Electric Instructor visits Air Ambulance

Electric instructor and helicopter
SDIA Members with the HIOWAA helicopter

Last weekend, along with other members of our local instructor association, I visited the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance base at the Thruxton race track in Hampshire. Our association, SDIA, are raising money for the air ambulance and they kindly offered to show us around.

EV Journey

The journey was a round trip of 108 miles from home in Southsea, Portsmouth. Being entirely on motorways and fast dual carriageways the Leaf could have made it there and back without charging if I’d been prepared to arrive home almost empty. This is where range anxiety starts. I wanted to enjoy the drive without a constant mentality of driving to save miles at the end of the journey. Owning an electric car doesn’t have to be like this. So I was going to enjoy the drive at normal motorway speeds using the cruise control as I would in any other car. 

A look at Zap Map showed rapid chargers on the way. With a short diversion Southampton M27 services has Ecotricity chargers. Sutton Scotney services n the A34 and a Genie Point at Thruxton itself. Then checking out PlugShare revealed new Genie Point chargers at Weyhill services on the A303 near Thruxton.

The easiest thing to do was to get to Thruxton and use the rapid charger in the car park. Initially I didn’t want to do this even though it’s the most sensible option because Genie Point charge a £1 connection fee on top of the 30p kW for the charge. This extra pound makes the electricity more expensive for half a battery full, it took 14kW. Then I had a talk to myself and told myself that even with the connection fee the cost of fuel is still a fraction of that I was paying for petrol. Running an EV can make you stingy.

I went for the easy option and used the Genie Point rapid at Thruxton. There was a small second box there as well with 2 type 2 connectors for slower charging. By the time I’d said hello to fellow SDIA members my battery was full. So I disconnected and we were taken to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance base at the aerodrome in the middle of the race circuit.

Air Ambulance

Members of SDIA have embraced fund raising for the Air Ambulance with a lot of enthusiasm. From our visit it’s easy to see why. Our goal is to raise £7,500 in 2019 which is half of a day’s running costs. The Air Ambulance is an essential service for Hampshire which is funded entirely by charitable donations.

Before we started raising money for the service I thought the Air Ambulance was simply a helicopter that got people to hospital quickly, they are so much more than that. They are teams of paramedics trained to a higher level than ambulance paramedics along with A and E consultants. These teams respond quickly travelling to where they are needed using the helicopter and two cars. It’s like taking an A and E department to the scene.

HIOWAA Helicopter in actionThe helicopter is equipped with a stretcher and can take patients quickly to hospital. A life saver from remote rural areas which can’t be accessed by ambulances. It’s also a vital service for the Isle of Wight where they rely on trauma centres on the mainland and where a slow ferry trip is out of the question. It’s  able to land in a an area the size of a tennis court and capable of night flight. Space is cleverly used with seating for the medical team around a stretcher that rotates and pulls out of the side door.

HIOWAA training room Training is important to the Air Ambulance crew. We were shown a room with a dummy laying in the middle of the floor and projectors hanging from the ceiling. The room can simulate different situations for training, such as a noisy night club or building site, by projecting onto all four walls.

I’m pleased to be part of the SDIA fund raising effort this year helping to keep this vital service operating. We have lots of events happening. Myself and two other SDIA members, Tanya and Peter, are doing a 5K run at Eastleigh Airport on the runway. After entering I wondered what they did with the aeroplanes. Then it was pointed out to me the run is at 4:00am!!!

It was a pleasant day catching up with fellow SDIA members and motivating us to raise more money for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. The journey was pleasant in the Leaf. Electric cars are so quiet and smooth it makes motorway journeys a pleasure. Charging isn’t an issue and keeping the car charged is easy and convenient. Yes, charging an electric car is convenient. The public charging infrastructure is constantly improving making running an EV on long trips easy.

The Day Portsmouth Launched on Street Charging

Electric Instructor Charging Nissan Leaf

The on street chargers in Portsmouth are being installed. It resulted in me attending a launch for the media at the first charge point installed as well as being interviewed on the radio.

Lamp Posts Charge Cars

This is really good news the charge points are going in. The one across the road from me is still two green paint marks on the kerb with red paint marks on the pavement and lamp post, it should be installed over the next week.

The first of the 37 has been installed and Portsmouth City Council arranged a media launch with council employees, the councillor and representatives of Ubitricity involved in the project attending. Oh, and yours truly had an invite. As a result of this invite I also had an invite to do an interview on the Julian Clegg breakfast show on BBC Radio Solent the same day.

On the Radio

Electric Instructor at BBC Portsmouth
My Radio Moment at BBC Portsmouth

My day began with a visit to the BBC Portsmouth studio in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth’s dockside shopping and entertainment destination. I left the Leaf in the underground car park connected to a Polar destination charger and went to the studio. It’s above a row of restaurants with a glass front facing out towards the busy entrance to the port. There was a room to one side where I sat in front of a microphone with headphones on linked to the Southampton studio. Then I was live on air. It was a unique experience. Every time Julian asked a question I had a moment when my inner voice said “oh no I have to say something sensible”. Despite this it all went well.

First Charge Point Installed

Electric Instructor Portsmouth EV Charging
From left to right: James Everley (ubitricity), Hayley Chivers (Portsmouth City Council), Glen Arnold (resident) Colin Martin (resident), Alexi Stone-Peters (ubitricity) and Cllr Lynne Stagg (Cabinet Member for Traffic and Transport).

Then later the same day to the media launch at the first roadside charging point. The key people who have made this happen were there. It was a proud moment for all involved. I was interviewed by Portsmouth CouncilPortsmouth News and the local BBC TV crew which involved me being on BBC South Today news reports the following Tuesday. They filmed me arriving and driving into the charging space with my driving school roof box on the car. Another inner voice moment “no pressure, don’t hit the kerb”.

Building Charging Infrastructure

These charging points are a significant statement of intent by Portsmouth that it recognises the future is in electric vehicles. If people want to live, work and use cars and vans in a city like Portsmouth where off street parking is rare, a charging infrastructure has to be built.

The solution is elegant. Sockets in lamp posts. If the lamp post is to the back of the pavement small roadside posts are installed by the kerb and wired to the lamp post under the pavement. They’re easily used by scanning a QR code on a plate on the street lamp or by plugging in a special Smart Cable bought from Ubitricity. Using the smart cable means Ubitricity recognise the cable for billing so charging starts immediately and the electricity is priced at a lower rate. Scanning the QR code requires payment details to be entered on your phone. Updating to LED street lamps makes this all possible as there is spare capacity in the infrastructure to charge cars because the LED lights consume a lot less electricity.

Early Adopter

Electric cars have been with us a few years now so I wouldn’t consider myself an early adopter of the technology. The cars and vans that are about to be launched show the car manufacturers commitment to an electric future with a lot of longer range more mainstream models. I do, however, consider myself an early adopter of an electric car, in an urban environment, without permanent off street parking, an emerging public charging network and using it for driver training.

Doing a reasonably high mileage these charge points will make a big difference to my life as an EV owner. For nearly a month now I’ve had to rely on the single rapid charger in the city and sit in the car while it charges for 30 to 40 minutes daily. Returning home and connecting to an overnight charge will make my Leaf as convenient as using a fossil fuelled car, probably more so. The roadside chargers are the reason I bought the Leaf and I’d like to congratulate Portsmouth City Council for the initiative and hope this is the beginning of an EV future for the residents of Portsmouth and Southsea.