Driving an Electric Car

By Sharon Duggan

This article is the first in a series of personal perspectives on electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid cars.  This month from an EV owner, to give readers a better understanding of things to consider before purchasing an electric car.  

This owner purchased a Nissan Leaf E Techna, costing £37,000, on lease hire contract avoiding the full amount ‘upfront’.  After 4 years, there’s the opportunity to buy the car outright, if they wish. There was a long waiting list before the car was available, indicating how popular it is. The owner agonised before buying a Nissan, preferring Citroën cars, which they’ve owned for years.  

The Nissan Leaf E Tekna

All EVs are automatic which was also an issue they had to carefully consider. 

It’s important to be able to charge EVs at home. This factor can be prohibitive for people who don’t have the facility for this.  At the time of purchase, the owner was eligible for £300 discount off the home charging unit from Pod Point but there was a long waiting time for installation. 

When installers came it was identified their house electric box wasn’t sufficiently modern to take the extra high voltage charging required.  Eventually, this was sorted out, but it was obviously something else to consider.  

Of note is the fact that home chargers aren’t as fast as public ones. However, the owner benefits from a special tariff between 12.30 – 4.30am at a cost of 7p per kilowatt hour, making it very affordable. Had they bought a Tesla EV, however, there’s an even cheaper rate.  

The owner stressed they did need a new car and weren’t buying on a whim. They chose the EV because of the reduced environmental impact.  This is true to an extent, though EVs lithium batteries aren’t green at all and mining of these metals cause pollution – it’s becoming a highly political issue, especially as China currently dominates the market.

Regarding the car’s range, the owner wanted at least a 200 mile range.  The Nissan Leaf has approximate range of 260 miles though in the winter, the range reduces due to use of heater, wipers etc. It’s an interesting exercise to see how these factors affect mileage on a longer journey. Driving around locally around Cranleigh, uses hardly any charge at all.  

A great feature in transit is the car flags up when there’s a charging point nearby but the real difficulty is the infrastructure over distance (something that’s been well documented in the media).  The owner said when undertaking a longer journey, downloading “Zap” App is recommended, (there are other brands available) which advises where there’s a charging point ahead, whether it’s working and whether it’s in use.  Another consideration is that different charging points charge at different speeds. There are super chargers where your car can be charged within an hour, whereas other chargers may take longer.

There are numerous companies producing charging points, each charging different fees – the owner said it was a bit like the Wild West! It’s company’s particular App is required, linked to your personal account. It’s just not possible to drive off in your car without doing your EV homework!   The charging points aren’t always on main roads and another annoyance is that on motorways many charging points are only for Teslas!  What’s that all about?! 

The Nissan Leaf comes with 2 leads that may be required to plug into a charging point en route (some charging points provide leads).  Unfortunately, not all leads are compatible as the industry doesn’t currently have a universal charging socket etc. so it is problematic.

The government really needs to standardise charging sockets, fees and increase the number and power of charging points.  

Regarding the car’s performance, the owner says it’s fantastic and they love driving it.  They soon adapted to driving an automatic. It accelerates fast (because the electricity current is constant which isn’t the case with an internal combustion engine).  It’s very responsive, so when overtaking the power boost is readily available.  It’s smooth, easy to keep to the speed limit and easy to control.  It has cameras back and front and can even drive itself though they haven’t used this facility yet (the upgraded model can also park automatically). There’s an eco-pedal facility and different gears etc.

They said it’s in a different league from previous cars they’ve owned and they would definitely buy another one as it’s such a joy to drive.  It’s had a positive impact on the quality of their driving.  They can’t think of an alternative car they’d rather own – a big recommendation indeed, all while knowing it’s not polluting the environment.  

Sharon Duggan


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