Every time I plug my smart phone in for its daily dose of electricity, I’m reminded of my love for electric vehicles (EV). Cars that to make go further, you simply plug into a socket.
Also, every time I go down a hill in a conventional (or ICE for Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, I’m appalled at the sheer waste. All that potential energy lost though the brake system as heat. If I was in an electric vehicle, that energy could be recouped as range-extending electricity.
It may seem a small thing, but when I tested the Nissan e-NV200 Combi, I found it easy to generate more than 1kwh of electricity (per charge) through regenerative braking. Now, that might not sound much, but as I discovered with the Volkswagen e-Golf, it’s possible to drive 5 miles or more per kilowatt hour. That’s five miles of range generated for free! Pure gravity. It must be said, those figures were obtained without trying particularly hard either. Even with the short range of electric vehicles, I tend not to hang about.
That said, I’m pretty sure that I drive much more economically in an EV than an ICE. It’s all too easy to just put my foot to the floor with petrol power, as you don’t get an instant sense of how bad that is. Shove your foot down in an EV and while you (usually) get a wonderful shove in the back, you also watch the range begin to plummet. With an EV, you have to drive efficiently.
Here’s the thing though. I still find that HUGELY enjoyable! When I had the e-Golf, I drove it on a very testing challenge across Snowdonia. Here are some of the finest driving roads you could wish for. I had a great time, but I also managed to drive very economically – 5.1 miles per kilowatt hour. That’s pretty impressive for an electric car. Especially as my average speed for the entire trip was 39mph. Given that there was very little dual carriageway and no motorway at all, I consider that quite remarkable. I doubt I could safely achieve more in an ICE. In Snowdonia, you just can’t drive much quicker than that.
I’m sure that I’m now driving my ICE’d cars more economically too. Owning a 2CV has been really useful, because you learn a lot about momentum conservation. Finding the racing line (even if you stay your side of the central white line), judging your speed well so you don’t end up scrubbing too much away as you turn and trying to anticipate road and traffic conditions to avoid harsh braking. I HATE harsh braking! Yet lots of people do it. Smooth braking is a lot more comfortable, and also more economical.
Frankly, I’m a bit astounded by how much I love driving electric vehicles. I love the clean, smooth power delivery and the way you can often use different modes to boost the engine brake sensation – ie activate the regenerative braking without you even having to touch the brake pedal. It means you can easily control your pace with just one pedal. That’s very satisfying.
Electric makes so much sense for so much of my driving too. Sure, it would have made the trip to France a bit difficult – the charging infrastructure is barely keeping up with demand and some areas are still worryingly free of chargers – but for the vast majority of my time at the wheel, I’m driving distances between four and 25 miles. No trauma for even the worst EVs. I could even manage that in a G-Wiz – albeit very slowly.
But alas, the youngest EVs worth having are still only five years old. I’m starting to see Nissan LEAFs below £8000, and the Renault ZOE for as little as £6500 (albeit with a monthly battery lease to pay on top). Still way out of range for me given that my current ‘moderns’ cost £300 and £375 each. It’s a frustrating business waiting for depreciation to kick in, and waiting to see if EVs develop any ageing issues now they’re getting on a bit. There are interesting times ahead, and an EV will definitely be joining my fleet. I just can’t say when.