First Time EV Buyer? Thinking It Through & Coming Full Circle

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By Robert Simon

Editor’s note: Rob is a longtime CleanTechnica reader and western North Carolina-based entrepreneur and property manager who has taken action on his climate anxiety by greening his rental properties and now, switching to EVs. In this article, he summarizes his journey navigating his first EV buying experience. 

I remember my EV journey starting in the spring of 2021 when I realized that our very old yet awesome Honda Insight no longer had working air conditioning. I really wanted an electric vehicle and I really didn’t want to go through another summer driving and sweating. Being the thorough person that I am, I spoke with friends, joined a local EV club, watched YouTube videos and read what felt like a couple hundred articles on CleanTechnica and other websites about different electric cars. 

A close friend and Tesla owner told me “So many of the EV’s that are available are great, but honestly, just buy a Tesla, you will love it.” So I started with Tesla, but felt like it just wasn’t quite the right fit for me. There were tangible reasons like the price being more than I had ever spent on a car, it was going to be my first electric car, and that the closest place for a test drive was 2 hours from my house. Then there were the reports of unfair labor practices in the company and the crazy comments coming from Elon Musk on a pretty regular basis were a big turnoff, so I decided to shop around.

With all of this swirling around in my mind I started taking a closer look at the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, and I focused in on a used Chevy Volt. I found one at a dealer a few hours away and we headed out to take it for a test drive and buy it. When we got there something just didn’t feel right and we weren’t in love with how the car drove, the way that the front cabin was set up, or how the front seats felt. I remember the conversation with my partner as we walked around the dealership parking lot and decided to drive home 3 hours in the Insight. It was weird, but it was the right decision for us. Almost prophetically, there was an intense rainstorm that afternoon and at one point I pulled over because I couldn’t see, this really made me sure about getting a newer car with better safety features.

A few weeks after our Volt adventure and now into the early summer, I called our local Nissan Dealer and thankfully they had a new Leaf on the lot that was available for a test drive. We drove it, loved it, and bought it a few days later. 

In the spring of this year, about 6 months after buying the Leaf, I was loving driving electric and I started wanting all of our vehicles to be electric. In the past year I have gotten on the list for a Volkswagen ID.4 and a Rivian SUV. At the time, the deposits were fully refundable and the costs with the $7,500 tax rebate seemed okay. It probably also helped that the delivery dates were very far out and the deposits were pretty low. The day I made the Rivian reservation I had been at a Drive Electric event and the surprise highlight was a Rivian pickup. Seeing the truck in person was a thing of beauty. It was the prettiest vehicle that I had ever seen and it resonated with me in a way that no other vehicle ever had.

I remember that there was a western North Carolina Tesla group with a tent nearby and some very nice vehicles around it. There were 2 or 3 people at the tent asking Tesla questions. I panned over about 100 feet and there was a single Rivian pickup with about 20 people around it. Some people had their cell phones out and were taking videos and pictures, and it looked like a celebrity among all of the other EVs. I felt for the nice couple that had just taken delivery of their truck a few days ago and then ended up talking and answering questions for 2 hours straight. I have never been that excited about cars, so this was a new experience for me. I went home that night and after the kids were in bed found myself on the computer drooling over the Rivian website, building an SUV, and putting in my order.

I am still on the list for an ID.4, but l do not have an estimated delivery date. Recently I had to redo my order and it will hopefully be available in 2023 from the plant in Tennessee, but there are no guarantees. Thankfully the price only went up a few thousand dollars. As part of the process, I signed a purchase agreement that will hopefully allow me to qualify for the $7,500 tax credit if I decide to take delivery. Without a more definite delivery date, it’s hard to feel more certain about it. However, I live in a mountainous area with occasional snow and I have always wanted an AWD SUV. I’m not sure if I will take delivery, I will just have to see where my life is at when the vehicle is finally ready.

The price has also gone up for the Rivian, but much more — by about $20,000. This was a little too much for me and I have decided to go ahead and cancel my Rivian reservation from April. This breaks my heart a little bit because I was kind of in love with R1S. Hopefully in another few years the price will come down or I will be able to find something like a Canoo or an ID Buzz at a reasonable price. I think that my ideal vehicle would be an electric van with integrated solar panels and I’m guessing that is probably at least 5 years away.

We currently have the Nissan Leaf and a 2013 Toyota Minivan for a family of 4 and a hound dog. I really no longer enjoy driving the minivan, but it can be helpful for the few times a year we go camping or drive somewhere in the region all of us together. I imagine that a lot of people are in similar situations, ready to get a new vehicle but having a hard time making it happen. I feel like I have been really patient, but the lack of available vehicles has really gotten frustrating for me in the past few months. I feel like I have checked out every vehicle that I was interested in and either it wasn’t right for me or there are none available. Most recently, I checked around to see if there are any new Chevy Bolts available and was not able to find one that could be purchased on the East Coast. 

How I feel about the different car companies has also shifted. Volkswagen recently fired itss CEO, and I thought he had done a great job transitioning to electric vehicles. I still love Rivian, but the new pricing puts it outside what I can pay and the SUV with the max pack still may not be available this year.

That brings me back around to a Tesla Model 3 — full circle. As much as Elon Musk and some of Tesla’s labor practices turn me off, they have sold over 3 million electric vehicles worldwide and I’ve always loved the way the Tesla sedans look. So I put in my order and it was crazy easy compared to my experiences with other brands. Hopefully I will take delivery by January of 2023. It took my partner and I a little time to talk through our feelings about Tesla’s outspoken CEO and how that had dampened our enthusiasm for supporting the company. However, we also realize that there are thousands of great people working at the company behind the scenes that care deeply and are dedicated to making great electric vehicles. I’m really excited to be getting a car that I know I can drive anywhere in North America and have access to the supercharger network. 

If you are also on the fence about buying a Tesla or another brand of EV, many of these experiences may feel familiar to you. I have also been wondering if the price and demand for Tesla vehicles will increase when we find out how much of an incentive it will qualify for under the new regulations. Now I just have to decide whether to sell my Leaf or the minivan when the Model 3 is ready. I have concerns about the ChadMo fast charging support moving forward and what it will be like to take a Leaf on long drives. But I have a feeling that the minivan will probably be the first to go. I love vans and campers, but that does not really seem to carry over to my minivan. Now that my kids are both in middle school, I think that it’s time to part ways and completely move off of gasoline…hopefully forever.

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