My last post about having an electric car ended a couple weeks after my first road trip in it, from Oakland down to Los Angeles. I’d been worried about how much it’d change the dynamic of a long-distance drive, but in practice, the only difference was having more time to relax along the way while the car was charging. Tacking a couple of hours to the total trip time seemed like a small price to pay for not ending the trip still raging over all the drivers who insist on cruising in the left lane on I-5 instead of getting over.
The first week of November, I took a second road trip down to LA, and the results were about the same. It’s a comfortable, almost pleasant, drive now. And my total expenses (apart from having to spend the bulk of the day driving) were $8.50 for Taco Bell. The only thing that changed was that Taco Bell got demoted from “surprisingly delightful” to “at best, a sometimes food, and for road trips only.”
When I got the idea to make an EV Diary, I was sure that there were all these hidden aspects to driving an EV that people just weren’t writing about. There had to be a fundamental shift in the day-to-day experience, right?
Turns out: not really. The only real difference is that instead of spending 5 minutes at a gas station once every couple of weeks, I spend 30-40 minutes outside a Target1And invariably, inside a Target every three weeks or so.
The biggest change to my driving has nothing to do with electric vehicles, and is instead an aspect of the safety features added to most mid-to-high-end cars of the past several years. I already had similar on my last car2A Honda Insight, which is a traditional hybrid that is soon to be replaced completely by the Civic, Accord, and Clarity if my predictions are correct., and it was crucial for avoiding an accident. A car in front of me on the freeway had failed to stop, causing a four-car pileup with some injuries. My car automatically applied the brakes and slammed to a stop before I even had a chance to realize what was happening.
Fortunately, I haven’t had any similar incidents with the ID.4. I did have what I was sure was a minor accident on my last road trip: over the course of the trip, I kept running into a couple of guys in a similar ID.4 at the same charging stations at the same time. At one of them, they were watching as I was trying to back into a charging spot, which of course made me nervous and completely incompetent at backing into a charging spot. I felt a slam as I backed the car into the charging station, and I quickly got out, hoping I’d been driving slowly enough that I hadn’t caused any damage. When I looked, though, the car was still at least a foot away from colliding with anything. The back-up sensor had slammed on the brakes before I could do any damage.
More than that, though, the collision avoidance system allows for what they’re calling “adaptive cruise control.”3Yes, I’m aware that describing a feature that’s been available for years like that makes me sound like a grandpa. On every car I’ve ever had, I’ve hated cruise control and never used it. There’s not much more harrowing than feeling the car accelerate when my foot’s not on the accelerator, so I tend to turn it off immediately.
The drive along I-5 is a perfect test case for it, though, so I tried it out on my last road trip. This iteration of it is near-perfect. You set your desired speed, and it’ll try to keep at that speed unless there’s anything in front of you. In that case, it goes as fast as it can up to that speed, keeping a Volkswagen-calculated “safe” distance away from the vehicle in front.
It’s surprisingly good at recognizing the vehicle in front, too: on the instrument cluster, it’ll show you an image of the vehicle and how far away it is, changing between a truck, a car, and a motorcycle as appropriate. Surprising to me was that it even was able to account for people seeing my “safe” distance as an invitation to cut me off, gradually slowing down to make room for the interloper.
It’s still a long way from autonomous driving, which is fine by me because I have less than zero interest in autonomous driving. I think of self-driving cars in much the same way that I think about roundabouts: even if you show me that they’re statistically safer, they still freak my shit out.
I had the ACC on for much of the drive down to LA and most of the drive back. On top of the convenience, it seemed to be better for energy efficiency than my own driving, too. I ended up with a much higher charge on exiting the Grapevine, and I chose to make a third charging stop out of convenience more than necessity.
What I hadn’t anticipated was that it gets rid of much of the stress of being surrounded by asshole drivers: the people who follow too closely to the car in front of them, and are always lightly tapping on their brakes as a result. Whenever I get behind one of those people, I instinctively tap the brakes as soon as I see their brake lights, which is both annoying and gradually stressful as it accumulates over the miles. Here, I could just let the ACC do its thing, trusting that it would slow the car as necessary in time for me to slam on the brakes if I suddenly needed to.
Just about everything else in the ID.4 fits that same mindset: it relieves as much stress as possible from driving, and it’s comfortable, and it does exactly what I need it to do. I’d expected the honeymoon period to be over by now, and I’d start to notice more of the faults, or I’d just stop thinking about the car altogether. Instead, it’s actually growing on me. I like it more the more I drive it, and I’m looking for more and more excuses to drive it. I can feel myself turning into one of those insufferable people who loves his car and can’t stop talking about it. I’m not yet at the point of getting VW or ID.4 vanity license plates yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time.