I’m renting a gas car for a few days. I won’t bother naming it, but it’s one of the 10 top selling cars in the USA. (Oh yeah, you can also see it above.) O–M–G, I cannot wait to get out of this car!
For people driving a Tesla, a BMW i3, a Nissan LEAF, a Chevy Bolt EV, or probably any other electric car for a while, I think the feelings they have when driving a gas or diesel car again are highly similar to mine below. Even knowing that, and even experiencing it years before,I couldn’t avoid the visceral shock of this experience.
Initially, I thought, “hey, it will be interesting to experience this car and maybe I’ll find some features I like about it.” Instead, I was quickly reminded of how “1910” gas car technology feels. The first sign (aside from the large grille on the front) was when I sat in the car and couldn’t find the “On” button. “Where the heck is the ‘On’ button in this thing? So many buttons and knobs and I can’t find it anywhere.” Okay, it didn’t take 10 minutes, but there were 30–60 seconds before I realized I had to insert the key into the car and turn it. It was a sign I wasn’t ready for what was about to come.
But the really annoying features are once the car is on. It starts rumbling and grumbling immediately. Like I said, it quickly feels like 1910 tech. It sounds like a monster. Putting the most positive spin on it that I can, it’s like a mild chair massager. But, yeah, it’s more annoying than relaxing.
If the door or window is open, it can also stink. The smell is gross. The reminder of the pollution coming from such cars slams you in the face and makes you think, “Gawd, how can people live with this in 2019?” Going to the gas station is absolutely disgusting, as I was reminded after filling up the REx tank of our i3 a week ago (story coming). I’m hoping I don’t have to go to a gas station before returning the car. The rental car lady explained the gas fill-up options to me and apparently it costs less to have them do it. I asked why anyone wouldn’t choose that. She didn’t really know except that “some people like filling up the tank.” Lordy — in the 21st century?!?
The situation gets more extreme. Accelerating from a stop, the car doesn’t want to move. It feels stuck, broken. Feelings I had a couple of years ago when driving a Volvo after getting used to a Tesla fit perfectly again this week:
“Our tractor has started shaking violently … and seems to have a sore throat. I didn’t really notice it initially, but now this strikes me as a disastrous concern. Okay, well, the ‘tractor’ I’m talking about is actually a Volvo S60, but it feels like a tractor now, so that’s what we’re calling it. …
“Granted, the Volvo does offer more comfort than riding a horse. Although … right after thinking this and in the middle of drafting the article you’re reading right now, I was driving the car again and realized that it does seem to act eerily like a stubborn and wild horse. When I want it to start moving, it often sits there and delays the requested action, and then it suddenly jerks forward in a jarring manner. More than ever, horsepower seems like the appropriate term for what’s under the hood. High horsepower was certainly cool in the 20th century, but it is a super unpremium experience going back to this fossil-fueled horsepower once you enjoy the smooth, silent, and powerful joy of fully electric instant torque.
“Speaking of flying around the road violently, the problem isn’t just the acceleration but also the deceleration. … Driving around the city a little bit, I was thrown off by how fast the car was rolling into corners, red lights, and roundabouts. ‘Why isn’t the car controlling itself a little better! Why is it trying to fly off the road!’ Of course, I immediately knew the answer — it doesn’t benefit from the sophistication of regenerative braking. The wild horse doesn’t offer one-pedal driving.”
This is how it feels after getting used to an electric vehicle with good regenerative braking and instant torque and then going back to a gasmobile. The car, honestly, feels like a wild horse that won’t sit still and wants to fly around corners at a dangerous speed — yet it also won’t move faster when I need to accelerate.
This is the thing that anyone who hasn’t driven an electric car for a little bit can’t understand. You have to experience it. This is why a $28,000–37,000 Tesla Model 3 is a game-changer. There is no gas car within tens of thousands of dollars of that price range that has anywhere near the quality of a Tesla Model 3 (or a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Bolt EV for that matter, but a Model 3 is another step up from them).
A gasoline car is just horrible to drive, a tragically low level of quality. If you are used to driving a gas car, this may seem harsh, but drive an electric car for a month, or even a week, and then go back and you can experience it for yourself. I’d say it’s like living in a dark home full of smoke. Perhaps, if you are used to it, you think it’s fine. Get the smoke out and put in some bigger windows and it won’t take long before you realize you don’t want your house full of smoke.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the experience of sitting in the car while it is parked but still running for the A/C. I’m doing that right now since I have a two-year-old in the back seat and we’re in Florida. In our i3, that would normally be fine and peaceful. In this gasmobile, the gasoline engine has to keep running. It’s noisy, rumbly, stinky, and inefficient — I can feel the money being sucked out of my pocket. It’s hard to put myself in a normal gasmobile driver’s head now — impossible actually. I can’t imagine being used to this, simply accepting it, considering it normal. It’s so not normal.
I honestly dread going back to this gas rental car every time I think about it. I’m eager to be back in our BMW i3, and am at the same time am dreaming about the next level up — a Tesla. The Model 3 is now calling and won’t let the ringing stop. But the problem is obvious — it’s going to ruin every other car that much more.