It’s been an interesting first week of teaching in my Nissan Leaf electric car. Learners really like driving it and it brings up some interesting thoughts about teaching in EVs and what effect they will have on our roads.
When first encountering the MK1 Leaf Learners are impressed with it’s slightly whacky looks and the high specification interior, it’s the higher Tekna specification with a full leather interior. Turning it on brings up the space age display with lot’s of information about charge and range not seen before in a car and it sings a little tune. The speedo is a large numeric one so easily seen once it’s pointed out. Having come from a hybrid car, my learners are used to silence when pressing the power switch. I don’t really consider it a start button when a motor doesn’t start.
Quick and Quiet
The two things that immediately impress in an EV are the lack of noise and the immediate delivery of power from the electric motor. Learners notice the quietness which makes it a relaxed learning environment, especially for the more nervous pupils. They also notice the immediate delivery of power, some of them like it too much.
Electric motors deliver their maximum power the moment they are turned on unlike internal combustion engines that build up to maximum power sucking in and exploding fuel then progressing through gears. Even in Eco Mode the Leaf is quick to accelerate at urban speeds. 30MPH seems to be reached instantaneously.
Learning in an EV
Learners are driving with low end acceleration in EVs that was only expected in powerful fossil fuelled cars. As driving instructors (I really don’t like the word instructor, so old fashioned, we train and coach now) we have to train learners to deal with the instant power of an electric motor by encouraging more gentle use of the accelerator, especially when moving off.
They need to understand the expectations of the motorists around them and plan for it. The way a learner in an EV drives is different to a learner in a manual fossil fuelled car. Most motorists pulling up in the right hand lane at traffic lights probably expect to pull away ahead of “the learner” and get in front of them. It’s a bad attitude around a vulnerable road user but common. Little do they expect to see the driving school car disappear into the distance before they’ve got their clutch to bite. We need to consider the possible responses of drivers around us.
An EV is so smooth and quiet the sensation of speed can be lost. Both the learner and Instructor need to monitoring the speedo more thoroughly. Over the years I’ve developed an instinct to know roughly how fast a car is going without looking at the speedo. Even in the Hybrid cars where engine noise was minimal and often not directly related to the speed of the car. As instructors we sense the noises and vibrations. EVs have no noise or vibration from the motor, it’s a different training experience.
Within 5 minutes of driving my Leaf from the dealer I knew there was no way I’d go back to a fossil fuelled car. Teaching in the EV is so much better and pupils love the experience as well. I guess I am Electric Instructor now.