Electric Cars - The questions, lies and bullshit... and the truth from an owner
My car is a Nissan Leaf Accenta 30KWH battery.
I don't actually own it, I care for my severely disabled uncle and we lease the car from Motability. In 12 months time I'll need to look for an alternative car, and I'll tell you now, I'll be getting another EV.
So what questions do I get asked?
1. How far will it go?
Usually if the weather is fine and I don't need the heater, around 100 - 130 miles per charge, and that's not bad. I live in Halifax West Yorkshire and it's bloody hilly around here. If Halifax were a little flatter like London, then no doubt I'd hit roughly 140-150 miles, not bad for a car that is listed to have a range of 120 miles. It's also down to the way you drive, take things steady and plan your stopping/starting as your driving instructor taught you and you'll get a really good range. If you drive like a drug dealer evading the police... well you're mileage will drop.
There's a menu on my car, and all EV's I think, that tells you how many miles you're averaging per kilowatt hour. I get around 4.5 in summer, and like I said, Halifax is very hilly, so not bad at all. 30KWH battery x 4.5 = 135 miles.
2. How much does it cost per charge?
This depends on your tariff from your electricity supplier, mine's around 13p per kilowatt hour. So 30 kilowatt hours x 13p = £3.90 per 100 miles. Less than a gallon of diesel/petrol and WAY more mileage. My previous car was a fiesta diesel and it managed 40mpg, so miles to miles less than half the cost. Petrol may be cheaper than diesel but you don't go as far. So the savings can be even better.
3. How do I charge it?
I charge it at home. Occasionally I charge it on the road, usually with ecotricity as I get an EV discount as they also supply my home electricity too. They have 50kw chargers, and are even fitting 100kw and 150kw chargers as we speak, so charging only takes a few minutes. Just enough time to grab a bite to eat, a coffee and take a short rest break. I've NEVER had an issue charging on the road. The ecotricity app warns you if a charge point is out of action. There are usually 2 or more points at the same location, so it's usually just a matter of plugging into a different charger without moving the car.
4. What's it like to drive?
To be honest, aside from the slightly poor acceleration going uphill (it's a damned heavy car), it's by far the best car I've ever owned and driven. Going downhill is a different matter, that weight is giving you a helping hand then it can really fly, and I've left Audi's, BMW's and Merc's in my dust.
EV's also don't have a "torque band", all the power is available instantly. This makes overtaking a breeze, no changing gears at all.
5. So there's no gear lever?
Nope, its not really an automatic either, there's just one gear. Though I have 2 choices, D for drive and B (for brake assist). Both give me full power at all times.
6. Brake assist?
Brake assist engages the regenerative braking. So when you go downhill or even lift your foot from the accelerator brake assist kicks in and actually generates electricity, adding miles to the range. Generally it's around 25% of the energy required to climb the same hill. So not 100%, but then again... does petrol or diesel put FREE fuel back in the tank when you go downhill? I thought not.
7. It's a heavy car, doesn't it mean you wear out your brakes faster, leaving dangerous brake dust in the air?
No, because I use B (brake assist) all the time, I actually hardly touch my brake pedal. This is one of the reasons newer EV's have ONE foot driving. There's still a brake pedal, but the brake assist is tuned to be even stronger so there's little need to even touch the brake pedal, and they generate even more FREE electricity.
8. But wait, no gears, no brakes, how does it drive in the snow?
LOL, actually it drives REALLY REALLY well, this is probably down to Nissan's traction control, but last years beast from the east didn't leave me stuck even once, and you should see the hill I had to climb to get back home. It's so steep nothing heavier than a van is allowed on the road.
9. What about the electricity infrastructure, won't it fail?
Yes, but only if the number of EV's currently out there got multiplyed by 10, and then only if they all charged at the same time, in the same area and then, maybe just maybe there'll be a failover.
Newer (or should that be future) cars and home chargers will take this into account and will use your car's battery as a buffer at peak times, this will take some charge out of the car's battery at peak times, but hopefully with the correct algorithms it'll be utterly transparent. Right now there's plenty of overhead for all the cars currently on the road, spread out as we are, and add plenty more before it might become an issue. Also consider home charging is only 3.7KW, an electric shower is 9KW, and you don't hear about everyone taking a shower at the same time causing issues. Plus you set a time in the car and charge during economy 7 hours, one for even cheaper charging and another it reduces the load at peak times.
10. What if I can't charge at home?
This is a bit of a problem right now for some people, you could always charge at a public charge point, but that will drastically reduce the amount you'll save (they charge more than the 13p per kilowatt hour I pay at home). But if that's an issue, then I can only assure you that there are companies working on charging from lampposts. Yes lampposts. Think about it, they already have high usage infrastructure built in, and there are working charge points out there that do this already, though they're in the testing phase. Now all you have to do is park near a lamppost, plug in and charge, though still not as cheap as charging at home. Also all cars (mine at least) come with a 3 pin home charger, but be warned, DO NOT USE ANY OTHER DEVICE on the same ring network. These will pull electricity at the maximum rate (15amps) for a socket and could blow a fuse if anything else is on the same ring.
11. But the battery life is poor right?
WRONG! The battery management systems in EV's is nothing short of amazing. There's a taxi company in London that has several Nissan leafs and they've all done well over 500,000 miles on the same battery pack. Lithium batteries last longer if they're charged to only 80% and discharge no lower than 20%. So manufacturers put in extra capacity and HIDE it from you, so you're 100% charge is actually 80% of the total capacity, and a 100% discharge leaves 20% in the tank. But don't worry, you'll have plenty of warning that the battery is getting low. Plus I think most if not all EV's will tell you via the inbuilt GPS where the nearest charge point is, and if you really let the charge drop low, it switches to eco more and limits the speed to around 30mph to make sure you get there.
Things have also dramatically changed in the 20 months I've had this car. You can now get cars that will do 250 miles per charge, go faster, are bigger, smaller, more energy efficient and all round better than this car. These are still early days and with each model that hits the market things only get better.
That sums up pretty much all the questions I have been asked over the last 18+ months.
If you have a question that I haven't answered then hit me up on twitter:
Obviously on this website, but also at The Bionic Cyclist too: https://the-bionic-cyclist.co.uk/
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