Test driving a car sounds easy, but it's also something that most of us don't do very often. And if it's your first time driving an electric car (EV), some things will be completely new, like the vehicle's incredible silence and rapid acceleration. It's an exciting experience that can cause you to quickly get distracted and forget to look for all the things that are important to you. So we've pulled together the most helpful things you need to know before you get behind the wheel of an EV.
Many auto dealerships remain open as essential services and some may be providing test drives. We recommend contacting the dealership in advance to ask about what safety protocols they have in place relating to cleaning and sanitizing vehicles, and how they are complying with social distancing measures for test drives.
Test driving an EV at a dealership
All EV manufacturers (except Tesla and Karma) make both gas and electric cars, so the first thing to do is find a dealership for your chosen manufacturer with an EV enthusiast on the sales team who can properly advise you. You should also check out our tips for the EV buying process before you visit a dealership.
Some car dealerships rely on vehicle service and maintenance for much of their business. And since EVs require much less maintenance than gas-powered vehicles, dealerships' attitudes toward EVs can vary.
Schedule your test drive in advance so you know they'll have your preferred vehicle available, and ask them to fully charge it for your test drive (this may sound obvious, but it can easily be overlooked). And if you're excited about your test drive, share it! Mentioning the dealership on social media the day before your EV test drive can help set you and the dealer up for a positive experience.
Test driving an EV at an enthusiast event
There are also other, less pressurized ways to get behind the wheel of your chosen EV. Several B.C. enthusiast organizations are keen to share their knowledge and advice – and some will even let you take a test drive or a ridealong at their events.
Emotive is a B.C. campaign promoting the fun of driving an EV. Led by Plug In BC, and supported by voluntary EV ambassadors, Emotive facilitates test drives at events including the Vancouver Auto Show.
The Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association (VEVA) is over 20 years old and has members who not only drive and own EVs, but also build them. They meet up once a month and hold their annual ElectraFest event every August.
Meanwhile, the Victoria EV Club is a diverse group of EV enthusiasts enjoying and promoting EV ownership on Vancouver Island.
Want to find out what it's like living with an EV every day? See why these British Columbians made the switch to an electric vehicle.
BC Hydro's top 10 EV test drive tips
Even with federal and provincial incentives, buying an EV is a major purchase. So when you jump into the driver's seat for your test drive, try to keep these 10 things in mind:
If the EV is fully charged, check the range when you get in. How does it compare with the manufacturer's claim? Also, keep an eye on the range during your drive – how fast does it go down? Temperature, speed and steep hills can all affect it. Your driving style also affects the vehicle's range. For example, if you accelerate quickly or sustain high speeds for longer periods (i.e. highway driving), the range depletes more quickly.
If you're used to driving a gas car, get ready for the striking silence of an EV – it can feel very strange at first.
3. Regenerative brakes
EVs have regenerative brakes that work whenever you take your foot off the accelerator, converting kinetic energy into electricity. They take a minute to get used to – but don't worry, there's also a regular brake pedal for when you need to stop.
4. Drive on different roads
Ask to drive at least 20 km on a varied route to see how an EV feels on the type of roads you normally drive on.
5. Maintenance schedule and cost
EVs have far fewer moving parts than a gas-powered vehicle, so they need less maintenance. But make sure to ask what the maintenance schedule looks like – and how much it costs.
6. Vehicle-specific features
Most EVs have unique features. Ask the dealer to explain what makes the EV different and try out the features to decide if they're right for you.
7. Your favourite features
Don't forget the features that are important to you on any car. Maybe you want large cup holders, or need to connect your smartphone. Check to see if the EV can do what you want.
8. Seating and controls
Take time to adjust the seat to your favourite driving position and make sure you can easily reach all the controls.
9. Parking and maneuverability
Your EV may be bigger or smaller than you're used to, with different visibility. Can you easily park and maneuver it in tight spaces?
Maybe you're changing to a smaller EV from a bigger SUV. Will this new car carry everything (and everybody!) that you'll need it to?