A Year Without Gasoline


Okay, that title’s half true. It has been a year since I adopted Sparky the Electric Car, a Ford Focus Electric. But it hasn’t been a year completely without gasoline, just very close to one.

I embarked on this adventure as an experiment. I could rationalize that I’d reasonably gotten my money’s worth out of my 1986 Fiero GT and it was due a replacement, so I went from near-zero tech to cutting edge. I also decided to make it a minimal investment. I bought a low-mileage three-year-old model at a third of a new car’s sticker price. And I didn’t install expensive high-power home recharging. I stuck with slow-to-go 110 volts from the supplied charging plug. That meant an hour of charging gave me back about 3.5 miles of range.

Powering up is becoming less of a worry. There are more and more charging stations popping up. The ChargePoint app now lists dozens in the area and even I ran across one in public parking in downtown Orlando. The problem for the business model is that these may be reaching a saturation point just as they become unnecessary. The new Chevy Bolt has a 200 mile range and that will likely become the new minimum to join the EV club. At that point, home charging covers all your needs.

But what about Sparky’s comparatively poor 73 mile range? Well, that’s with the air conditioning running. Without that drain and running under highway speeds, he can get over 80. Turn on the heat and it drops to the mid-50s. But it’s Florida, so heat usage is rare. However, range has not been an issue. After a year, I’ve stopped worrying about it, content that almost all of my driving barely drains half the electrons each day. An overnight recharge takes me right back to full.

Mechanically, the illuminated ring around the recharge port stopped working and was repaired under the warrantee. The brand new driver’s side floor mat shredded itself within two weeks. That was not under warrantee, so I bought a permanent replacement from WeatherTech, who makes amazing floor mats. There were a few recalls Sparky needed, all of which seem preventative. On one, the 2G modem was about to become useless as all 2G networks will go offline in January. Without the modem, the car would still work fine, but all the apps that track usage and performance wouldn’t. Since it was replaced free, I’m guessing that Ford wanted that data more than I did. Routine maintenance? There is none. No fluid changes, no brakes, no tune-ups.

Driveability? Love it. Quick, quiet, and with a well-tuned suspension. The low-rolling resistance tires have as much grip on the road as a greasy sausage does on fine china, but I’ve gotten used to the lower lateral limits. Seating is exceptionally comfortable. I upgraded the speakers without touching the radio and now he rocks like a champion.

Financially, the gasoline column in the monthly budget went to near zero. I really didn’t notice a change in the electric bill. We have wild swings based on how hard the air conditioning has to beat back the Florida heat, and that washed over any usage jumps. I did the math and Sparky was way cheaper to drive than the Fiero.

So in summary, I’ll never buy a gasoline car again. Sparky will not need a new battery for years, and by then electric will be completely mainstream, with plenty of range and faster recharging. The mower will still need gas, as will the 1970 Corvette convertible, so I’ll never punch my Total Eco Warrior card. But Sparky was never about that.

He was an experiment.