For some people, shopping for an electric car is much like a blind date — you’ve heard good things, but there are still too many unknowns.
That’s where Saturday’s Drive Electric event in Moscow might come in handy. Instead of walking onto a car lot, you can talk with electric car owners from the region, preview and even test ride a few of the electric car models on the market, including three Tesla models, Chevy Spark EV and Toyota Prius Prime.
Charlotte Omoto, who is coordinating the event, purchased her first all-electric car in 2013. She’d been a Toyota Prius driver for a number of years and was finally ready to take green driving one step further. After doing some research and assessing driving needs from her home in Palouse, she decided to buy a Tesla Model S, which was first released in 2012. It wasn’t cheap, she said, but it was clearly the best all-electric option for her and her husband.
She ordered the car online, specifying which options she wanted. She was unsure about spending extra on a red model when her husband gave her a nudge.
“He said, ‘If you’re going to waste that kind of money on a car, just do what you want,’” she said, laughing.
So she jumped into the splurge feet first and never looked back. She liked her first Tesla so much that she traded it in and got a Tesla Model X in 2017. Her husband ended up liking the electric car so much he has since bought a Tesla Model 3 for himself.
The cars can be delivered, but Charlotte Omoto picked her first Tesla up at the closest dealership in Bellevue, Wash. She was able to drive the car right away, but it took a couple days to get used to.
“The acceleration is crazy,” said Omoto. “A lot of people who buy Tesla aren’t into the green aspect, they just love the performance. It just throws you back in your seat.”
She adjusted her driving style, but the car has a standard mode and “chill mode” for those that prefer the slower acceleration. The Tesla braking works differently too. Because simply removing the foot from the accelerator slows the vehicle, many drivers use single-pedal driving and hardly rely on the brake. Again, this can be customized for driver preference. The drive is nearly silent.
Charging the vehicle typically is as simple as plugging it in for the night. It can be charged with a standard outlet, but Omoto installed a 240-volt outlet that transfers more electricity, resulting in a faster charge. Omoto figures she spends about $25 more a month on electricity, as compared with the $200 she used to spend each month in gas.
Charging on the road takes a bit more planning. A Tesla Supercharger station can recharge her vehicle in 30 to 60 minutes, but they’re not everywhere — the closest ones are in Coeur d’Alene, Missoula, Ritzville, Ellensburg, Kennewick and Pendleton. So, Omoto has to calculate her time and route according to the distance between home and Supercharger stations. She often stays the night at an RV park that has 240-volt outlets so she can recharge while she sleeps in the back of her Tesla X, with the seats fold down.
Omoto has driven to Arizona and California, does birding and drives in the backwoods, and she’s never had a problem — except on the ride home from picking up her first Tesla. She overestimated how far she could go — mileage varies depending on terrain and weather — and ended up stuck on the side of the road. Fortunately, Tesla covers the first tow, and she has since learned the importance of careful planning.
The Tesla maintenance has been easy, Omoto said. Electric cars require no oil changes and have fewer parts that can cause mechanical problems. Software updates for the vehicle are as easy as phone updates. Tesla provides what are called “rangers” who do service calls in home, she said, as long the car doesn’t need to be put on a lift. Anything that requires more serious maintenance would have to be through a dealership.
Omoto has had a great experience with Tesla, but so have drivers of other makes of electric vehicles. And that’s what Drive Electric is about — a chance to find out how these vehicles differ so that potential buyers can identify a good match.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Drive Electric Event
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute Nature Center, 1040 Rodeo Drive, Moscow