So I've got an Electric Vehicle.Now what?
When we left the UK a few years ago, we didn't know for how long we'd be gone and said a tearful good bye to a coupe of fantastic cars.
In hindsight, we should have held onto them a bit longer because within six months, the prices shot up and we would have lost a lot less than we did. Anyway ...
Returning to our home in the UK we needed to get a car quick and with the cost of fuel combined with the market prices and a much heightened awareness of buying back into diesel or petrol vehicles, I went looking for other options.
That's when I discovered elmo.
Like rental, but better.
elmo provide consumers, and businesses, the opportunity to subscribe to an electric car, and I was able choose mine, set up all the digital 'paperwork' and arrange for it to be delivered to my home the day after we arrived in the UK.
While the set up process has a few unexpected steps and quirks (which the online support staff deftly guided me through), the process of signing up, getting my car and starting to use it was pretty darn good! So good, in fact, that I've already recommended them to my brother who used my referral code for a discount and has his arriving in 6 days time! ... btw, if you want a discount on an elmo subscription, then just get in touch with me here and mention "elmo discount" in the message.
The concept of subscribing to a car is still a little novel, and I've had to describe the differences (as I see them) between this model and hiring, rental or leasing to numerous people in the last week.
To summarise; I have a nearly new (90 miles on the clock) car, delivered to my door, with insurance, road tax, congestion zone taxes, servicing, and more in one single monthly payment. My commitment to this is 30 days, meaning that if I don't like it, or I don't need it anymore, I just need to give 30 days notice and then it gets picked up from my drive way.
That's pretty awesome, I think, and exactly what I need right now.
A whole new world
Then, after delivery, that's when I started to realise how different driving an EV really is.
The actual driving is just like driving an automatic, it's the refuelling that is so very different.
Here's some of the things I am still struggling with, some of the things I simply can't imagine many of my friends, neighbours or parents being able to navigate so easily.
Range anxiety is one of the most frequently cited worries of EV adopters. For me, it's not so much about the maximum range, because I can plan for that (well, there's issues there too, see below), but it's how much the range can vary during a drive.
Last weekend I set off with the family and after 7 miles the range was just 1 mile less that when I started (thanks to some fairly aggressive regenerative breaking on the car), but then 5 more miles later the range as 15 miles less than when I started.
That kind of variability doesn't give me the most confidence in the range I am hoping for.
Not all charging stations have the required cables, so you have to carry one around with you just in case. That's like taking a hose with you in a diesel car, just incase the forecourt you find yourself at has no way to connect the pump to the car.
These cables are chunky and awkward, and I've found myself struggling to curl the thing up to put it back in the boot (/trunk) of the car. In my struggle the cables has wiped around the floor, my legs and the car - not so much of a problem in dry weather when I'm not on the way somewhere important, but when it's wet and I'm in a suit, the last thing I want is a wet, muddy cable wrapped around my legs.
Not all charging stations have cables (see above) and not all charging stations are compatible with your car. Not all charging stations are easy to find, or convenient to access. Not all charging stations actually work not all charging stations "fill up" your car at the same speed.
There are sooooo many different networks, and while many are accessible via aggregator apps like Zap-Map or pay-as-you-go RFID/tap payments, most are vying for customer acquisition land grabs using their own apps.
That means you need to have a handful of different apps stored on your phone, with accounts in each of them.
It also means you need to use multiple apps to find the most appropriate charge point for you at any given time. Sure, some of the aggregator apps can help, but in just a few days I've found charging stations that were in the aggregator, but no longer active, or stations that were in the provider's app but not in the aggregator.
As mentioned above, you need a lot of them, and they all work differently and require you to set up an account.
Despite many charging stations operating maximum charge times or over-stay fees, you still find vehicles hogging the available slots (I'm looking at you DPD!)
Once you've found your perfect charging spot you're going to find someone else just tapped into it and now it's not available.
Meaning, you planned your journey around a stop at this charging point (see the point about time below) and now you're stuck waiting for an indefinite amount of time, or having to go find another charge point (perhaps with the same experience.)
This just adds to the range anxiety - should I plan for a charging stop when I hit 20%? What if that one isn't available? Maybe it's best to top up after 50%?
80% slow down
More generally, this point is about charging speeds. Each charge station is rated in terms of maximum kilowatts (kW), but it's difficult (without experience) to know how much time you'll need to spend at a 22kW station to get enough range vs a 50kW station.
Then when you do connect to a charger, it might run at full speed. It might not. The "might not" scenario could be due to the maximum capacity of the station (which often support multiple chargers at once) or the fact your car has decided to trickle charge the last 20% of the battery to increase battery life.
Long gone are the "quick stop to top up" days. Topping up an EV is a logistics planning issue which needs to take into consideration all of the points above, and more.
If it's going to take 2 hours to get enough charge, then what are you going to do in those 2 hours?
I've actually found that if my preferred local charger is working, and there's no one using it when I get there, and it operates at the full advertised speed, then 2 hours of out-of-office time can be very well spent.
Related: There's a lot more on the topic of what to do with that time in this article -
What Happens to Fuel Stations When We All Go Electric?
Charge at home
Currently, since this is a subscription and I'm not sure if we will continue with this, change our car, provider or have another change of direction, I haven't invested the hefty sum needed to get a decent home charger.
That means a full charge at home takes 22 hours. It also means (since I can't actually switch to an EV friendly electricity tariff at the moment - thanks to the energy crisis!) charging at home is a verrry expensive option.
Today and tomorrow
Today is a great case in point. I needed to charge the car to prepare for a long journey tomorrow. My family also planned to go out for a few hours, near my preferred charger.
I opened the app, checked that the station was working and available, which it was. So I decided I'd give them a lift to their appointment, then spend a couple of hours in the nearby cafe, catching up on somethings that are best to do away from the office.
By the time I had got to the charging station (11 minutes) all four slots were taken. I waited for a bit then thought I'd try another local one that was showing up as a 22kW Pod Point charger and was available.
After a bit of to-and-fro with satnav, I found it, plugged in and went to 'authorise' it using the app, but wait. The charger appeared in Zap-Map as a paid-for Pod Point station, but didn't appear in Pod Point, meaning I couldn't authorise it and the charge might stop after 15 minutes.
By this time, a slot opened at the first charger, so I went back. The 7kW charger turned out to be operating at about 3kW and in the remaining time I had before needing to pick up the family I was able to charge almost exactly the same number of miles as I had spent finding a charger!
The car is now trickle charging at home, and I hope to make the while journey tomorrow - but worry about whether I'll get home the same day.
Mass market EV adoption
I'm a pretty technical chap, eager to try out new concepts and know these are teething pains.
I'm a technology advocate and a believer in the future, so I don't want this to sound too negative at all - radical changes in our transportation are overdue, and much needed for that future I believe in.
However, so much of this experience needs to be drastically improved before I can see EVs becoming mass market.
What's your experience? What tips and tricks can you share with me to make this smoother?