Electric vehicles

Electric cars and vans are already on our roads covering zero emission miles as they go and their numbers are increasing. And, of course, if you are charging your car from clean energy your emissions truly are zero.

It is predicted that, in 2013, electric car use will really accelerate as more and more car makers move to developing electric models, at affordable prices.  So, there is a pressing need to provide a reliable, countrywide vehicle charging infrastructure.

Despite government funding this is not happening as effectively and quickly as needed, so we’re in a sort of “chicken and egg” situation as drivers need the confidence of knowing they can charge their EVs when on a longish run; they definitely don’t want to be stranded!

In Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire Council will be installing two EV charging points in the station car park during 2013 and, on 31st May 2013 Beeches B&B installed a ZCW charging point.

Shay Parsons tells us about her Renault Zoe

In June I took delivery of a Renault Zoe, to replace my much loved and sporty diesel Golf. The Zoe is a fully-electric car; it has no petrol backup like a Toyota Prius or the new BMW i3 REX.

So, was this to be a foolhardy choice? Would I be overcome by the much-quoted “range anxiety”? Well, no and no. More than that, it’s proved to be a great little car: nippy, fun to drive, well equipped and comfortable.

And of course I haven’t visited a petrol station since June. Renault installed a charging point for me at home as part of the deal, and in practice that’s where I recharge the battery.   It turns out this is the same for most electric vehicle (EV) drivers, because most car journeys in the UK are well within the range of most EVs.

However, because “range anxiety” is talked about whenever EV’s are discussed, many people are holding off buying a car like mine because they think they’ll be stranded miles from a charging point or knocking on a stranger’s door asking to borrow some electricity. But the number of publicly available charging points in the UK is rapidly increasing – we’ll even have two in the station car park here in Bradford on Avon by the end of 2013. There are UK-wide maps showing charging point locations, with related apps so you can check on the move. My car comes with the locations built in to the satnav system, so I could find my way to the nearest charging point if I needed to.

So, what are the costs? The car cost me around £15000 to buy, after the £5000 government grant. For this I’ve got a car with satnav, Bluetooth, alloy wheels, reversing camera and parking sensors – fully equipped in other words. I pay £70 a month battery lease, so if anything goes wrong with the battery, or it loses efficiency, or Renault develop a better one, I’m covered.

As to the charging costs, if I were to charge the battery from empty to full it would take around four hours and cost me £3.88 if I paid for the electricity. We have solar panels and I try to charge when the sun’s out, so a good chunk of the electricity then will be free. I’m afraid I haven’t sat and watched the meter go round to work it out exactly because … frankly, it’s not important to me. The charging works, the car works, that’s really all I need to know.

For my £3.88 I calculate I could drive 100 miles if I used the ‘ECO’ mode in the car, which means gentler accelerating and smoother driving and braking. So far the farthest afield I’ve travelled is a 128-mile round trip, because I knew there was a charging point at my destination so I could recharge the car for the journey back. And if I really needed to drive across the country, Renault would give me a preferential car hire rate because I’m a Zoe owner.

For me, though, this isn’t primarily about driving costs. I know I’m driving a clean and quiet car which doesn’t contribute to the noise and pollution we sometimes find in our town centre. And it’s pretty satisfying not to care any more about the price of diesel. It hasn’t saved the world – it’s still a car, it still had to be manufactured and delivered, and so it has had an environmental impact on its way to me. However, it’s a step in the right direction for anyone who worries about the financial or environmental costs of running their car.

If you want more information www.nextgreencar.com and www.transportevolved.comare good places to start. For information on charging points, visit  www.zerocarbonworld.org or www.openchargemap.org . And for a very personal but highly amusing series of blogs on electric cars, try llewblog.squarespace.com/electric-cars .   You can also email me at shay@shayparsons.com with practical questions, or if you want to come and see the car. You might even get a drive in it!