$0 Charging in Nearly 3 Years of Electric Car Life in Florida — Over

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One thing I’ve enjoyed sharing for the past 2 years and 9 months is that we’ve been living with electric cars during that time in Florida without home charging. We had a BMW i3 REx for the first third of that time and a Tesla Model 3 SR+ since then. We’re a one-car family, but I work from home (or anywhere) and my wife has been focused on taking care of our two young daughters. So, I understand we’re not a typical case and have more charging flexibility than most others, but we’re still a 4-person, 1-car family and it’s been fun pointing out that we’ve lived without home charging very conveniently for nearly 3 years, even with lower-range EVs than many people think they need. The i3 REx had 70 miles of electric range and we spent ~$5 on gas in that time, but it’s also important to note that our older daughter wasn’t yet in school at that time and we drove about half as much as we do now (we appear to drive approximately the national average now).

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I can no longer make those claims. We’ve moved to a small home with a garage and I’ve begun using magnificently convenient (but not free) home charging. I will share some more about that experience in hopefully unique and useful ways in months to come, but that will certainly be a much harder task, since 1) most electric car owners charge at home and 2) there’s not really anything complicated about it — it’s supremely easy. I do have a few ideas in mind already, though, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, this piece is a marker to end an era, and to drop some final notes about EV life without a home charging option.

It’s totally easy … in some cases.

For us, it was often very easy — almost completely seamless — living with an electric car and no home charging. We’d go to thr grocery store we’d be going to anyway and charge at a ChargePoint station while there, or we’d go to a nearby park/playground and charge at a ChargePoint station the city had installed while there, or we’d go to the mall and grab a coffee or something while charging at yet another ChargePoint station, or — once in a while — we’d Supercharge at the Tesla station behind the grocery store mentioned above. With the i3, a couple of times, we charged at a fast charger deeper in the city near a playground we went to once in a blue moon. On several occasions, I also charged at the beach while the girls enjoyed Southwest Florida’s world famous beaches and I worked in the car (naturally).

Because there were charging stations at most of our common destinations (and they were all free), there was not a lot to think about with this EV life, even with the 70 mile BMW i3 (with a 60 mile gas backup that we used maybe twice for a limited amount of time).

Adoption of EVs - The next generation

However, 1) I realize that we have a pretty unique abundance of chargers (and free, no less!), 2) an ideal work lifestyle for this (I can work in the park, at a coffee shop, at a charging station in front of or behind a store while my wife shops, or even in a beach parking lot — which does benefit from the beach breeze), and 3) not much competition at charging stations (I probably only arrived at full charging stations a handful of times).

When our older daughter started going to school and our younger daughter did some pre-schooling, our driving doubled to approximately the US average, but we decided to get a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (mostly for other reasons) and its range handled our driving patterns conveniently while still allowing us to charge mostly as needed on Level 2 ChargePoint stations without really breaking from normal patterns of life.

But then, covid hit. …

Access to superfast charging is important.

You would think that covid would have decreased our charging needs. Yes, in absolute terms, it did. However, it also took away our ability to chill out at coffee shops, the mall, and Whole Foods (where we could previously buy some food and eat in its indoor or outdoor dining area). Eventually, we could bring the girls to parks again, but when we went to the one with the charging station, the station was broken (and it has been for months now). We still had to do some basic shopping, Sentry Mode sucked power up like a vacuum in our location (a lot of foot traffic triggered it frequently … but also made it seem worth keeping on), and the Florida heat sucked up extra electricity (I keep cabin overheat protection on, because the Florida heat is intense and I imagine can destroy anything if you give it enough time, including components of our not-super-cheap computer-car).

With that new equation, there were two options that would keep charging convenient: use the Tesla Superchargers behind Whole Foods when we go grocery shopping (instead of the ChargePoint stations in the front) or pay for a garage (which comes with an electricity outlet). As I noted at the top, I liked sharing that we didn’t have home charging and spent $0 charging in XYZ months/years with an electric car, so I went with option #1. Though, admittedly, it stressed me out a little bit since I know that frequent Supercharging isn’t good for you battery and I also know that not everyone can benefit from so many referrals that Supercharging is basically free for life.

The short point of all of this, however, is that EV life without home charging can be super convenient in more cases if you have access to convenient superfast charging. All we really needed was a charge during a grocery run twice a week. Simple. Easy. Fit right into our normal lives. Ultrafast chargers or at least fast chargers should be at grocery stores all over the world.

It’s all about common destination hotspots.

It’s clear above, but I thought I should highlight it to be extra clear: the most critical thing in the EV ecosystem for a more mature EV market with greater EV adoption is charging stations at common destination hotspots. If you can charge easily while visiting places you routinely visit for more than 10 minutes at a time, the EV life is simple. Even better when we enter an era of wireless EV charging, which I’m convinced will come eventually (because humans prioritize convenience so much).

Grocery stores, coffee shops, parks, shopping centers, movie theaters, schools, and workplaces of course. Even better if there isn’t a pandemic shutting most things down or rushing you from entrance to exit.

Abundance is preferred over speed.

As noted above, I didn’t really want to fast charge and didn’t use the option much before the pandemic. But an abundance of slow chargers was essential to not needing fast chargers. Overall, abundance is key, because not everyone has the same lifestyle, and even small variations in habits can shift “easy” to “uh oh, there are no chargers here.” If there are charging stations everywhere you go, heck, even Level 1 charging would get the job done! Our cars are parked the vast majority of the time.

Alas, we are not there yet, and maybe we never will be, because simply with home and/or workplace charging, the need for charging elsewhere diminishes sharply. But more on that in a future article.

Check out my full long-term review of the Model 3 Standard Range Plus for more, or our broader long-term review archives from various Tesla Model 3 owners.

If you now want to buy a Tesla Model 3 (or Model Y, Model S, or Model X), feel free to use my referral code to get some free Supercharging miles with your purchase: https://ts.la/zachary63404.

You can also get a $100 discount on Tesla solar with that code.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7398 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan