Would I switch back? Not even a little bit, given the choice. That was the answer from the moment I pulled out of the dealership in a shiny new e-Golf and watched the expected range on the instrument panel climb, rather than drop as I drove to Boston Pizza to meet my Dad for lunch. After pushing the car’s range to its limits, being rear-ended while stopped in a parking lot 48 hours after leaving the dealership with it, learning the ins and outs of the electric VW’s technology, and writing Electric Car Diaries Volume 2, I am only left searching for an even more definite way to respond. In Electric Car Diaries Volume 3, we will discuss the unique experience of switching back to a gasoline vehicle after becoming accustomed to driving electric.
Renting a gasoline-powered vehicle
As mentioned above, an SUV drove into my e-Golf when it had only about 300-400km on it. We were stopped in a parking lot, waiting to pull out onto the road. We helplessly watched as a big SUV drove up behind us without braking. The steady stream of traffic in front of us on the road left nowhere to go. With my foot on the brake, we heard a loud noise, and felt the body of the car jolt forward while the brakes held the wheels steadfastly in place.
After what must have been a very brief pause, we heard the frantic “beep beep beep beep beep” of the backup sensor. The memory of that delayed beeping noise will make me laugh later, I made a mental note, before deliberately gathering my sanity and stepping out of the car to examine the damage alongside the other driver. Sure enough, when time had passed and the e-Golf was safely on its way to being repaired, the humour in it appeared. Thanks for trying to warn me, car. But actually, thank you for being so solid.
Electric Car Diaries Volume 3: Getting comfortable
The damage did not appear to be too bad. I have found Volkswagens to be tough. I could not be happier to see that the new electric version held its own just as well as my old Jetta had. After the hit, there was a big scratch where some paint was missing, one of the sensors was loose and wiggled around. There were a couple of little dents that we noticed because we knew where it was hit and the bumper under the license plate was all scratched up. The damage could have been so much worse.
The SUV that drove into it was driving pretty quickly before impact and it was also much larger. The body shop booked our repair appointment a month out. By the time we dropped the e-Golf off to get repaired, I had driven it 2 days as a brand new car and about 5 weeks with some scratches and bruises on it. Within that few weeks, I became accustomed to the features the electric Golf offered and was very reluctant to give it up.
Electric Car Diaries Volume 3: The Rental
Because it was estimated that the electric car would be in the shop for 4 days, I had a rental car. It was a 2019 Kia Soul. It came with heated seats and had tons of room. I have heard from a few different people that the inside of this car is ideal for tall people. It is one of the only models to offer enough leg and headroom. This model also has a heated steering wheel, which I was excited to try out. When I turned the gasoline car on to leave the rental place, I was practically alarmed by the loud roar of the engine coming to life. It was instantly clear that the few days following would be much more interesting than initially anticipated.
Obvious Gear Shifting
With the steering wheel warmer on, we pulled out of the parking lot and as we sped up, the gasoline car jolted with every gear shift. There are a couple of reasons the gears shifting became obvious to me. First, for the last 10 years, until I switched to an electric car, my autos have been manual transmissions. On the occasions that changing gears was clear, it was usually my doing. Naturally, when a car with an automatic transmission does it on its own all of a sudden and it is out of my control, it is a little bit jarring.
The other much more obvious reason the car jolting alarmed me is that the electric car does not change gears. In the 5 weeks prior to renting the Soul, the jolting sensation and engine noise was not even a factor. In the electric car, it just does not exist. The electric car accelerates instantly and smoothly. It is very different from driving a gasoline car that jerks a bit as it works to get up to speed or come back down.
Electric Car Diaries Volume 3: The Sound
For 5 weeks, I drove a silent car, with the loudest sound being some road noise from the tires. I was already used to driving with that sort of silent luxury. The sort of luxury where you can hear your own thoughts while cruising down the road. The kind where you do not have to crank the car’s audio too loud to hear it properly. Yes, at first, I forgot the electric car was actually on a few times. I tried to get out while it was still running once or twice. In those moments, I was thankful that the car went into panic mode and beeped frantically the instant I opened the door without my foot on the brake.
A Heated Steering Wheel
The heated steering wheel in the gasoline-powered Soul took some time to get used to. While it was the feature I was most excited about, it felt bizarre to have warm palms with the rest of my arms hovering in the chilly autumn air. One feature electric cars have is the ability to heat up without actually starting the ignition. In the e-Golf, you can program the car to warm up or cool down at a specific time on its own. It is already the ideal temperature when you hop in. One of the reasons this is great is the car uses hydro rather than battery power while plugged in. You do not lose any range warming the car up.
Electric Car Diaries Volume 3: Issues Accepting All that was Once Normal
The heated seats in the Soul were nice, as was the reverse camera (although the e-Golf also has both). Obviously, the extra space in the Soul is a bonus, as mentioned above. The issue I had with driving a gasoline-powered vehicle for a few days while my electric vehicle was in the shop came down to the fact that the rental was simply not electric. It was much noisier, and the drive was jolty.
Ultimately, it was way more expensive and less environmentally friendly to operate. For the approximate 100km I put on the gasoline-powered car before returning it, I spent $12 on gasoline. To run the electric Volkswagen for the same distance, it would have cost just under $1.20 if I charged it at home. It also would have been free to charge at a number of stations around town.
Even more important than the savings while operating, is obviously the environmental impact that switching to electric can have. I was apprehensive about not being able to travel as far as needed in an electric car initially. With charging stations popping up all over the place, and electric car range improving with new models, I have not had any issues. All it takes is a little bit of planning, some good luck, and a backup plan if your initial plan just wasn’t in the cards.
Electric Car Diaries Volume 3: 400km Day Trips in the e-Golf
I have made two separate day trips to my parents’ farm and back (400km round trip) in the electric car. The first time, I was on my own. The second of the two charging stations between my house and the city my parents live near was unavailable. There was a paving crew working in that parking lot. I did not bother to stop at the first charger. The goal was to hit up the second one and have more range remaining upon arrival at the farm.
With the remaining range the e-Golf estimated, I pushed onwards and hoped for the best. Thankfully, I arrived in the city near my parent’s place with 100km of range remaining. I used the fast charger at the bank in town before heading to the farm for a few hours. That same evening, I headed back home. In going nearly 400km that day, I only stopped to charge one time. The car made it back home that night with a few km to spare.
You can really see how your driving style impacts leftover range. The dashboard on the e-Golf is full of information, which is absolutely necessary when it comes time to make critical charging decisions. The range estimation in the instrument cluster is generally pretty reliable. The only time I have found the range drops more quickly than anticipated is traveling the 400 series highways. For anyone not in Ontario, those highways have a speed limit of 100km/hour.
Electric Car Diaries Volume 3: Electric Appreciation Solidified after the Gasoline Rental
All in all, I do not feel that there were any compromises when I switched to the electric Golf. Between ordering the car and it’s arrival, I was concerned about how difficult it is to adapt to a new driving style. The moment we left the dealership with the car, all of those fears dissipated.
Currently, I am anxiously waiting to get the e-Golf back from the shop. They are replacing the bumper cover. We have been waiting for a week now for the new one to come in. The body shop now estimates that it will be another week for it to arrive. The Soul has returned to the rental company (a couple of days earlier than planned). In summary for Electric Car Diaries Volume 3, would I switch back to gasoline or diesel? Not even a little bit, as long as I have the choice.