A Year with an Electric Car
It has been almost a year to the day that I graduated from a really excellent hybrid car to one that is fully electric. As many of you may be considering a similar decision, I thought I would share my 10 tips to electric car ownership. Please keep in mind that this is my personal reflection and does not endorse any particular brand or company by any other brand or company. That said read on!
Don’t rely on the stated range: I believe the stated maximum range of an electric car is calculated in perfect weather conditions, when it’s broad daylight, with a strong following wind, perfect tyre pressure, whilst travelling downhill, and the car is being driven by a wafer-thin supermodel who isn’t using any of the electric gadgets (such as the heating) that put a demand on the car’s battery. Eventually your car will give you a whole heap of statistics so that you can become more informed about your car’s range, but when first become acquainted to your shiny new electric car I would only rely on 75% of the stated range.
Plan your journey: Twice a month I make a 240-mile (386km) trip from North Yorkshire to Wiltshire, which I should be able to do in one charge given that the stated range of my car is 260 miles (418km). However, taking into account all the caveats and my advice in point 1, what I actually get is a solid 217 miles (350km) during daylight hours. So for me planning the journey is imperative especially given all the other limitations mentioned in this list. But even for low to moderate users I would advise that you always take a note of charging locations if you believe you will reach 25% of your range at some point during your journey. There are lots of Apps available to enable you to do this and of course you will have a feature in your car to assists, which is absolutely pants in my car so I use ZapMap which provides a comprehensive map of charger locations and their current status (provided as a user you “check-in” and say your charging and if that charge was successful or not).A-Roads are better than motorways: Most electric cars will have some sort of energy recovery system; either a funky Kinetic Energy Recovery System, like those developed for F1 cars, or some sort of electrical generator. Which is why I choose to use A-Roads for as much of my journey as is practical; stopping at roundabouts, junctions, and traffic lights can result in you actually storing more energy than you are using. So, I guess this is also eco-friendly as it reduces the amount of electricity one uses.
A-Roads are better than motorways: Most electric cars will have some sort of energy recovery system; either a funky Kinetic Energy Recovery System, like those developed for F1 cars, or some sort of electrical generator. Which is why I choose to use A-Roads for as much of my journey as is practical; stopping at roundabouts, junctions, and traffic lights can result in you actually storing more energy than you are using. So, I guess this is also eco-friendly as well as reducing the amount of charging one has to do.
Check if your chosen charging location is working: ZapMap is ok for this (see point 1) but can also use a charging provider’s App to check if its working and plan accordingly. Bear in mind that even if your intel says that a point is working, it may not be, which is why you should always have a point 5.
Always have a backup plan: If you do rock up to your chosen charge-point and despite your military grade reconnaissance and it proves to be broken, make sure you already have intel on the next nearest charger and the one after that.
Winter/night driving uses more electricity: For some reason this came as a surprise to me on one long journey; driving in the cold, dark, and wet nights of Winter uses the heater, lights, and windscreen wipers that all require electricity. The more you use them, the more electricity you use, the quicker the battery discharges. You can even run a little experiment: turn your car on without all auxiliary equipment off, look at the car’s range meter, turn on the heart, lights, etc and you will physically see the expected range reduce.
Make space on your phone for all those Apps: If you want to quickly connect your car and start charging using the providers app is the best way unfortunately because I travel a lot, I have seven different apps on my phone. Another point is that Apps need an internet connection and not all charging stations have a network connection you can use so either you have enough data and a good signal, or you may find yourself having to use a contactless charge-card and paying a lot for your electricity (see point 8).
Having a contract DRASTICALLY reduces the cost of charging: In addition to a plethora of Apps on my phone I also have two charging contracts whereby I pay a regular amount each month that in one case reduces the cost of electricity from 65p per kWh to 25p per kWh. So, if you require frequent charges then get signed up, some providers offer flexible plans for infrequent, modest, and high use.
Servicing may be a challenge: This isn’t just about the pandemic causing staff absences from your service provider, this point is made because not all service locations are equipped to service electric cars, including those of the leading car manufacturers. Before purchasing your chosen model of car, you may want to check if there is a convenient location to get yours serviced.
Charger availability during holidays: This is a new one for me and compounds some of the earlier issues I mentioned about broken chargers. I can highlight this by a recounting a recent experience I had: Arriving at my chosen location both chargers were in use, this intel is usually available on the App but what it didn’t tell me was there were two other cars before me in the queue, this would have meant a wait of between 2 to 3 hours. This was unusual at this location but being an observant electric car user and always looking out for data that would give me the edge, I noticed cars full of children, cases, and gifts wrapped in Christmas paper, I deduced from this that travelling during school holidays will require extra planning and diligence. Incidentally, I did have a backup plan (point 5 above) and had sufficient power to drive to the next charging point (point 1), this was broken so I moved on to a further location where I was finally able to charge.
What I didn’t tell you in my little anecdote was that I had already tried another charging location before I pick up on the story, I guess point 10 illustrates many of the challenges that owning an electric car may present. If this sounds like a pain in the proverbial, that’s because it is. Yes, we may be helping the environment and owning an electric car does seem to slow everything down a little which is also a beneficial in many ways, but owning an electric car requires the intelligence levels of the Stasi, the navigational skills of Ferdinand Magellan, time-travel, and the patience of a saint.
If I had known the challenges owning an electric car currently presents - not least of which is extended journey times in a time-poor life - then I would probably have waited until I absolutely had to get one. But then again, I wouldn’t have been able to share my experiences with you lovely folk!