The harder question is just how do I change my driving habits? That's the learning curve part. I know what experienced EV drivers say to do, but doing it myself is another matter entirely. That's where experience comes into play. I tried exercising as much restraint as possible and was able to achieve an average of 3.8 miles per kilowatt-hour, which translates into a 96 mile range.
Restraint leads to 3.8 miles per kilowatt, but a bit more boring experience.

The secret is in soft, steady accelerations and allowing the regenerative braking to kick in earlier than you would normally brake in a gas-powered car.  In other words, you need to drive very, very defensively.  But in a car with such smooth acceleration and no shifting lags or pauses, driving defensively is the exact opposite of what my right foot wants to do.  I much prefer just mashing the pedal to the floor every time.  Well I always have that option, just don't expect to drive very far doing it.

There's also the "stealth" of the car. As you would imagine, EV's are quiet. I mean really quiet. They don't have four, or six, or eight little cylinders exploding with a mixture of gas and air every nanosecond. So it's takes some getting used to for those in the car. And it takes some pedestrians by surprise as well. In my case, I scared my father-in-law with the car unintentionally when we first took it to his house to show it off. He was walking on the street as we came by. Not a serious scare, but an obvious startled look. My teenage son commented that grandpa probably couldn't hear a diesel truck driving behind him, much less an EV (teenagers are so kind to older people). But this does present a problem/concern for us newly annointed EV'ers. We need to learn how to drive around people, especially in places like parking lots and parking garages. There are lessons to be learned. And I can't wait to learn them all.

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