With an EV, I Had to Learn to Drive All Over Again
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With an EV, I Had to Learn to Drive All Over Again

One-pedal driving. Zero engine noises. And goodbye, door handles. Driving an electric car means relearning some fundamentals.

By JOANNA STERN
Fri, Sep 1, 2023 8:27amGrey Clock 4 min

Look, when you drive an electric car, you have to toss out what you know about gas guzzlers. Beyond the bonkers acceleration and quiet-as-a-librarian ride, you have to tackle new complexities like how to tell if the car is…on. Get good and you might even master the art of driving one-pedal without puking.

Plenty of readers know what I’m talking about—and may have already aced the course. But if you’re thinking of buying an EV, or even renting one, you need to anticipate a learning curve.

Why is the Journal’s tech columnist talking about this? Don’t they have a car guy?

As you may have seen in my column and video last week, I tested five leading EV options under $60,000 in search of a second car for my family. Sitting in my garage is the winner, a leased Ford Mustang Mach-E. And yes, I am teaching my sons how to shine it up, Karate Kid style.

My EV exercise wasn’t merely about finding my next car. I wanted to clock just how much the shift to battery power is turning our cars into gadgets, not unlike smartphones and computers. Technology is upending a century-old industry.

For EV adopters, that means waving goodbye to a lot of things we’ve known about driving. I may be an expert at USB-C dongles and buried iPhone menu settings, but I am new to this hot gadget on wheels. Here are things I wish someone had told me before I went electric.

Welcome to Dri-EV-er’s Ed.

How to open the car

“Car door handles, they’re just too easy to use,” said no one ever. And yet EV makers thought they were begging for disruption.

On the Ford Mustang, you press a circular button on the door and it pops open. On the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, the handle is flush with the car and pops out when the car is unlocked. With the Tesla Model Y, you need to push in the wide part of the handle then pull the longer skinnier part toward you. Thankfully, there’s a GIF for that.

The Volkswagen ID.4’s handle looks like a handle—but you don’t have to pull it out. Nestled under the handle is a sensor. Obviously, you learn how to open the door when it’s your own car, but you’ll always enjoy watching the uninitiated try to get in.

How to turn on the car

My least favourite car game? Power-button hide-and-seek.

“How to turn Tesla on” will be forever burned into my Google search history. I really couldn’t find a power button anywhere because…there isn’t one.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E has a traditional push-button. PHOTO: KENNY WASSUS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Instead of a physical key fob, Tesla provides a hotel-style keycard. You can also use Tesla’s smartphone app as a key. As soon as you open the Model Y’s door, the touch screen powers on and you can operate all controls. To get it moving, you step on the brake and move the gear shifter to Drive.

Volkswagen’s ID.4 is similar: If you have the app or the key fob with you, the car powers up when you sit in the driver’s seat. Press the brake pedal and the drive system activates.

Ford, Hyundai and Kia stick to start/stop push buttons. There are key fobs, but you can also set up the apps as keys.

How to drive the car

OK, you know how traditional automatic-transmission cars creep forward when you take your foot off the brake? That generally isn’t the case with EVs. To move, you tap the accelerator. (Even in reverse, which can be a little unnerving.) As soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, the car slows and brakes on its own. You only hit the brake pedal itself if the car isn’t slowing quickly enough.

Most EVs let you do “one-pedal driving”—that is, driving with only the accelerator.

Why change how we’ve driven for so long? Regenerative braking. These brakes use motors that capture energy and return it to the battery. Hybrids often have a variation of this too, but EVs are all about it. (Here’s a deeper discussion of how it works.)

The rapid, automatic deceleration can be unsettling at first. And some people told me it can make passengers nauseous or queasy. Don’t worry! On many EVs, you can turn off the setting or minimise its intensity. The Volkswagen doesn’t even prioritise it—you have to select the mode. Its default drive mode feels much more like a regular car.

But I’m a total one-pedal convert now. In fact, when I get back in my gas-powered Volvo, I have to remember to hit the brake.

How to know if the car is running

Unlike internal combustion engines that go “vrrrrr vrrrrr VROOOM” when you start them up, EVs sound like futuristic golf carts. I’ve definitely ended up restarting the Mach-E because I wasn’t sure it was on.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has set guidelines for “quiet cars” to protect pedestrians—especially people who are blind or have low vision. Under 19 mph, the cars must emit some sound. My Mach-E beeps when I reverse. The Model Y’s whirring sounds like the spaceship in “E.T.”

Some automakers use synthetic sounds to make these new cars sound old school. In the Mach-E, when I put the car in Unbridled mode and press on the accelerator, it hums like an internal combustion engine.

How to pull in for a charge

I think we can all agree on the greatest automotive invention of all time: the little arrow on the gas gauge telling you which side the fuel cap is on. There’s no standardisation for charging-port location on an EV. (This diagram is proof.) I didn’t see any handy arrows inside the cars I tested. Turns out Hyundai and Kia show a little arrow on the screen (I didn’t see it) and Volkswagen does have a cool map of the car showing the charging port, but it’s a few taps into the settings.

Tesla displays clear instructions on how to back into your Supercharger spot. PHOTO: KENNY WASSUS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Again, you learn when it’s your own car. What’s not as easy to get used to? Reversing into a spot to plug in, a must at many charging stations with shorter cords.

Let me be clear, this is guidance, not a gripe fest. You’ll love driving an EV…as soon as you figure out how to get inside and turn it on.



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Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

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