When my dad first introduced me to his Tesla Model 3 -- I say introduced because “Sparky” the car is practically a member of our family now -- my first thought was how do I get in the vehicle? The car’s handles are designed to lay flat against the car door, and growing up familiar with my dad’s run-of-the-mill Honda Civic, I had no idea how to go about grabbing the handle, much less opening the door.
After getting past this initial hurdle (pro tip: you need to push the back of the handle inward to open the doors), I began to notice other differences. First, the car is quiet -- and by quiet, I mean nearly silent. It can almost sneak up on you if you aren’t paying attention. The loudest part of a Tesla is its air conditioner. Another feature that surprised me was how fast “Sparky” could accelerate when my dad decided to metaphorically “step on the gas” (we’re going to need a new phrase for that).
Some people may consider electric cars unfamiliar, but they have seen significant growth in popularity, especially since the late 2010s. More than 300,000 all-electric cars were sold in the United States in 2018, a staggering increase when compared to previous years. This is an important development, considering the urgency of the climate crisis. Cars account for 60% of transportation pollution, and the transportation sector is the number one source of climate pollution in the U.S. To achieve a zero-carbon transportation system, all cars must be electric.
My dad was an early believer in electric vehicles (EVs). He always felt that electric cars were the future, and so when Tesla announced their Model 3 version, he was quick to add his name to the waiting list. Two years later, just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, my dad became the proud owner of a shiny blue Tesla and was quick to show off for anyone interested in a test drive.
When I tell people about my dad’s electric car, I get asked a lot of pretty common questions about charging. How long does it take? Can you find a charger when you need one? Is it annoying to wait around while the car charges up?
For my dad’s car, it really isn’t all that different from filling up your tank with gas, especially now. I’ll admit, the charging experience for a Tesla with its vast supercharger network is superior to other EVs. That’s why building out more publicly accessible, non-proprietary chargers is so important in advancing our country’s transition to all-electric cars. Electrify America, a charging network funded by Volkswagen after that company’s emissions cheating scandal, announced this summer that it would be doubling its charging stations across the U.S. With all this expansion, finding a charging station will soon feel no different than finding a gas station. The time it takes to charge up an electric car is also decreasing as the technology improves. Tesla’s most powerful charging stations can power up 80% in 30 minutes, making them one of the fastest car chargers out there. By the time you grab something to eat, make it through the line at Starbucks or take that oh-so-necessary bathroom break, the car is ready for another 300 miles.
To make this possible for all EVs, the Biden Administration announced a goal to deploy 500,000 charging stations across the U.S. The funding allotted in the bipartisan infrastructure bill is estimated to be enough for 250,000 fast chargers.
An important thing to keep in mind is that when an electric car shows it’s on 0% charge, it means it. There is no magic ability to squeak out an additional 10 miles on empty with an all-electric vehicle -- as far as I know.
Ever since my dad secured his prized EV, the Tesla has been our family road trip vehicle of choice. It’s taken us from our home base in New Jersey up to coastal Maine for summer vacation, out to Chicago to visit my grandfather and all the way down to Savannah, Georgia, for my sister’s college move-in.
I remember our road trip up to Maine fondly. My dad, mom, sister and I all packed into the four-door sedan, listening to podcasts and 80’s hits, snacking on Goldfish crackers and taking in the sights of the road. Up through Northern New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and so on, there was never a time where a place to recharge was out of reach.
We’d camp out eating McDonald’s fries in the parking lot, waiting the average 20 minutes it would take for “Sparky” to charge up enough for the next leg of the trip. We would’ve had our snacks in the car if it weren’t for my dad’s no fried foods in the Tesla rule, which he holds to religiously.
“Sparky” got us everywhere we wanted to go. It navigated us expertly through the bustling streets of Portland and the narrow, steeper roads leading into quiet, coastal towns. “Sparky” even handled the gravel pathways we needed to cross to get to trailheads.
It was a family vacation to remember, made even sweeter by the fact that the car taking us there symbolizes a step toward our climate solution.
In the three years since my dad got his electric car, he’s traveled 50,000 miles -- I’ve been there for quite a few of those adventures. And throughout the 50,000 miles, the EV hasn’t failed him yet. We’ve made a ton of memories in this car, and I’m sure we’ll make many more.
What’s even more exciting is it’s looking like more Americans will have the opportunity to go electric. This month, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced legislation that will extend EV tax credits, making it easier and more financially feasible for people to choose an all-electric option for their next car. The current bill would allow for a fully refundable tax credit of up to $12,500.
As we continue moving forward, EVs are going to become a staple in our everyday lives just like “Sparky” has become a constant in mine. I, for one, am pretty jazzed about a future with less transportation pollution and vehicles of all kinds powered by clean renewable electricity. EVs are our ticket there.