From On the Fence to On the Charge

EZ-EV sat down with a Philadelphia EV owner to chat about her transition from a gas vehicle to plug-in hybrid, and how driving electric has fit into her lifestyle.

Like nearly every car buyer, Melanie and her husband spent serious time -- more than three months -- searching for the right car for their family. For them, this wasn’t just going to be another family car, this was going to be their first family EV and they wanted to make sure they got it right.

Having driven a Toyota Prius for the last few years, Melanie was sure she wanted something equally, if not more, fuel efficient for her next vehicle. Also being a Philadelphia-based Environmental Professional, like many of us concerned about emissions, electric vehicles were at the top of her mind. “It was because of my job and all of the studies we were doing...and this [move towards EVs] is something that has to happen so I figured, you know, of all people, I had to take the initiative,” Melanie said. And so she did.

Melanie recounted her car search last summer. “It probably took us about three months, but mainly because my husband and I travel a lot so we are looking for something that was going to fit our lifestyle. We tried the [Nissan] LEAF, BMW i3, Honda Clarity, Chevy Bolt, [Toyota] Prius Prime.” 

The transition from a regular gas-powered Prius to the Plug-in Hybrid Prius Prime was a natural progression for Melanie who, like many drivers considering an EV, was hesitant to make the jump to an all-electric vehicle. “I think the biggest misconception my husband and I had was lack of charging infrastructure so we settled with the PHEV...My driving habits also fit very well with the Prius Prime so it was an easy decision. You have to think consciously about how you drive before you purchase an EV, which most people don’t consider before the transition.”

Now, just a little more than a year after buying her first PHEV, Melanie is as happy with her car as ever and has no regrets. “I like that it’s very quiet and it drives very well when it’s driving on electric. You can tell when it cuts back to the gas motor because it gets doggier when you are on the highway. It’s very responsive on the electric mode and I like that a lot. So I can imagine that when you’re in a full EV all the time it’s probably really nice.” Melanie’s year with a PHEV may have shown her how a full EV fits into her family’s day-to-day life, too. “After having the Prius Prime and the way we use it and how much we can actually drive locally on such a small battery, my whole perception around where you need chargers or how you use your EV has changed a lot and I think if I had to shop for a car again, I’ll go fully electric. This was a good transition car. And it’s a good sized, sporty car for me. But imagine what I can do with 200 + miles of electric!”

Atop the laundry list of benefits Melanie has seen as a result of her PHEV is the near total elimination of gas costs. When asked how frequently she fills up the tank, Melanie took a long pause to think, almost forgetting when the last time actually was. “Honestly I can go two to three months without filling up. We do mostly local driving if we’re not traveling for work. On a typical day I stay within the 25-mile battery. So it works very well with local driving. We usually pay $15 to fill up the gas tank so that’s good savings.” Melanie noted that the gas back up came in handy when visiting family far away and on trips to and from the airport, a necessity for her and her husband’s travel schedules.

Her local lifestyle lends itself well to the 25-mile range on the Prius Prime. With a battery that size Melanie is able to drive to the train station for her commute to work, run some errands, and charge it at home. Aside from one trip her and her husband took in to Philly, she’s been able to do most of her charging at home, avoiding public chargers altogether. And Melanie seems quite happy with that arrangement. Remembering what she’d said earlier about her realization of where chargers are needed, she admits that “having chargers at destination places is very critical compared to having them at your local supermarket so it’ll be better to have chargers at places where people are driving a long way to get there compared to a local post office or something where people are just running in and out.”

Even while she only charges at home, Melanie said she hasn't seen much, if any, change in her monthly electric bill. Although, with such a small battery, and only using a standard wall outlet, a big jump in electricity cost isn't likely. And keeping charging at home eliminates her need for public chargers, which she admits is a bit of a hassle at the moment. “I haven’t figured out what it costs to charge with different public chargers and I haven’t really looked into it so I guess that’s on my end. Public charger prices differ so much in the charging space and I think that’s a barrier for me.”

Even still, Melanie has her eye on a fully electric vehicle the next time she’s in the market. And to anyone considering an EV but might be on the fence, Melanie says “a plug-in hybrid is the way to go” for a transition car to learn your driving habits and scope out chargers on your regular commute. Whether you’re considering an EV or a PHEV, there’s an electric vehicle out there for your unique lifestyle.

Related Posts

  • Essential Charging Apps for EV Owners

    Essential Charging Apps for EV Owners

    Apps are essential for finding free public chargers and helping you connect with other EV drivers.New apps can also help soon-to-be EV owners pick the best model for their needs.

    Read More
  • The Electric Vehicle Glossary

    The Electric Vehicle Glossary

    Range Anxiety – when an electric vehicle owner worries that their battery will run out of juice before they get to their destination. Regenerative Braking – how EV brakes work. Regenerative braking captures the vehicle’s momentum and turns it into electricity that recharges the onboard battery as the EV slows or stops.

    Read More