By Guest Blogger, Stephen M.

I have driven a hybrid car for over 12 years and this year switched to an EV (electric vehicle) (Chevy Volt). Recently I have had a few unpleasant experiences driving ICE (internal combustion engine) cars and am starting to think I have become addicted to the capabilities of electric cars such that ICE cars seem barely drive-able.

I went to visit family in May and rented a Chevy Malibu at the airport as it looked very similar to my own car and the interior controls were familiar to use. Driving the car was totally different, however. It seemed to have little power, the acceleration was not smooth at all. I had to floor the thing to get up to speed and the engine would roar as the car gradually accelerated. Highway driving was okay, but driving around town was frustrating and every stop required gunning the engine to get it up to speed. After an hour of driving, I became concerned the car would not make the three hour trip to visit family. I asked my brother to take a ride with me to check out the car. He figured the car had nothing wrong with it other than having a small engine. Upon returning to the airport, I told the attendant that the car was having problems and needed either a tune-up or auto transmission fluid.

Then this week, I had my car in the shop to get the AC serviced and they had to order parts so they kept the car for a few days. The only car I was able to rent was a Dodge SUV. I was shocked at how little power it had. The vehicle rode like a truck and had sloppy steering. It reminded me of driving my dad’s pickup he had in the 60’s. The SUV only had 16,000 miles on it, and even though it had a modern display and features, it drove like a dinosaur. It had the same problem with the acceleration being unresponsive and non-linear. Getting the vehicle up to speed required flooring it until the engine raced. Braking was also not smooth and I realized that It had been years since I had driven a vehicle without regenerative braking. 

The next morning I wanted to trade the SUV for something more economical. I returned to the rental office and they gave me a 2019 Toyota Camry. I had a Camry for ten years and it was a great car, but that was 30 years ago. The new Camry had a modern interior and controls, but did not even use a smart key. This car, too, had the same problem with the non-responsive accelerator. Coming up to speed was extremely erratic, jerking with every transmission shift. That, in itself is a major convenience, especially for a road warrior who is juggling phone, iPad, and work tools in and out if the car. It apparently had such a small engine to make it economical that the car had no power at all. It depended on revving up the engine to 5000 rpm to get it up to speed. Once up to speed on the highway, the car was fine. The ride was steady and it did have good economy. However, street driving was unbearable as every stop required gunning the engine to get it going again. Pulling out into traffic required careful planning and a prayer, hoping the car would come up to speed in time to clear oncoming traffic. Braking was also problematic. Mechanical braking is awful after years of driving with the smooth operation that regenerative braking provides.

I wonder how it could be that all three rental vehicles could provide such poor driving experience. Was it coincidence that every rental vehicle was actually defective – or was it the archaic design and old technology that was the problem? Have the past 12 years of driving a hybrid vehicle and EV car made me forget how ICE cars operate and handle? Surely all ICE cars on the road can’t be as bad as these 3. Possibly with all the emphasis on improving gas mileage, conventional cars have had to make sacrifices in the driving experience due to smaller engines, relying on higher rpm to get them going.

Now that my Chevy Volt is back from the shop, I now appreciate more than ever the smooth and zippy acceleration after full stop. The braking is wonderfully smooth and responsive without ever being jerky. Being able to navigate traffic and reliably change lanes is again stress free.

I doubt I could ever go back to driving a conventional car – it would be far too frustrating. 

Just had to vent… thanks for reading,
Stephen M