MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you watched the Super Bowl commercials you may have noticed a theme among almost every car commercial. They were advertising brand new electric cars.
If you do not know much about electric cars or think it’s a gimmick, you may want to take another look as big changes are on the horizon.
Before we dive in I must make a disclosure, I own an electric car.
Last year, I traded in a big SUV for an electric sedan. On the outside, I traded down to a smaller car, but the experience has not been underwhelming, to say the least.
Nonetheless, I have experienced what many electric car owners have been professing, owning one is a lot of fun, but do not just take my word for it.
You can ask just about any electric car owner about their car and they’ll gladly tell you all about it.
“It’s exhilarating to drive. That instant torque that you get.” Renzo Torrenga told us about his Tesla.
A few cars over, Mike Gibaldi shows off his Nissan Leaf.
“10,000 miles on it. The only thing I have had to do is rotate my tires, so far,” he brags.
Another electric car owner takes it a step further. “The best car I have ever owned,” Jose Negron told us.
The first thing you notice when talking to an electric car owner? They love their cars and they love to talk about them.
Torrenga even shared with us the day he decided he was going to buy one.
“I remember sitting in the car, grabbing the steering wheel and thinking to myself this is my new dream car.”
The dream car, once a Ferrari now replaced by a Tesla Model S. He told us he saved up and bought a used one last year.
For owners like Torrenga, the electric car seems to have taken over. It is a sort of cult following, but before you write them off as ‘crazy,’ you may just want to take a closer look at what’s under the hood.
Torrenga shows us around his car, as he pops the hood with an app and where the engine would normally be is a big wide open space.
“It’s got no front-engine so it’s got a lot of storage space in the front itself,” he explains.
It’s called a frunk because it’s a trunk in the front. In the back, he has a normal trunk or extra seats for the kids.
“The batteries are basically on the floor. The entire floor pan is where the batteries are,” he tells us.
Torrenga’s car will drive about 250 miles on a charge. The latest cars being released now can do 300.
Versions coming later this year are rumored to be pushing 400 miles. Torrenga explains the number one concern among electric car critics: Range.
“You have to think about your car kind of like your cell phone. You come in at night and you plug it in and in the morning you wake up. You haven’t spent any additional time, but you wake up and you have a full battery in your cell phone and you just go about your day. And that’s the same thing with the electric car. I have a charger at home and I just plug it in when I get home. I wake up with plenty to get around,” he says.
He hasn’t been to a gas station in a year or a repair shop for that matter.
Gibaldi, the owner of Nissan Leaf, admits his car is less tech-savvy than the Tesla, but it is also more affordable and gives him the same benefits of hassle-free ownership.
“An electric motor has like 20 moving parts, as opposed to a gas motor that has like 2,000 moving parts. So a lot more can go wrong.”
“No oil changes. Just window washing fluid, wipers, and rotating your tires every now and then. I love it. Love it,” Gibaldi says with a smile.
Electric cars seem to be the trend these days.
Tesla started it about eight years ago. Now Ford, Volkswagen, Nissan, Hyundai, Volvo… basically all the major car companies are revealing their own version.
Kyle Connor is the star of a popular electric car Youtube Channel called “Out of Spec.”
He’s taking electric cars to the track, off-roading, and across the country.
Electric car fans have flocked to his videos for insight on the industry and car capabilities. He explained why the electric car phenomenon appears to be taking off right now.
He says it started with Tesla.
At first, car companies didn’t take them seriously, but then the cars started selling.
“Right around the time of 2015 companies starting saying ‘whoa this is actually a thing. People are buying these cars instead of buying our internal combustion cars.”
He says people are switching to electric cars for style, convenience, or simply to save money. “We’ve seen the early adopter phase and we are branching past that. So, we are starting to see normal people adopt electric vehicles,” Connor said.
How much can you save? The numbers vary greatly depending on your car and how you drive.
But generally speaking, a gas-powered car will cost about 10 cents a mile to operate.
Electric vehicles will cost about 2-3 cents a mile. A savings of 70 to 80 percent. “And that’s sort of worst-case scenario. A lot of people charge at work for free. You have public charging when you go out to dinner. It costs nothing,” Connor told us.
“On the front end, an electric car is more expensive than say a regular gas-powered car,” Torrenga admitted. And if you want a charger at home that costs too. Up to $1,000 more. The biggest gripe with ‘electric’ though has to be running out of power.
“What happens when I run out of charge? The same thing that happens when you run of gas!” Gibaldi said.
If your cell phone runs low, you plug it into your car. But if your car runs low where do you plug it in?
There is an entire infrastructure of charging stations being installed across the country and not just Tesla stations.
Companies like Electrify America who are spending two billion dollars building thousands of new stations.
“They are very quickly and rapidly deploying a fast-charging network. With insanely fast charging speeds. Sort of future-proofing their network,” Connor says.
“So, you can now go North, South on both coasts. Across the country on two different routes and all with this one independent network and there are others as well,” he adds.
Still, it has a long way to go, but the next time you visit a car dealer you will likely have a new option to consider.
Connor says car buyers are going to be in for a surprise when they go for a test drive. “Even the slowest electric vehicle, I have a little smart electric car I drive every day, it’ll do burnouts etc., and that’s pretty insane.”
“For some people, it will be the price or the cost of ownership. For others, it will be the environmental impact. Others, will have their own thing.”
It may be hard to imagine gas stations being replaced with electric charging stations, but they are already starting to appear together here in South Florida.
Recently Wawa opened up a new gas station off Coral Way in Miami, with traditional pumps on one side and charging stations on the other.
Gas still has a competitive edge in some situations. Situations like hurricane evacuations.
Yes, you could charge at home and evacuate, but what about when you get to where you are going? Will there be a line of cars waiting to charge there?
Charging a car on the road could take longer than it takes to fill up.
One possible solution would be to have charging stations everywhere. Imagine having these at fast-food joints, grocery stores and hotels. All outfitted with a place to plug-in.
Could it be like finding an ATM? Time will tell. One thing is for certain, the auto industry is betting on the electric car being the next big thing.