The dream of driving electric realized – Jim K

Jim K

I have always had a dream of driving an electric car on solar energy. Since PV panels never did reach the energy density for me to plop one on top of a car, I installed a solar system on my house and went out looking for an EV to plug into my system. I was determined to drive carbon neutral!

When I began looking for an EV, I found that my six-foot four frame would not fit in any model that was currently on the market at the time, including the Tesla Model S. The Tesla Model X was perfect but I couldn’t see shelling out over $100K. Then I saw an article in Plug-In-America that explained the 2nd generation Toyota RAV 4 EV had an all Tesla powertrain. And I found a PlugInCar article that was titled “Please explain why the Toyota RAV4 EV is not a big hit” describing the car as “an affordable Tesla.” I went down to a Toyota dealership and found that I could very comfortably fit in it, see through the front windshield and it passed my rear seat test – I adjust my driver’s seat to my comfort then get out and sit in the 2nd row in the back of the driver’s seat and see how much room there is for a passenger. It passed with flying colors.

I was sold. I did some research and found a low mileage corporate car that had been turned in after a 3-year lease. It was like brand new and was still under the battery warranty. I was less worried about not having a “bumper to bumper” warranty as EVs require much less maintenance than an ICE vehicle.

Before purchasing the car, I installed a 10kWh charger (to match the Tesla charging acceptance rate) so I was all set up to recharge when I drove it home. The 41.8 kWh RAV 4 battery charges very fast with this 40-amp charger and makes managing my trips much easier if I suddenly need a quick charge up.

When my friends ask how does it all work, for the fun of it I respond, “I have nuclear fusion energy delivered to my house daily for free and, through magnetic induction, use that energy for my mobility.” After a few seconds of a glazed look, I add, “my solar system gives me the electrical energy to charge the battery of my EV.”

EVs are the transportation choice of the future including public buses and the trucking industry. It seems as though many car manufacturers have seen the “green” light and I will wait for those future EV choices with longer ranges (350+ mile range) and able to handle a 100-300 kWh DC fast charge system (300 miles in 15 min.). EV demand will drive addressing the need for a more robust, and less chaotic, public charging infrastructure with one standard of payment like VISA. Who knows maybe graphene will be developed enough for batteries to provide much longer range, faster charging times, and with less cycling degradation.

But for the moment I love my RAV4 EV. It is a blast to drive, provides all of my daily mobility needs and I love the convenience of refueling at home! In a way, I am still ahead of the game with a very low-cost SUV-sized EV with a top-of-the-line powertrain and an average 125-mile range. My wife, who also loves the vehicle, calls it the “poor man’s Tesla.” I’ll take it.

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