Our Electric Car

“Say,” I mentioned to Alex, “shouldn’t we get an electric car?”

This was back in the early days of the pandemic, when there was nothing to do but browse the Web.

“Sure,” she replied, “just let me know if it’s going to cost more than $100,000.”

Eyes lit up. There was a nice-looking Porsche for a hundred and five. Nevertheless, I kept looking for an efficient model, modest in style and size, that would be able to carry a kayak and a couple of bicycles. Car and Driver keeps a list of every EV available in the U.S.

Model years came and went before we got a chance to drive an EV. We started with a Chevy Bolt EUV.  It was a lot of fun but the seats were not yet comfortable (word is that they’ve been improved since).  The relatively sumptuous Volvo C40 Recharge highlighted another sticking point: many electric cars want to be futuristic, while I was hoping for a more traditional driving experience. For instance, the Volvo offers some control over its regenerative braking, but only through a menu on its information screen; the Bolt, like many cars, uses levers on the steering wheel, which don’t require taking eyes off the road.

We thought we might want a Kia Niro, but even that car felt a half-size too large somehow; so we trekked to Portland to rule out its slightly smaller cousin, the Hyundai Kona.  We drove home with one the next day and, after a year and one long trip, we are very happy with it.

Charging our Kona for the first time, on the way home from Portland.

A battery-operated car may still sound toy-like to some, but this one has more horsepower than my Dad’s old ’66 Mustang. While it weighs half a ton more, that power is always instantly available, and its low center of gravity and front-wheel drive make it a very confident little automobile. The Car and Driver review of the 2019 Kona, much like ours, is still available here.

Here’s the tool that I used to compare the candidates with each other and with our former car, a 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid; you can substitute just about any car made, including used models. Konas themselves come in three levels — we bought the cheapest one, but mostly to avoid features we didn’t want, like a sunroof and fancy sound system.  We gave up the built-in garage door opener and a chance to substitute smartphones for keyfobs entirely — though we’re still able to lock and unlock the car remotely and control functions like charging and climate control. The 2024 model will offer the 360º camera that I admired in the Volvo.

By the way, some of my neighbors seem to have resolved the Porsche question differently: