Apr 10, 2024 - Transit

Lessons learned since buying an EV in Tampa Bay

Illustration of an electric vehicle and a charging station at the edge of a cliff.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

When my cherished '06 Subaru unexpectedly went to the big auto shop in the sky last month, I leaped into the EV world.

Why it matters: The electric vehicle market and charging infrastructure are still in their infancy, with lots of kinks to work out.

  • But after reporting on EVs and the local tech scene for a while, I decided to join the "early majority" of buyers with a 2023 Kia EV6.

Why I did it: I have no illusions that my choice is better for the environment than a gas car. But for the planet — and my wallet — I'm playing the long game.

Pros: With a Kia, I don't have to bow down to Daddy Musk (even though Twitter/X is always open in my tabs).

  • It's got a lot of cool bells and whistles including remote start, parking assist and navigation-based smart cruise control.

Cons: Tesla's charging grid is way more reliable, and the brand has been around longer. Kia just started making the EV6 in 2022.

  • To get a tax break, I would've needed to buy either a brand-new car —which would've been more expensive and I'd risk not knowing the bugs and recalls — or buy a much older model that I knew would be less reliable.
  • My car insurance doubled.

Lessons in charging: Charging at home has been super easy, but visiting my girlfriend in Tallahassee recently was an interesting journey. There are huge gaps with no chargers, so you have to plan wisely.

  • I've had to download three charging apps, plus my Kia app. And learning how to navigate the system isn't easy.
  • I planned a stop at a charging station in Crystal River that was marked on Apple Maps as a Shell station, only to discover it was in the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce parking lot and the chargers were tagged out of order.
  • When I used the system in my car's screen that's constantly pointing me to chargers, it took me to a Duke Energy office with no chargers on site.

Pro tip: If you go to Tallahassee often, I recommend the Hudson Foods in Bronson as a good halfway charging spot. The chargers are reliable, and the gas station is clean with a Hardees to chill at if you don't want to sit in your car.

  • I used a fast charger in Tallahassee (where I had to call customer service because none of the chargers worked). Next time I would plan to use a free slow charger the day before heading back.
  • I wouldn't recommend a drive longer than four hours unless you're ok with adding on more time for charging. Joann Muller's 2,500 mile trip would've had me abandoning the car and booking a flight.

What I'm watching: The momentum Biden created with clean energy investments in Florida could slow depending on whether he's reelected and who our next governor is.

  • I'm tracking my charging costs to see if I save more money on the grid than I did at the pump.

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