Happy Electric New Year

In December 2021, as we set out on our annual New Year’s trip to see friends and family, I thought my household was on its last long-distance drive in a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. We had ordered an electric vehicle (EV) in late September and it was supposed to arrive in February. So we had a home charger installed in February, but then no EV.

Three notifications of delay later, and we were facing not only ever-rising petrol prices, but having to service and refinance our family car, as the contract would expire before the new car would be delivered. So after some reassessment, negotiation, and in light of the second-hand car shortages, we managed to secure an 18-month old, ex-demo, but more expensive vehicle make and model for similar monthly payments. It had less range, but a lot nicer finish – and a few bells and whistles we probably never would have ordered!

So I cannot report on a fully electric 2022, but we have had six months of all-EV driving – and parking and charging.

How’s it gone?

Our solar panels kept us topped up for free over the summer, and we only had to charge elsewhere on a single journey to see family. We found a rapid charge point in a retail park a little over halfway there, and had all the energy we needed in the time it took us to pick up a few groceries. Slow charging from an outdoor plug at a relatives’ home was an easy option, and we discovered that another relation had a pre-installed home charger in their recently bought new-build.

A little road trip in October half term was even more satisfactory. We benefitted from VIP parking (and got a charge) at Harry Potter Studios (an attraction I recommend). We then had a couple nights in a holiday cottage in Norfolk, where the EV-owning owners let us use their charger and pay for the electricity with our bill. They were also more than happy to talk about their EV experiences – I was interested to learn they had installed a home charger at an elderly parent’s home to minimise range anxiety when on caring duties.

With Autumn rain, our neighbour’s house blocking the low winter sun and my other half’s daily commute, our EV was ever more rarely chargeable by solar, but we appreciated our smart home charger even more. We could programme our car to charge in the middle of the night and track the energy use in our home. It was useful when our smart meter was on the blink, and more recently helped us benefit from the government’s energy saving scheme.

Our travel patterns over the last six months haven’t change much. We drive for the same sorts of journeys as before, and I walk as much as ever. We’re still a one-car family that occasionally struggles with logistics. We enjoy knowing that our family car is more environmentally friendly, cheaper to run, gets us out of regular journeys to the petrol station, and makes spaceship sounds under 10mph.

On the other hand, on longer journeys in the winter, you have to worry not only about finding a charger, but also finding one that’s operational and available. And if someone else is plugged into the same rapid charger at the same time as you, your EV will charge at half speed or less, result in longer-than-planned stops with antsy children or running the battery down further and feeling range anxiety.

More charging infrastructure would help – and it has been surprising to realise which places have more or less available – but we’ve realised it’s not just about planning ahead, but also planning in a different way than for refuelling.

With an EV, plan to keep topped up, rather than waiting until you’re on a quarter charge (and that includes when charging at home!). Think about how many charge-points are available at a given location, not just where they are. Think about where you can charge when on longer journeys whilst stopped for a meal, rather than simply along a route. Supermarkets might be better bets than motorway services, and you never know whose home might have a charger you can use.

Which leads me to my final point – if EVs are to maximise their potential to drive forward a more sustainable future, EV drivers must come together to share advice, charging, and even vehicles. The more we do so, the more we will be able to wish each other a Happy Electric New Year.

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