Bill Sniffin: What’s It Like Shopping For An Electric Car? Here’s A Cautionary Tale

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes: “Wyomingites seem to be fascinated by electric cars and trucks. Since we were in Las Vegas around the end of April, we decided to go to a Tesla dealer and get a firsthand look at some of these electric cars." 

Bill Sniffin

May 06, 20236 min read

There's a lot to like about this Tesla Bill Sniffin test drove around Las Vegas — except it's $133,000 price tag.
There's a lot to like about this Tesla Bill Sniffin test drove around Las Vegas — except it's $133,000 price tag. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyomingites are fascinated by electric cars and trucks. Not sure they want to ever own one, but analytics show Cowboy State Daily stories about EVs are read by a great many readers.

Since Nancy and I were in Las Vegas around the end of April, we decided to go to a Tesla dealer and get a firsthand look at some of these marvelous electric cars. 

No, we are never going to surpass columnist Aaron Turpen as an auto writer, but I am a “car guy,” having owned over 50 cars and trucks in my lifetime. So here goes.

Electric Pickup Stranded On South Pass

Recently, Cowboy State Daily published an excellent news story by Kevin Killough about a poor guy who charged up his new $90,000 Rivian EV pickup in Riverton and started driving to Rock Springs.

He ran out of juice at the rest area on South Pass.

A tow truck driver posted a photo on Facebook showing him hauling his first electric vehicle (EV). The pickup owner thought he had gotten a 200-mile electric charge in Riverton, but it lasted less than 100 miles going uphill over South Pass, against the wind, and in chilly weather. It was a cautionary tale.

With that story fresh in our memory, we set out for a day of electric car shopping.

It was surprising to find that a new four-door, good-looking model was available for the modest price of $41,000. Seems like Tesla is lowering its prices to be more competitive.

The model we picked out for discussion would cost a buyer $133,000. Nice, yes. Now, that is a really, really big ticket.  

The experience was interesting and educational. Let me share it with you.

First a little background. Tesla’s showroom and delivery center on Sahara near the Boulder Highway reminded me a lot of the first time I walked into an Apple store.

The people working there were young. Very young. Just like at Apple.

They all had an air of superiority, which comes from knowing that you were working for one of the hippest companies on the planet.

Gus, the salesman dealing with me, said he was 22. Then he said he was 32. Hard for me to tell. Was there anyone in the building with gray hair? Usually at a car dealership you are greeted by a few old-timers. Not here. I asked out loud if anyone here is over 30?

A solitary guy over in the corner said he was 40, and he was the oldest employee there.

The cockpit during Bill Sniffin's Las Vegas test drive of a $133,000 Tesla.
The cockpit during Bill Sniffin's Las Vegas test drive of a $133,000 Tesla. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

My Test Drive

Sarah, another very young person, joined Gus. She was dressed all in black on this 96-degree day, and was wearing a matching black face mask. I asked her if she was sick. Not sure what her expression was at that remark — she had a mask on, after all.

She took down my information, driver’s license and insurance information. 

We seriously were not in the market for an electric car. After falsely explaining we were looking for a new tow car for my motorhome – that our 2013 Lincoln was wearing out with 160,000 miles on it — and it might now be fun to have an EV.

My excuse was if my RV ever broke down, we could use the EV to jump start it. There should be plenty of electric juice in that EV to start a dead RV, we surmised, loving how all that was playing around with initials.

Turns out you cannot tow a Tesla with its wheels down. Period. Towing an EV requires a trailer ,which would be an imposition. But it was worth asking. In our case, if we bought the Tesla we liked, it would be twice as pricey as our old used motorhome towing it.

No. Not this time around.

We very much liked a red model with a white leather interior called the Model X. This model might be Tesla founder Elon Musk’s favorite. He loves the initial X, as in SpaceX, X-AI (Musk’s new artificial intelligence company), and he even named one of his children X.

This car is truly a marvel. It has a windshield that sweeps from the dash all the way up to the middle of the roof. It has four doors. The rear doors are gull-wing. It looks amazing.

There has never been a car more easy to get in and out of the back seat. Hmmm. Wonder if some of these rich celebrities like it because of the easy in-and-out of the back seat?

Wow, is this car fast!

It has acceleration like a scalded dog. It also has a self-driving option, but the noon rush hour traffic in the middle of a busy city did not lend itself for such an experiment. Plus, Nancy almost went into hysterics when I suggested it.

Instead of a steering wheel, this one has a yoke, much like in an airplane. It felt good to this driver, possibly because of 30 years of flying small airplanes.  

Because it is a little bigger, this rig had a range of 350 miles on one electric charge. Now, that is starting to sound like Wyoming-sized.

Earlier models that only go 200 miles have not worked well in the Cowboy State — especially in cold weather, against high winds and climbing high mountain passes like that aforementioned Rivian.

Dave Bell’s Tesla Experience

Pinedale’s Dave Bell has been spending some sunny time in Florida and drove all over in his son-in-law’s Tesla.

“My son-in-law is a tech junkie had that thing playing music everywhere, showing things on the screen that were incredible,” he said. “When he went to charge it the Tesla charging stations were busy.

“So, it limited the amount of time one could charge to 30 minutes because it sensed other Tesla’s were waiting. That is cool unless you have to drive over South Pass.”

Bell said Musk has a sense of humor naming his four models S 3 X and Y, to spell “SEXY.” Bell said there is a setting to enable a flatulence sound when someone sits in a seat.  

Last spring, we published another cautionary story about former Wyomingite Alan O’Hashi’s difficulties driving his electric Nissan Leaf around the state. His story was both comical and harrowing. He would find himself sleeping in his car in RV parks using the plug-in facilities to recharge his car.

My first editor, Dick Gilbert of Des Moines, just wrote that he and his wife Julie Gammack visited my home county in northeast Iowa with their electric car, a Kia EV6. They were worried about finding charging stations, but even back in those boondocks they found some. They formerly had a Tesla, but now prefer the Kia. 

Meanwhile, the march toward electric vehicles is real. During our time in Las Vegas, they seemed to be everywhere.  

Bill Sniffin can be reached at:

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.