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.

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.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Going warm and fuzzy for the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year

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Pantone has released its 2024 Colour of the Year — and it’s warm and fuzzy.

Peach Fuzz has been named as the colour to sum up the year ahead, chosen to imbue a sense of “kindness and tenderness, communicating a message of caring and sharing, community and collaboration” said vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman.

“A warm and cosy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness,” she said.

Pantone Colour of the Year is often a reflection of world mood and events

The choice of a soft pastel will come as little surprise to those who follow the Pantone releases, which are often a reflection of world affairs and community mood. Typically, when economies are buoyant and international security is assured, colours tend to the bolder spectrum. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Israeli-Gaza conflict and talk of recession in many countries, the choice of a softer, more reassuring colour is predictable. 

“At a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion grows ever stronger as does our imaginings of a more peaceful future,” she said. “We are reminded that a vital part of living a full life is having the good health, stamina, and strength to enjoy it.”

The colour also reflects a desire to turn inward and exercise self care in an increasingly frenetic world.

“As we navigate the present and build toward a new world, we are reevaluating what is important,” she said. “Reframing how we want to live, we are expressing ourselves with greater intentionality and consideration. 

“Recalibrating our priorities to align with our internal values, we are focusing on health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, and cherishing what’s special — the warmth and comfort of spending time with friends and family, or simply taking a moment of time to ourselves.”

Each year since 2000, Pantone has released a colour of the year as a trendsetting tool for marketers and branding agents. It is widely taken up in the fashion and interior design industries, influencing collections across the spectrum. 


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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