Onboard for the Electric Revolution

Onboard for the Electric Revolution

I don’t necessarily feel like a cutting edge, early adopter. But, I have been onboard with the electric automobile revolution for years.

First, I got a Toyota Prius Hybrid back in 2006 — clearly not the first person to embrace the dual internal combustion engine with an electric motor trend, but still among a few people that I knew who drove one.

This was not a plug in electric car, but a vehicle that used the normal combustion engine with assist from the electric motor in certain circumstances. I never had to worry about running out of charge, because the two motors worked together to provide power. But, I do remember people asking me back then if the car had to be plugged in or if I had ever run out of charge.

I regularly got 50/miles per gallon when driving it — doing better on long stretches where backing off on the accelerator back off after accelerating normally allowing it to run in EV mode at speeds of up to 40mph. But it also did well in gridlock traffic, shutting the combustion engine down completely when stopped, a feature now available on many vehicles.

We loved that car so much that six years later in 2012, when we were ready for a new car, we got another one. That Prius did just a little bit better, benefitting from six years of experience and development.

But I wasn’t done. I was game to try a fully-electric vehicle. At first I cautiously watched and read reviews as several electric cars hit the market. Several years after those first plug-ins became available, I was ready to make the leap. A couple of factors helped me decide to go forward. One was that I was working from home at that point and didn’t have a long commute to an office. For the most part, I was driving short hops around town to run errands and visit family and friends.

Then I was spurred on by a tax incentive given by both the state I lived in and the U. S. Federal government. Having those tax incentives was almost like getting the car for half the list price. So I got a Honda Leaf — a fully electric plug-in vehicle — in 2016.

It was a great little car but had some drawbacks. Charging took a while — overnight and then some to get a full charge if the battery was run far down — unless you went to a higher-powered charging station. We opted to trickle charge from a standard home electrical outlet. And, a full charge only garnered a 90-93 mile range, less (in the 80s) in colder weather.

In my case, for quick hops to the grocery store or a restaurant for dinner, that range was no problem. But, I do recall one instance where I drove about 40 miles away, then received a call that I was urgently needed about 45 miles away from there and not in the direction of my home. I could have made it to that location, but I would have been at the end of the range and stuck in the middle of nowhere, likely without a charging station. That was a unique scenario and usually I could manage the range well, so that it didn’t impact my usage.

As I became more and more comfortable with the Leaf, I began hearing about Tesla. At that time, it was a super high-end luxury electric vehicle, with a much longer range. It also had a hefty price point.

Intrigued, I researched and learned the company was planning on releasing an entry level version, still pricy but much more reasonable, with more than double the range of the Leaf I was driving. I sent the company a deposit and waited.

More than two years went by and then I received an email saying it was time to pick the options for my new Tesla Model 3. The process was easy to do online and just a couple of months later, the local Tesla dealership called to say my car was available to pick up. I’ve been driving it ever since. I opted for an extended range battery which gives me close to a 300 mile range — triple what a got in the Leaf! It is a phenomenal vehicle — not without its glitches like any car — and I enjoy driving it more than any other vehicle I have owned.

Sometimes technological leaps and bounds sneak up on us — from hybrid cars to a 300-mile range on a plug-in. I feel like this is happening now in the development of electric aircraft.

We are watching some of the most significant technological developments of our time. Not too long ago, I remember discussing electric aircraft with colleagues at an industry event. The general consensus was that it would never happen. Or, if it did, it would be a novelty-type aircraft never meant for the real world.

Developers are proving those sentiments wrong. In our cover story, former CNN writer and executive producer, Thom Patterson, takes us around the world to see what is happening in the world of electric aircraft development. From Canada to Slovenia to the UK and on to Brazil, companies are already meeting the challenge of extending battery life, making charging accessible and getting viable, practical, electric aircraft in the air. As Patterson puts it, “It’s here. It’s happening.” See his story on page 58.

Go ahead, call me an early adopter — I cannot wait to take my first flight on an electric aircraft.