Kent had been using his 2011 Nissan Titan for ride shares driving until he was faced with a series of major repair bills in 2022. It seemed like things were always breaking, and with the cost of gas, he was paying over $100 to fill up. This was severely cutting into his profits. 

Kent did some math on what his three year costs - and savings - might be if he went with an electric car, as opposed to repairing his Titan. In June 2022, he pulled the trigger and bought the award winning EV of the year, the Hyundai Ioniq 5. Some of the deciding factors were that it could replicate a traditional gas car driving experience, and that it had a roomy back seat for customers. The award winning design didn't hurt.

Stock photo of Ioniq 5

So far, in the last year of 86,000 miles, Kent is logging 100-150 rides a week, and has had no major expenses. Maintenance has been limited to changing the tires, wiper blades, and air filters. 

Do you get a bonus for driving a plug-in vehicle? 

"You have to drive a zero emission [not a plug-in hybrid] to get a $1 per ride bonus from Uber, Nothing from Lyft. They are the only ride shares we have here."

Do you get questions from your passengers about your car? 

"Very much so and there are always a ton of questions, like "How long does it take to charge?” It depends on where and what network. "How much does it cost?” That depends on the trim level but generally $45k-$60k."

Kent points out that when a passenger is interested in his car, he has some parlor tricks to show off the technology. These include showing off Hyundai’s autopilot software, which he demonstrates on the highway, and the paddle-controlled regenerative braking system, which allows him to slow to a stop without using the brake pedal at all. And of course, Kent likes to show off the instant acceleration. 

Did you install a home charger? Do you do most of your charging at home or on the road? 

Yes I put a charger in at home about 6 weeks after I got the car. The delay was only because of supply chain issues.” 

Again, Kent did the math and realized that the installation cost for home, level 2 charging would quickly be made up by the cost of having to charge at more expensive public stations while on the road. Plus, since January, Kent reports that the local Electrify America stations have gone downhill, with no repairs, updates, or the 350 kW fast chargers that are compatible with the Hyundai’s high speed charge rate. Instead, he does 90% of his charging at home, where electricity runs him around 14 cents a kilowatt-hour. He’s looked into a cheaper, time-of-use electricity plan that would allow him to get better rates overnight, but his power company says there is a four-year wait.

If I am going to charge away from home it is only enough of a charge to finish my evening. The charging prices are all over the place and reliable charging at consistent prices is still a challenge here.

Speaking of infrastructure challenges, Kent has a lot to say. Since there are so many more Tesla chargers than non-Tesla chargers, “It really irritates me when a Tesla driver is charging at EA station when there is a Tesla charger 3 miles up the road.”

Kent owned his own local business for years, so understood how to take advantage of the tax incentives available to him. 

Tell us how the taxes work out in your favor.

“There are fuel taxes which I don't pay since I don't buy gas. Here we have enhanced registration fees based on the average Virgian driving 11,700 miles. I drive 75,000 miles so I get big savings there. But, the biggest savings is in the mileage deduction from the IRS for business. Last year’s rate was 62 cents per mile, and I get to write that off as a tax deduction. My business operational costs are $7850, made up of $3300 electricity, $1500 tires + misc, $1100 personal property tax, $150 registration tags, and $1800 insurance. When you divide that by my annual mileage, you get 10.5 cents per mile, which gives me $38,625 of legally untaxed income. This is all because I can keep my operating expenses so low.

When you talk about low operating expenses, driving efficiency comes into play. The better your efficiency, the less you need to spend recharging your car. What is your normal efficiency like?
I get 4.2 - 4.5 miles per kWh if I'm not using any heat or air conditioning.

That pencils out to a range of well over 300 miles. To keep the efficiency this high, Ken uses normal driving mode (not eco or sport), and level 1 regenerative braking. With this configuration, Kent reports that the car behaves just like an ICE car in drive, and he uses the brake regen paddle to stop. He reports that he almost never engages his friction brakes, which are in like-new condition. Using the regen paddles this way, riders have actually noticed Kent’s range increase while driving. 

Have you done any big road trips with your car yet?

When it comes to ride share driving, Kent keeps his trips short. That is because he is only paid for a one-way ride, and there is no guarantee that someone outside his metro area will want a ride back in the same direction. Uber also offers bonuses to Kent based on the total number of rides he gives - longer rides cut down on how many trips he can fit in. Plus, there are areas that Kent has discovered have zero charging infrastructure, and he does not want to deal with range anxiety. 

However, Kent has two big road trips planned. He will use cruise control on longer trips, and always makes sure to find a backup charging location near his destination. 

Kent considers himself an EV advocate and is always happy to make driving electric more friendly and familiar to his friends and customers. He was an early adopter of a short range zero emission vehicle called the ZENN, and was frustrated that more people were not ready to go electric in 2010. At the same time, Kent acknowledges that there are a lot of people who are not well served by current EV infrastructure, such as city dwellers without access to home charging. His local power company has also offered limited support for electric drivers: in addition to a very limited time-of-use charging program, they have been slow to hook up chargers installed at local dealerships.

Nonetheless, Kent loves his Ioniq 5 and being a part of the electric early guard.