I have had an electric car for the past 2 years and having decided recently to avoid them like the plague (at least for a few more years) I went out and leased another vehicle. So I decided to get… another electric car!
What? Eh? Why? And why that title to your blog post?
Well look, if you are thinking of buying an electric vehicle (EV) this is probably a post to read, it’ll certainly take you along the path I have been down for the last 2 years and more importantly into where the market is heading and what to realistically expect from an EV, should you decide to get one.
My first EV was an EV with a touted New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) range of 120 miles per charge. According to Wikipedia the NEDC range is performed usually on a test roller bench (to avoid wind) equipped with an electrical machine to emulate resistance due to aerodynamic drag and vehicle mass (inertia). The trouble is that this method has had plenty of criticism for not effectively emulating real-life driving.
The NEDC is composed of two parts: ECE-15 (Urban Driving Cycle), repeated 4 times, is plotted from 0 s to 780 s; EUDC cycle is plotted from 780 s to 1180 s
Ok, the chart looks quite complex, but the upshot of all of the above is that you can give the NEDC range your best ‘Paddington stare’.
The reality of the situation is that in my experience you can comfortably knock 30% off the given estimate. And in winter and/or at motorway speed the news gets worse. Batteries don’t like the cold and the aerodynamic drag becomes a real big issue at ‘highway speed’. This brings me onto the way my Leaf was calibrated – it is 10% out from the correct speed. At 70mph indicated, I am actually doing 63mph. This slower figure serves to save on that horrible aerodynamic drag whilst hopefully leaving the driver with the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling that they are travelling at the speed they think they are. I strongly suspect my Leaf wasn’t badly calibrated, but in fact was quite carefully set up to be at that 10% of error margin. Yes, please refer back to the ‘Paddington stare’!
Here’s the rub – in winter my 2015 24kwh Nissan Leaf would give me no more than 70 miles range assuming it was slow speed, about town, driving. On a motorway in the cold I could only hope to achieve approximately 60 miles…and that would be from full charge to flat. Then there’s the rain, we get a lot of that in the UK, and yes, water is another issue that will affect how easily your EV rolls along the road. Conversely in the warm summer months on dry still days those figures would change to be in the order of 90 miles for around town and 75 miles of range on the highway. So, in 2 years of driving, being careful with the accelerator I never achieved anything close to the NEDC range.
With all this ‘bad news’ there must be a flip-side, right? Well yes, and I’ll get to that. What I want to provide you with is all the information from my experience, other Leaf drivers may well contest what I say, but remember, this is my journey I’m taking you along and it best represents my experiences.
In 2015 the future looked good for charging your EV and more to the point most electricity charging stations were completely free to use! I live near Lincoln in the UK and I could park for free in the public car parks and then get free electric – it was awesome! However, because travelling long distances meant using motorway facilities you had to rely (and still do) on the motorway infrastructure and sometimes the stations were broken, so no charge, so that was the same as having simply broken down, you were completely stuffed. This put me off using the EV for long journeys and I stuck to using the vehicle as a local commuter.
Today the motorway charging stations will cost you money to charge, which is both bad and good. Bad because you have to pay, but good because it means there’s a real incentive for companies to ensure their machines are working – it’s suddenly all about revenue and that is a very strong incentive.
Lets look at some stats courtesy of Zapmap.
What is of interest to me are the purple boxes. These are the chargers that can put around 80% of charge into a Nissan Leaf in around 30 minutes. So these are the ones you will use when driving long distances. Ecotricity or the ‘electric highway’ provide most of the ones you may well see when driving into the service station. They cost £6 for 30 minutes of use. Whilst expensive, that’s about what you would pay for a gallon of fuel at today’s prices. Considering that most people do around 95% of car journeys locally, it shouldn’t be something that hits your wallet hard.
2017 and beyond
Over the next 2 years we will see far more, and much better range, EVs come to market, at a hopefully affordable price. My new 30kwh Leaf will certainly get me 20% (if not more) further down the road between charges, but soon you can expect to get a realistic 120-150 miles of motorway behind you before needing to pull into a service station. I have deliberately avoided discussing Tesla Motors because in my view they are unaffordable (to most people anyway). Yes, Tesla is introducing a new ‘Model 3’ this year but by the time you get yours it could well be 2018 and beyond (if you haven’t reserved one) the costs at the moment are also unclear.
There is also a bit of a diesel pollution scandal that will, in my opinion, soon impact the market. The noxious fumes are considered a health hazard and many cities are considering banning certain diesel vehicles over the next few years. I believe that many people will now pause for thought and at least look into the facts before taking the plunge to buy their next diesel or even petrol car. The main alternatives being hybrid and all electric vehicles. The second-hand EV market is likely to reflect any changing trends. In short drivers will off-load their diesels and perhaps sell at a loss whilst used EVs will cost more and become less readily available. Ironically old Nissan EVs are very cheap to buy at the moment, but I would get a car with the newer battery tech (2013 and on I think). (I could go on in depth about the government grant, the cost of new EVs and the residual values – don’t get me started 😉 ).
The news about diesels is quite timely, it’s arriving at the right time for the public to be able to see newer EVs (particularly in 2018/19) that will have far more range and at a time when the UK highways will have lots more shiny new rapid chargers that will deliver all the electric you need in 30 minutes or less.
Older EV batteries do get recycled and refurbished, they can be used for other things like domestic or industrial electricity storage and so they shouldn’t be going to landfill – ever. I for one think we all have a responsibility to do our best for the world. Not everyone can afford an EV, I get that, but as soon as mass market production steps up and battery tech gets cheaper, the EV will be cheaper to manufacture than a petrol or diesel car. The EV requires little maintenance, has far, far, fewer moving parts and is in my view very reliable when compared to combustion vehicles.
So in the end I went back to electric, I did benefit from getting a strong deal from Nissan, you can get discounts and end up paying the kind of monthly payments on lease that you would for a comparable family car. The choice is yours. I have highlighted plenty of negatives and some of the frustrations I have had along the way. By the time my new car runs out of lease I will be looking at replacing it with yet another far more capable EV. But if the infrastructure keeps improving then the range of any EV will be much less of an issue anyway. 🙂
I hope this has given you some insights into my experience to date. Maybe it’s time for you to pop along to your local dealer – if not this year then maybe next?