There’s no Reason to Buy a Petrol or Diesel Car

We are now at a point where there is almost no reason for anybody buy a new petrol or diesel car. If you’re buying a new car it should be electric. With decent battery ranges, a model to suit most needs available and cost of ownership parity with ICE cars your next car should be electric.

Owning an EV

Now 4 months into Nissan Leaf ownership I’ve experienced most driving situations and types of journey. The 30kW Leaf I have was replaced by a new model 2 years ago and is, in the fast moving world of electric vehicles, now considered a low range car. At about 120 miles range on a good day I have no problem doing a day’s driving lessons charging overnight then with an hour’s top up on the slow charger while I’m having lunch.

Long journeys have been a pleasure. I have realised it takes longer to do the miles on Britain’s roads than we think. I usually need a break before the car is empty and, with a bit of planning ahead, the public rapid charging network is good. So a quick break gets enough electricity in for the next leg of a journey. There have also been unexpected 100 mile round trips to my parents as my father has been ill. With my father foremost in my mind I’ve not even thought about charging. I know where the rapid chargers are and simply stop if I need some juice.

With this experience it becomes plain that with a slight change of habits just about anybody can use an electric vehicle. With 200 mile and more range normal on new vehicles there’s a car to suit just about anybody’s requirements. Although still a bit more expensive to buy, EVs cost so little to run and have such high residual values that cost of ownership is now on parity, if not better, than an ICE car. They are usually high specification models so comparable to top of the range ICE vehicles.

A Car For Every Need

Let’s consider the electric models currently available. This is by no means an extensive list and some may be missed out as new models are being announced on a regular basis, and I might have forgotten some. These are all cars you can order or register an interest in at the time of writing.

Urban Runaround

  • Smart EQ
  • Renault Twizzy
  • VW eUp

Small hatchbacks

  • Renault Zoe
  • Honda e
  • BMW i3
  • Peugeot 208
  • BMW Mini
  • Vauxhall Corsa.

Medium sized hatchbacks

  • Nissan Leaf 40kW
  • Nissan Leaf 64kW
  • VW ID
  • VW eGolf
  • Hyundai Ioniq

Small SUV

  • Hyundai Kona
  • Kia eNiro
  • MG ZS

Mid Size Saloon

  • Tesla Model 3.

Large SUV

  • Jaguar iPace
  • Audi eTron
  • Tesla Model X
  • Mercedes EQC

Large Saloon

  • Tesla Model S

There must be a car in those lists to suit every purpose. Then there’s commercial vehicles. Lots of electric vans are being released and the Nissan eNV200 electric van is well established with a 7 seater in the range. Also camper conversions are available from specialist conversion companies.

There has to be a Maybe

Maybe I’m being a little arrogant, there has to be a maybe to this assertion that everybody buying new should buy an EV. There are two things that cause difficulty at the moment. The first is for people who have no off street parking so cannot charge overnight at home. There are solutions, by chasing councils and making it known you want an EV things can change. We now have excellent Ubitricity urban charging in Portsmouth. It made it possible for me to own an EV. The second reason is the long wait for new electric cars. There may be lots of models available, however, the demand for electric cars is so high if you order one now you’ll probably have to wait until some time in 2020 to get delivery. Most people can wait, some might not be able to.

Used Electric Cars

In this article I’m suggesting new car buyers should buy an EV. The used car market doesn’t have the supply to make it a choice for everybody. The EV with the highest sales since it’s launch in 2011 is the Nissan Leaf. The amount on our roads is small in comparison to ICE cars. Demand is high for them keeping prices high and making them difficult to find used. Currently the prices of used Nissan Leafs is increasing, not many cars increase in value as they get older. Buying a used EV requires some determination to find one. You need to offset the low running costs against the higher price of purchase. If residuals hold up the cost of ownership could still be less than an ICE car.

2025, No Justification For Buying ICE

The market is sorting out the move to EVs quicker than governments. By 2025 new car buyers will not be able to justify to themselves buying a petrol of diesel car. Electric cars will be cheaper to buy and run, battery range will be 300 to 400 miles, public charging will continue to improve. The cost of ownership of ICE cars will be much higher, buyers won’t be able to justify the higher cost of purchase and ownership. This will drive down ICE car demand and hence residual prices which will further increase cost of ownership and consequently lease costs will increase. Buyers won’t want an ICE car if it looks like residual prices are tumbling and by 2030 it will be worth very little as EVs establish themselves.

Fleet buyers buy most of the new vehicles. Businesses want the significant savings possible with EVs.

Cities with little off street parking will have to get on with installing the on street charging network otherwise people won’t want to live and work in them if car ownership is a lot more expensive.

EV charging sign

Technology is Moving Quickly

The rate of change will drive the market. You only have to look how far we’ve come from the original 2011 Nissan Leaf. In just 8 years the Leaf has gone from a 24kW battery to 64kW in essentially the same vehicle. 64kW capacity is giving 200 to 300 miles of range in many EVs. By 2025 the density of batteries will increase further and the purchase cost decrease. New car customers will want these cars that cost less to buy, cost a fraction of the cost of ICE cars to run and have almost no servicing requirement. Because of good residuals lease costs will be lower than ICE cars. By this time a lot more people will have been exposed to EVs and realise they are quiet, fast and comfortable. They will have friends and relatives running them and realise they are simply better vehicles.

Cost of ownership will be the motivating force for EV ownership. The benefits to being kinder to the climate will motivate a lot of people as well. The fact they can run a car on renewable energy and not pollute the air in the place they live will be important.

Buy Electric

My message is simple, if you’re buying a new car buy electric and get a green energy tariff to charge it with. Politicians can sit around making noises for and against de-carbonising the economy buy it’s the market, and it’s consumers, that will drive the change before they do anything with any urgency.

By The Time I Bought My Lunch The Car Was Charged

Rapid charging

One of the concerns about owning an EV is what happens if an unexpected trip comes up and the car isn’t charged.

I’m 4 months into 30kW Leaf ownership now. My daily use as a driving instructor works well starting each day with a full battery and charging for an hour at lunch time on the 5.5kWh public charging post I use. Usually finish the day with about 30% battery.

In the last 2 weeks my father has been taken ill and ended up in hospital a couple of times resulting in unexpected 100 mile round trips to visit my parents. I also had a holiday which involved a 160 mile trip each way. On the way home I had to divert to my parents house adding A few more miles to my journey.

Because my concerns were more with my Father I didn’t really think about range or charging. You get to know how far your car goes and where all the charging points are on regular journeys.

By the time I’d bought my lunch the car was charged (Veggie Pasty of course)

On the long trip for a short holiday I’d planned stops to charge on route. In reality those were convenient stops anyway as I needed to use the toilet and/or I needed coffee and/or food. The rapid chargers are fast and usually by the time I’d bought a coffee the battery was nearly full.

My trip was from home in Southsea to Devon. On the way home one particularly pleasant stop was at Thruxton race track next to the A303 where they have a Genie Point rapid charger next to the Jackaroo Cafe. A nice place to sit in the sun with some lunch while the car charges. Something I simply wouldn’t have done in an ICE car. I’d probably have had an overpriced sandwich and coffee at roadside services.

There was one interesting encounter with some chap aggressively shouting at me at an Ecotricity charging point “what’s the point of those the electricity has to come from somewhere” My response of “windmills” just made him shout the same thing louder a couple of times. I watched him drag his knuckles along the floor to his diesel car.

With both long and unexpected journeys I simply got on and drove the Leaf, I’m really enjoying EV ownership.

Recharging Point Made

EV charging sign

At last the urban charging bay is complete. There is a now little plate by the charging space I use saying “Electric vehicle recharging point only” this little piece of metal means ICE cars will get a ticket if they block the space. Portsmouth Council have confirmed this in an email so I shall report ICEing using the myPortsmouth app.

I feel a bit bad reporting ICE cars, however, on reflection, if I went with a number of other drivers and parked by all the pumps at a petrol station leaving our cars there for a few days the consequences would probably be worse than a parking ticket. I guess our cars would be towed away and the police might be talking to us.

urban ev charging
Urban Charging

The consequences for an electric instructor not being able to charge is lost money, damaged reputation and the possibility a pupil might not be able to do a test.

The final stage of Portsmouth’s urban charging scheme being effective is enforcement. It will get the message out there that bays are for charging. Especially as there seems to be a bit of hostility out there towards EVs and angry objectors will block the bays if they can. As you would guess I don’t understand the anger towards electric vehicles. They’re not badly affecting other people’s lives in any way and are benefitting them with zero emissions from a vehicle in their city.

I’m looking forward to being able to plug in when work is finished without having to go to the rapid charger for 40 minutes. Point made.

Electric Driving Test Passes

Electric Driving Test Pass 1
Shannon the first electric pass

This week has sen the first two tests in the Electric Instructor Nissan Leaf at the Portsmouth Driving Test Centre. Both were passes.

First Time Pass

The first test was Shannon who passed first time after four months of weekly lessons. She was looking forward to the weekend when she could go car shopping.

Second Pass

Electric Instructor test pass 2
Erin the second electric pass

Erin took her test a couple of days later and passed with only one driving fault. Beating test day nerves she was looking forward to a drive in her Mum’s brand new car when it’s delivered.

For me as an instructor the Leaf is doing it’s job well. It’s all quite normal and yet so much better. The car is quiet and smooth making lessons a very calm experience.

Congratulations to Shannon and Erin. Enjoy safe driving and your new found freedom.

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.

The Cost of Electricity for an EV

Free EV charging
Free Charging at Ocean Retail Park

Two weeks of running my 30kW Nissan Leaf as a driving school car I’ve got a reasonable idea of the cost of electricity for an EV. I’m using public charging and relying mainly on rapid charging until the roadside chargers are installed by Portsmouth City Council. While a lot of my motivation to run an EV is environmental there has to be a cost saving to make it worthwhile.

In the first two weeks of ownership I’ve done a 137 mile Journey on motorways and dual carriageway, a few local trips with a majority of use being driving lessons. There were two rapid charges on the long trip which were high priced electricity and the rest using Polar chargers in the city.

Electricity Costs

  • Polar £13.55
  • Ecotricity £3.66
  • Genie Point £7.28
  • Total £24.49
  • Total Miles 623
  • Pence per mile 3.93

The Ecotricity and Genie Point were relatively expensive single charges at 30p per kWh for the Ecotricity and 20.945p per kWh for the Genie Point with an additional £1.00 connection charge. They were, however, based on main highways and an essential facility for a long drive. The Polar charger is a local rapid and this is multiple charges at 10.8p per kWh.

As a comparison with a car doing 50 miles per gallon, 50 miles of electricity has cost £1.96 comparing with a Gallon of petrol currently about £5.40. Or looking at it another way it’s equivalent to 137 miles a gallon. A significant saving even relying on the public charging network. If you have off street parking and an economy 7 electricity tariff these costs could be even less.

All of the energy used has been from green sources according to the suppliers websites which means that total emissions for the 623 miles has been zero. A very small contribution to help slow climate change and improve the air quality in Portsmouth and Southsea.

Free Fuel

Since I compiled these figures I’ve also used a couple of destination chargers. These are slower chargers based at retail destinations. One at Ocean Retail Park in Portsmouth where I spent half an hour in the shops and plugged the car in resulting in 15 miles of free fuel. The second at West Quays in Southampton. A shopping trip to Ikea resulted in a few hours parking. Plugging into the free charger took the battery from 55% to 98% and parking cost £3.20 which I would have paid for in a fossil fuelled car anyway.

I’m presuming these chargers are free as an incentive to attract people to shop there. Whether we have to pay for them in the future remains to be seen. The charging units at West Quays are very simple with a mechanical on and off switch rather than starting with an app or contactless card. They would all need upgrading to be able to charge for electricity.

Even relying on public charging I can see the Leaf is going to be significantly less expensive to run than a fossil fuelled car over an annual 20,000 miles. The  roadside charging points Portsmouth City Council are installing will make life a lot more convenient than using the rapid charger. Slower lower rate charging will be kinder to the battery long term as well.

A Week of Electric Lessons

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.