Saturday, July 15, 2023

Owning a Rivian After Three Weeks

Well, after never having a car loan in 37 years of life I have a very large car loan, larger than my house mortgage in rural Kansas. That’s the obvious downside. With that out of the way, wow, this car is a game changer!

For starters, charging at home is unbelievable, it’s such a great experience. And yes, in my little apartment that means running an extension cord out my second floor, back door to my little off street parking. I was doing only 120 volt charging most of the first two weeks, which added maybe 30 miles of range in a 10-12 hour overnight. While not very much, my normal round trip daily driving is 16 miles round trip to work, so it’s actually totally acceptable. However, I stretched the cable, bought a NEMA 10-50 adapter, and managed to plug into my 60 amp 240 volt electric stove and oven plug! That managed to charge something like 70 miles of range in less than four hours! I realize that these numbers are minuscule, and when taking a road trip most vehicles get 400-500 miles for a three minute gasoline stop. However, that gasoline is costing you money, probably $50 or more, while even my 70 mile charging session I estimate was less than $4 since I was charging at night when the electricity rate is less expensive. It feels kind of like getting interest on a savings account, my mileage balance goes up over night and at the end of the month my total electricity bill will likely be only $15 higher. I didn’t realize how much enjoyment I would get out of charging my car at my apartment over night. Plus, I’m driving a brick of a vehicle, a more efficient little car could probably get away with 120 volt charging. I should write a blog post about how offering free standard 120 volt outlets is a very easy way for businesses to support electric vehicles, without having to install $1000 charging stations. 

I’m probably going to write more about the charging aspect, because it was just so cool to fill up at home. I haven’t tried a single fast charger yet or public charger yet, looks like I probably won’t for another month or so.

Other things to like, people are definitely going to say the acceleration, but frankly I’ve only accelerated fast a handful of times, because it all happens so fast that on a city street or in Bay Area traffic it feels reckless. I told a few people, I was excited for an electric 4Runner style vehicle with a 300+ mile range, off road capabilities, and ability to car camp, that I would have bought it with 300 horsepower, not the 800 hp the Rivian has. The backup camera and overhead views are great! The cruise control, with the radar range finders on the front of the car are really nice. I’ve had that on a few rental cars and it’s great! I have not tried to activate the driver assist feature where the car does the steering, I’m skeptical of that functionality based on some previous use of it in Teslas. The front trunk is cool. I can easily see how road tripping or car camping that compartment is going to come in really handy. The wireless phone charging is pretty cool. It’s not super fast, but it’s fun to get a few percent charge into my phone on my 20 minute commute. One pedal driving is really nice when it comes to stopping. When you have mostly let off the pedal the regenerative braking slows you down, so you don’t have to hop off the accelerator and on to the brake really fast like you do in an internal combustion engine when the traffic in front of you suddenly stops. I think I like sport mode better than all-purpose mode for driving, it’s only about 1% less efficient, but the SUV is lower to the ground and has a stiffer ride. In all-purpose it feels sometimes like I’m on a boat bouncing up and down, and it’s pretty high for me to get into. 

I only used the navigation once, and it seems to work well but at this point that’s the bar for entry… not a cool feature like Google Maps was on iPhone in 2008. I haven’t camped in it or taken it off road yet. I've only begun to explore the features in the menus. I haven't used the camp speaker yet. The automatic hood is unnecessarily complicated. It's cool, but too many moving parts, but probably cost like $1500 compared to a traditional hood hinge at $25. I have the 21" all purpose, longer range tires. At some point I'll probably switch to 20" all terrains, but clearly like most new electric vehicle drivers I am worried about range, so it's nice to see the 338 mile range estimate in conserve mode with these tires.

Already, for short trips at least there is basically no going back to  a gas car. When I'm idling in a traffic jam, it's so rewarding to know that I'm not emitting smog in that moment. I know that somewhere a coal powerplant is pumping out a cloud of smoke, but in the moment, driving the EV, I just don't need to worry about carbon monoxide if I run the vehicle in the garage. It makes traffic jams more pleasant. I wasn't expecting to have an emotional reaction to not idling a car, but I do. My lungs are strong, but fragile, and I've always been frustrated when I don't have clean air to breathe, like when people are idling a car unnecessarily and I'm near the tailpipe. I've bicycled behind cars and trucks at times to go fast, but there is often the wafting smell of the emissions making it a little harder to take a deep breath and keep up with the car. It's a satisfying feeling, one I didn't expect.

At the end of the day it's a mechanical and electrical collection of parts, yet somehow it represents a way forward for us to take a little bit better care of the air in the world, and also have a really exciting time in the process.

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