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Experience of driving an EV

There have been several discussions on this site concerning Electric Vehicles and some of the issues around them.

 

I thought that it might be useful to share my experience of owning an electric car for the last year. We decided to get an Electric car in September last year and after much research into available models, some test drives, we finally decided to lease a Nissan Leaf for 4 years. 

 

The year has been a learning experience as we both had to get used to driving an automatic car which had many features new to us, such as smart cruise control, self dipping headlights. We have also had to get used to the various types of charging stations and payment methods.

 

The Drive

Electric cars are very smooth to drive as there is no gear box. The electric motors provide a lot of torque, so they can compete with many high power cars. We tend to drive with the built is economy controls switched on, which limits the performance, but not excessively so, standard mid range saloon not milk float. This was true of all the models that we test drove.

 

The Leaf has an E-Pedal which allows the car to be driven using one pedal except when hard braking is required. The pedal controls the acceleration and deceleration of the car, maximising the opportunity for recharging the battery. This took a little to get used to as it requires a more sensitive foot than in a standard manual car.

 

The car has a theoretical range of 350miles, which is more than adequate for our needs, mainly shorter journeys in and out of the local towns, and the occasional long trip. I think that I could have managed for 90% of my work trips if I was still working as it was unusual for me to do more than 200 miles a day, although it was usually about 150 miles a day.

 

Charging

Initially, we had to charge the car from a 3 pin plug until we got out home charger installed. There was a delay as the car arrived sooner than expected, and we had to wait for our local DNO to change the service arrangement to our and our neighbour’s house. 

 

The smart charger that we purchased allows us to schedule charging times to fit in with off peak tariffs and to make maximum use of power from our solar panels. The majority of charging during the summer months is via the solar panels, with off peak top ups if we are planning a long journey.

 

We have made several long journeys for holidays, usually the outward and return trips have been within the theoretical range of the car, but we find that we need a break after a couple of hours, so plan to stop for a coffee at a location with a rapid charger. 

 

The ZapMap app and site is invaluable for journey planning as it shows the location and status of the vast majority of public charging points. So we will plan ahead, identifying potential locations along the route, which we can then check availability as we approach. We have found that Motorway services are best avoided as there are insufficient chargers for the number of EV customers, resulting in queuing. So we opt for locations just off motorways and major roads, where there are generally more options and better coffee.

 

The main issue with public charging points is the myriad of suppliers and payment methods. Some allow credit cards, other are controlled from the company app or a company RFD card. So my mobile phone has about a dozen apps to cover the most common suppliers. Then the chargers themselves are all different, and some seem to have been out of order for months. There are 3 popular connector types, so you need to ensure that the one you’re heading for has the right connector. This is where ZapMap is very useful. Also there are the different types of chargers. Many free ones such as those in supermarket car parks are 7kW. These are not much use for a quick charge during a journey break. Others offer 22kW, but not all cars can take the full 22kW DC charge and are limited to 7kW. So for us, we seek out the 50kW rapid chargers, and usually 30-40minutes we are back on the road.

 

Our experience

We have had a generally good experience with the car. We do plan long journeys carefully, and when going on holiday, check out the destination for charging facilities. There doesn’t have to be one at the exact location, but in the vicinity, and where we can leave the car on charge and do something interesting if is a slow charger.

 

An early learning point was to avoid motorway services, and to seek out places off the motorway for reasons stated earlier. This is not a problem for us, as we are retired and generally relaxed about reaching our destination.

 

I have been trying to monitor the costs of running the vehicle, excluding the leasing costs, but I have been hampered by issues with my electricity supplier, a faulty smart meter, and subsequent delays in getting onto a good EV tariff.  However, the ability to charge from Solar Panels has significantly reduced the daily running costs. I do think that, based on average fuel consumption and fuel prices, the fuelling costs for us are significantly less than for an ICE vehicle, despite the high costs of using some of the public charging stations. Hopefully, this time next year, I will be able to have a more accurate view of the running costs. 

 

There are signs of improvements to infrastructure, and some supplier's apps and RFD cards cover more than one company. Octopus Energy is attempting to group a large number of suppliers under its Octopus Card for payment.

 

There are also a lot more cars on the market. Last year we could only test drive 4 models, and although many manufacturers were announcing cars, many were not actually available and some were only available to buy on line and unseen, bypassing the dealerships.  

15 Replies
Alex Barrett
710 Posts

Barry Westby: 
The main issue with public charging points is the myriad of suppliers and payment methods. Some allow credit cards, other are controlled from the company app or a company RFD card. So my mobile phone has about a dozen apps to cover the most common suppliers. Then the chargers themselves are all different, and some seem to have been out of order for months. There are 3 popular connector types, so you need to ensure that the one you’re heading for has the right connector.

I'm amazed that governments & the automotive industry haven't got together to sort out a charging standard, but I guess it must have taken a good while for us to reach a consensus on a standard petrol/diesel nozzle, seemingly we haven't learnt from our mistakes. I've driven the Leaf briefly, and a hybrid often, electric traction is wonderful and fills in the gaps where an ICE falters i.e. junctions & traffic queues.

Simon Barker
1005 Posts

Unfortunately, different regions of the World have their own charging connector standards.  Luckily for us, the USA and Europe have pretty much standardised on a Type 2 connector, so it's widely supported.  CCS can be added for DC rapid charging, and most larger vehicles now support it. But some smaller vehicles only support AC rapid charging on the Type 2 socket.

For reasons best known to Nissan, they still insist on importing vehicles into Europe using the Japanese Type 1 ChaDeMo connector.

I really want to buy an EV to replace my old petrol car, but I realised a couple of years ago that the longer I wait, the more choice there is and the lower the prices are.

This is really useful and interesting, Barrie.  I too, have a Leaf but from the range you quote you have e+ version with the 68kWh battery, not the 40kWh battery one I have. 

The problems you mention about finding a place to charge are precisely those that have put me off making long journeys, much as I would like to.  So we use it for round trips not exceeding 70m each way.  One evening I got home with 9 miles left.  I knew how far I was away so wasn't quite as anxiety provoking as it sounds, but it explains what can happen if there is an unexpected diversion!  As you point out, the only really useful charger is the 50kW ChaDeMo, if you are not to wait around for ever.

You mention the usefulness of ZapMap.  Given my lack of experience in remote charging, is not the Leaf's own charger information buried in the SatNav useful? If not, what's wrong with it?

I got ours as part of the Powerloop V2G project being run by UK Power Networks and Octopus and others. This requires a 3 year lease, of which we have had 11 months.  It's not got off to as fast a start as anyone would have wished, mainly because UK P N have required a G100 device to be installed to limit the current that can be exported from my house because I have a 4kWp solar PV system. It has taken a long time to get this device approved and manufactured - and the best part of two days to get it, the protective switchgear and the Wallbox Quasar (bi-directional DC charger) installed.

The Intelligent (adaptive) cruise control is fairly nice - but crude by comparison with Volvo's both in displayed information and performance.  (I have a 17 plate V90 - for long journeys and pulling the caravan!).   Change it by 1 mph and you can feel the car check - instead of just easing off the accelerator in a civilised manner.  And I rather fear it does not see a stationary car in front.  And it does see cars that are not in the way and brakes hard.

It's also worth noting that motorway driving eats up battery power.  At 70mph I reckon you get 100 real miles for something like 120 electric miles - as shown on the display.  In an ICE car you ignore the greater consumption, even though you know it's happening (wind resistance increases by the cube of the velocity etc) but in the Leaf you can see the battery emptying!

Thank you,
David

 

Hi David

you asked about the charger information in the Leaf Sat Nav. It is useful in terms of identifying where chargers are situated, but it does not give information on status, availability or which supplier.  Although, I think that it has different symbols depending on the rating of the chargers.  For long journeys, we tend to plan ahead, so that I look at the planned route on ZapMap and identify suitable stopping places along the route, say between a couple of hours driving and the destination. We then select a place to stop as we go, depending on the need for coffee, a toilet break, or place of interest.

After completing a few long journeys, even into charger wildernesses like Suffolk, we now do not have range anxiety. 

Thanks Barry, really insightful post. We made the switch to an EV last year too and have loved it, although we definitely share some of the frustrations around public charge points and providers. 

As an example, a couple of weeks ago we drove to Westfield in London, having read that their car park had a few EV charging stations. On arriving we found they were the type that required you to register in advance and get sent (by post!) a membership card to use their charge points. Totally antiquated system when we would have been happy to pay a small surcharge for a one-off use.

We had read about some of these issues before, which was part of the reason we went for a Tesla model 3. The Tesla supercharger network seems to be much more reliable and available than most other supplier networks and situated at or near major roads and service stations. 

Agree on Zapmap too, it told us in advance that there were no working charge points anywhere in Cambridge before starting our journey… we definitely need more universal charging stations in/around towns and cities which actually work!

Hi Ollie

I agree about the Tesla charging network, there seem to be stations with multiple chargers in some odd locations, off the beaten track.

The whole situation around charging needs addressing to ensure that there are adequate charging stations around the country, and places like motorway services have many more units, going to busy services and finding one charger is frustrating and will not encourage people to switch to EVs. There also needs to be standards around repair times for chargers, some have been out of service for months.

The payment method also needs sorting as the need to carry RFD cards and have a dozen different apps on your mobile is ridiculous.  Some of the apps are quite poor, I tried updating my credit card details on one, but it wouldn't allow the inputting of start dates after 2019.

I am sure that things will be improved as more EVs are on the roads, and we wouldn't go back to an ICE vehicle now.

Gideon
74 Posts

AFAIK, there isn't even an idea of how to provide charging for folks who live in terraced streets with only insufficient, free-for-all, on street parking?

Simon Barker
1005 Posts

Gideon: 
 

AFAIK, there isn't even an idea of how to provide charging for folks who live in terraced streets with only insufficient, free-for-all, on street parking?

If things are working properly (and they aren't at the moment), then it should be a non-problem.

A combination of destination chargers (charge up while doing the shopping) and rapid chargers (charge up while stopping at the motorway services) should mean that being unable to charge at home doesn't really matter.  After all, how many people with petrol cars refill them at home?

Alex Barrett
710 Posts

Refilling a petrol car does not take hours, it is a five minute stop. If you commute to work you need to charge at home or work.

I think that there needs to be a change in mindset as people move over to EVs. There are obvious differences between driving an EV and an ICE vehicle. Refuelling is obviously different, but for most people it won't be an everyday event. The additional time taken to refuel will be built in to people's plans. There will be more opportunities to recharge as more chargers are installed. There is also likely to be a big push to encourage people to use other forms of transport for commuting where possible, as the problems of congestion are getting worse and there is no easy solution. 

I think that the days of unfettered car transport are coming to a close. See the recent announcements by the Lake District and Peak District parks authorities who are looking at reducing car access to popular destinations.

Gideon
74 Posts

So what proportion of destination parking spaces would have to become charging points? 25% perhaps? And there would have to be a means to move vehicles on once charged, or a much higher proportion - I used to commute 80 miles a day, so I would have had to charge most days, but probably have to move the car to a non charging space at lunchtime - that's lunchtime gone.

I think some of the changes to reduce CO2 suit the middle classes and prosperous lifestyles prefectly well (including retired, bungy dwelling me nowadays), but I struggle to see how some can be applied to folks whose circumstances and space are more constrained. 

Alex Barrett
710 Posts

I'm a big fan of hybrid, offering a smooth transition and the benefits of clean combustion and a small battery. However, the Electric/ICE debate ignores the elephant in the room.

In the West, the average household has 2 or 3 cars. Our cities and towns are choked with parked cars, and when they move our roads are clogged. We need a bolder and more forward thinking approach.

Firstly, a comprehensive and easy to use public transport system, so that public transport offers a viable alternative to the private car.

Secondly, a fleet of on demand vehicles, either autonomous or human driven (i.e. a taxi fleet) so instead of owning a car, a car appears when you need it and then goes off to serve others.

Yes, I enjoy driving, but there are many other things I enjoy that are also restricted, such as shooting or playing with fireworks, just a reflection upon the changes modern life brings.

Simply putting a huge battery in the same old cars is not addressing the issues.

dcbwhaley
116 Posts

But the park authorities are trying to do it by persuasion not by outright bans (which they don't have the power to do).  I wish them well in that but doubt if it will work:  most visitors to the park would be terrified to be separated from their vehicle.

“If the cost of petrol goes up anymore I will have to give up walking” is a common refrain

Simon Barker: 


If things are working properly (and they aren't at the moment), then it should be a non-problem.

A combination of destination chargers (charge up while doing the shopping) and rapid chargers (charge up while stopping at the motorway services) should mean that being unable to charge at home doesn't really matter.  After all, how many people with petrol cars refill them at home?

While ideally this would be the case, with EVs you also need to consider charging cost. Using my home charger and an EV-friendly energy tariff I can charge up around 110 miles worth of energy for £1.50 overnight. That same amount on a public EV charger would cost at least £7-8, could have connection charges, availability issues etc. depending on the supplier. 

EVs will remain more attractive for those who can get a home charger installed, it also then becomes very convenient - so long as we plan in advance we never have to go out of our way to visit a petrol station anymore!

John Jacobs
14 Posts

This is a very interesting and informative thread. I have been holding off buying/leasing an EV, mainly because my daughter lives 250 miles away. Her house has a bus stop outside and no off street parking. With the very best EV I might just get to her place but would then need to find somewhere else to recharge.

Having said that, 90% of my journeys are 30 miles or less. Until the bugs in charging networks, connector types, charging times etc are fixed I can see that our two car family, currently 1 ICE and 1 hybrid, staying that way or perhaps moving to an EV for the majority of trips with the hybrid for those longer journeys where I can refuel in less than five minutes

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