A B&B owner’s experience with electric vehicles in rural Virginia

August 26, 2022
A Tesla charging at Mike Doan’s B&B in Halifax County.

By Mike Doan (reposted with permission from the author)

You don’t see many Teslas in Halifax County. “What do you like about it?” I get asked at the Food Lion parking lot in South Boston. “Is it really cheaper than using gasoline?” I’m asked at a church gathering.

We bought a Nissan Leaf electric car first after Tesla installed chargers at no cost to our bed & breakfast because there were so few chargers in the area. Let’s get an electric car too, we decided. They’ll definitely reduce our carbon footprint and save on gas, too.

The Leaf was a great start, but it could only run about 110 miles on a charge. Twice we ran out of fuel when we got lost on a trip. Once it was at a gas station, quite embarrassing! A tow truck had to rescue us. And when there were fewer than 10 miles left on a charge, the car’s speaker system would start screaming at us and we would go into a panic until we found a charger. 

We’ve had better luck for our longer trips with our Tesla 3 (Standard Range +), which can go up to 220 miles on a charge, though long range Teslas can go 315 miles. The car cost us about $40,000 in 2022, about the average price for a new car. (Next year buyers can get a $7,500 tax credit). We can plug it in at home and when traveling recharge it at a supercharger, which can fill it up in half an hour for $15 to $20. That’s about 5-10 cents a mile when away from home, compared to about 15 cents for a gasoline vehicle. However, if you plug the car in to a socket at home, you’ll save more.

So what do we like? The acceleration is amazing. The ride is smooth and quiet. You can warm up the car in winter from home with a app. Your phone controls the door locks. The sound system is awesome. Pedestrians walking in front of us set off an alarm. You can follow another car in heavy traffic and the car will slow down and speed up automatically. Voice commands can tell the A/C to ramp up or the GPS to take you home. There’s the “dog mode,” which can keep the A/C on if you briefly leave the dog in the car and tells concerned onlookers on the screen not to worry! Other automakers are starting to catch up with these innovations.

Then there is an auto-pilot feature that keeps the car from moving out of its lane. I don’t use it because it tends to make me sleepy!  If we had spent more on the ‘full self driving option’, we could have gotten it to stop at stoplights and pick us up in a parking lot.

There is virtually no maintenance required—except for rotating the tires and filling the wiper fluid. The car doesn’t become outdated because features are updated regularly via wi-fi signals sent by the manufacturer.

The big screen on the dashboard can be confusing. The first time my wife Pickett drove the car, it rained and she couldn’t figure out how to start the windshield wipers, which did not turn on when they are supposed to when the window gets wet.

Perhaps the most fun moment came when a local friend asked if his 12-year-old nephew could interview me for a class paper he was writing about Teslas. I let the boy ride with me, and he was totally awestruck by everything about it. Afterward, he wrote me a thank-you note, indicating it was one of the high points of his young life. Awww!