While anyone familiar with driving a gas car should have no trouble operating an electric vehicle, EVs do have some unique driving characteristics that are worth knowing about, because they’re sure to come up when shopping for one. Let's talk about them.
This may sound obvious, but an EV (or a hybrid in EV mode) does not make any meaningful noise. If you’ve never driven an EV, this can be a little disconcerting at first. You may not even be sure if the car is “on” until you put it in “drive” and lurch forward silently. They’re so quiet that as of September 2020, the U.S. government mandates that new EVs must have a pedestrian warning speaker making artificial noise at low speeds. Each EV has their own take on this, with different noises being used by different manufacturers (some even allow you to select different noises, or customize the noise).
For the most part, EVs are connected devices. When it comes to turning them “on” or “off”, some operate a little more like a giant laptop than a car. That is, when you’re done using your laptop you might close it or put it to “sleep”, but the laptop remains on and ready to use next time you open it. EVs can be similar. Some EVs replace the concept of “on” or “off” with “ready”.
The first thing people notice when driving an electric car is how incredibly quick they are. The accelerator responds at the speed of electricity - no more waiting for that gasoline engine to go through the process of combusting fuel and building RPMs to push you forward. In an electric car, 100% of the car’s power is available the instant you press the accelerator. Bottom line, it feels FAST.
The second thing people typically notice about driving an electric vehicle happens almost immediately after that first thing. When you take your foot OFF of the accelerator, the car begins to slow down more dramatically than a gasoline car would. It feels like someone is lightly applying the brakes (even when you’re not). If you're familiar with driving a manual transmission or commercial trucks, the sensation feels a little like "engine braking", or letting the car slow down in a lower, slower gear.
Of course, many EVs don't even have gears. What you're feeling when this happens is a process called “Regenerative Braking”, or "Regen" for short. It's the car recapturing some of the energy being lost by slowing down, and feeding that energy back into the battery to be used again. This process makes your electrified vehicle much more efficient, and has the added benefit of reducing the amount of wear and tear on your brake pads and rotors (because you don't have to use them as much). As a result, brake components in an electric vehicle typically last much longer than they would on a gasoline car.
Some people really don't like regen at first, because it feels unfamiliar. Others love it, because it helps you slow down without having to use the brake pedal as much. Some EVs will allow you to adjust the amount of regen, which changes how dramatically the car slows when you take your foot off of the accelerator.
Which brings us to...
One Pedal Drive is a feature where the car lets Regenerative Braking bring you to a complete stop without having to touch the brake pedal. Simply lift your foot off of the accelerator and the car begins to slow in a linear fashion until it reaches a complete stop. This feature takes a little bit of time and practice to get used to, but once you do it is a very relaxing and enjoyable way to drive, especially in traffic. It should be noted that not every EV offers One Pedal Drive, and others require you to turn it on in settings.
Of course, the brake pedal is still there for whenever you need it - it's just that you might end up needing it less!