23 June 2019
Our event featuring electric cars (aka EVs - electric vehicles) organised so ably by Karin Haverson, went extremely well. Forty-odd people attended (a record number) of whom nine were owners of electric cars who were prepared to speak about their experiences. A good cross-section of the EVs on the market was represented. Most in evidence was the popular Nissan Leaf (four examples), followed by two Zoes and one each of a Tesla, an Ionic and an unidentified hybrid petrol/electric model, all acquired between 2012 and 2018. All of these cars were available for inspection in the car park after the talks were over.
Not all of the cars were purchased new, but no-one expressed any misgivings about buying second-hand. And while speakers showed no reluctance to share the disbenefits and downsides of EVs as well as the benefits, it must be said that all owners were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their cars and their experiences of driving them.
Alongside the obvious environmental benefits of EVs, most owners seemed to count ease of driving, running costs and the absence of engine noise as major benefits. But as with any technology, the determination of overall environmental impact can be a complex matter. One obvious factor is that your EV will not achieve the reduced carbon footprint you seek unless its battery is recharged with electricity from renewable sources. Another is that a nearby pedestrian unaware of your silent approach may not be too pleased at the prospect of being knocked over.
With EVs, battery power, recharge time, recharge cost and mileage-per-recharge cycle are key factors. Lots of statistics on these were offered in passing, most concerning charging times and costs, cost vs. performance of different battery types and makes, and cost (in pence) per mile. As a bonus, one or two speakers who owned both an EV and a conventional car, offered interesting comparisons of their respective costs.
But any considerations of environmental impact are of course offset by 'convenience' factors: how often you use the car; whether others in the family or business also use the vehicle; whether short or long distance journeys are involved. Several speakers had valuable comments to share on these issues, including the availability (or not) of a rescue service should your battery run flat before you can find a charging station.
With absence of noise being debatably a benefit for the driver but a risk for the pedestrian, there are other, less contestable disbenefits. A key one seemed to be that you can't learn to drive in an electric car, because they are all gearless automatics*. There is also, it was reported, a temptation to over-use the EV when other options are available. And alongside the other battery-related concerns, the advice is that an EV owner needs to be able to charge at home, rather than rely solely on a local charging station.
Of course, monetary cost is a major issue. Cost of ownership is complicated because it not only includes the original purchase price but also charging costs, and where batteries are rented, rental costs as well. Very broadly, an electric car can cost as little as £11,000 to buy, while a top of the market model will see little change from £80,000. From the evidence provided by the speakers, running costs can vary quite widely, depending on your choice of model coupled with battery capacity. Perhaps a handy online guide like www.buyacar.co.uk should be your first port-of-call if you are considering buying an electric car.
But since I don't drive a car, for me the cherry on the cake was Karin's surprise final exhibit - Cresten Boase's electric bike, also on show in the car park. When making a trip, we should not automatically assume that a car - electric or otherwise - is the best option. For many journeys, an electric bike could well be the better option. Or, let's face it, even shanks' pony.
* We have since been informed that you can take a driving test in an automatic car such as an EV, but your licence doesn’t entitle you to drive a manual car. The licence can be upgraded, however.
23rd June 2019