How the Electric Vehicle Affected My Time

When my family and I were stranded in an unknown location, the opportunity cost of owning an EV solidified. I succumbed myself to a lot of lost time.

Carpool Sticker in California

Many EV owners in California earned carpool pool stickers to attach to their vehicles. This special sticker granted these owners the ability to enter the carpool (high occupancy vehicle) lanes without having passengers. I suspect this saved a lot of drives time in their work commute. If you are one of them, awesome. Glad it benefited you. I was not able to take advantage of this benefit until this year (2018) and I only get to enjoy this benefit until the end of the year when the sticker expires.

But if I had been able to take advantage of this benefit, I estimate I would have saved 66 hours — two and a half work weeks (yikes!) — in commute time every year.

How is this wasted time? It is not. I started with this because I anticipated it would be my first counter argument. I wanted to make sure I covered the opportunity benefit first because many persons do enjoy it.

Where is the opportunity cost?

With 66 hours per year of saved commute time, where is the cost?

Those 66 hours in my personal situation only benefit me and not my family. The time I saved does not mean I get to spend more time with my family because of their schedules. Yet, whenever I am out and about with my family and I need to charge, this introduces a multiplied opportunity cost.

Whenever we need to charge, it can take 30 minutes to 4 hours to charge to the desired amount.

Not only does this affect how I spend my time but that of each of my family members.

My wife and my children could be out doing something else instead of accommodating our schedules around charging our car.

Sitting in the car while waiting to charge the car

As I write this story, I am waiting in my EV as it charges. There are many other times — I stopped counting because it would probably depress me — where I sat in my car because there was nothing else around and I really needed the car charged.

Sometimes I am able to write, read, or sleep which does not seem like a complete waste of time. Or I walk around nearby stores or the parking lot to pass the time.

Is adjusting my life around charging my car the best use of my time — and my family’s?
Note: Just last night I saw an entire family waiting in their car waiting 30 minutes for a charge to complete. And I have seen many other cars with cars with persons waiting inside.

Insufficient number of chargers

There not as many EV charging stations are not there are gas stations. In many cases I have to go further to reach a charging station.

Not only did I have to adjust how I spend my time while the vehicle is charging but I had to adjust my shopping preferences around EV charging stations.

It could be worse than having to go to a different and further shopping center to charge my car. Granted, most of the time I can use the 120 V charger in my garage every night — you might be wondering why I don’t use a 240 V and the reason is our community cannot support it. Yet, when we are going out on a trip things become difficult.

Unknown areas with unreliable chargers

I use the PlugShare app to plan my trips. It is a very useful app but I have been burned many times from the unreliable nature of the EV chargers.

Many times I planned to go to a charger only to find it out of service, not as described, or being unavailable with a line card waiting for a charge.

In a few trips, I had to drive to three different stations and spending about 30 minutes just to find a working charger. Not only was this inconvenient, it ate up battery, wasted time, and risked me getting stranded and not making it to my destination.

Getting stranded

Yesterday my family and I were stranded in a new city. This happened irrespective of all my planning.

  • I made sure my trip computer showed the miles I could drive to be double of the distance to my destination.
  • I found the nearest charges to my destination.
  • I had the 120V opportunity charger in my car.

Despite all this planning, the following happened:

  • The trip computer was off by 50% — said another way, 50% more battery was used than the trip computer estimated.
  • The nearest charger was inaccessible, required a special membership and was reported as unreliable by the PlugShare reviews.
  • Our battery was depleted sooner than planned when we went to the next closest charging station— it was only 8 miles from our location, the battery was used up 4 miles from the station, and the trip computer originally told me we still 20 miles of driving range remaining. Sadly, there was no opportunity charging location nearby.

As you probably anticipated by now, we had to get towed to the charging station. We were stranded at a 7-Eleven for almost two hours. We had to get an Uber last minute because the tow truck could only transport one person. And we had to spend at least an hour to get the car charged to a reasonable battery level. This cost our family four hours, added a lot of stress, and made our short vacation less desirable.

Conclusion

I wrote this article to share my reflections on the cost of owning an electric vehicle. There is a lot I enjoy about owning an EV:

  • No more filling at the gas station!
  • No fumes and unhealthy smells
  • Less maintenance
  • The convenience of charging at home
  • A quiet vehicle with a smooth drive

Yet, despite these benefits, it feels like sometimes I am living for my car and around the needs of my car.

If you own an EV, I am curious to know if you feel if how your time is spent is an opportunity cost of owning an EV.

If you are considering buying an EV, I hope this story is an additional data point in your buying decision.

I would buy another EV but one with a larger range than a maximum 87 miles per charge.
Wishing you well,
Miguel