I have been a long time admirer and fan of the electric vehicle movement and have deliberated long and hard about whether or not it could work for me.
A couple of years ago I test drove the BMW i3 and really enjoyed the half an hour in the car, wishing that I had, had longer with the car. Aside from the initial purchase price and quite worryingly depreciation costs, a major downside for us as a family was that it only had 4 seats. Our second car needs 5 seats.
Roll forward a couple of years and I noticed that Nissan were advertising a 4 day test drive on their new and improved range Nissan Leaf, therefore I thought I would have another go at trying out to see if I could go electric. For a starter this one had 5 seats and also extended range over the earlier model Leafs. So a quick phone call to my local Nissan dealership and the salesman informed me that a 4 day test drive would not be a problem and I could come down that afternoon to pick one up. Excellent. At the appointed time I arrived. The 2016 30KWH Leaf was 98% charged and ready to go when I arrived. After discussions about the sort of driving I would be doing and apologies that there wasn’t an access card available for the public charging network (this would prove to crucial during my test drive), I was on my way.
The car read 98% charged with a range of 124 miles. This is where I began to notice that my driving style was not conducive to electric vehicles. 15 miles to home via the shops and the range was down to 99. I realised very quickly that I needed to amend my ways to make this relationship work.
The plan for the next day would be a real test for the range of the car. The proposed journey was a 85 mile trip from my home in Romsey to a meeting in Oxshott, Surrey via a 2 hour stop off in Portsmouth. The return leg would be direct from Oxshott back to Romsey. An overall journey of 142 miles.
The theoretical range of the 30KWH Leaf is 155 miles, expecting that not to be the case, I was anticipating plugging the car in for a top up at my destination to allow me to get back but naively thought this journey of about 145miles in total should be fine.
The first hint that there was going to be a problem came when I unplugged the car in the morning. After 14 hours of charging, the battery was not quite full and had reached a range of 124 miles again with 98% charge. So immediately I was 20 miles down on the range.
No matter we pressed on, down to Portsmouth, however the range indicator dropped like a stone on the motorway. 70mph and the range leaked away very quickly. By the time I had reached my first stop off 28miles later, the range had dropped by over 55 miles. I was nervous now that I might not even make the journey there, let alone make it back.
Fortunately I could plug in for the 2 hours I would be stopped in Portsmouth and so expected to get sufficient a boost to be ok. Those extra two hours of charging gave me another 19miles of range, enough to get my destination in Oxshott (just about) but worryingly how long would it take to charge sufficiently to return home. My stay in Oxshott would be for 5 hours and I would be able to plug in. But here is the problem I was limited to the domestic supply, with no access card to be able to use the rapid chargers at motorway services, I was completely reliant on how many charge could be pushed through the 3-pin plug via the domestic supply. It turns out, not really enough.
I arrived in Oxshott, having driven half the journey without the air-conditioning on in the car to ensure I had sufficient range to get to my meeting. I arrived with 8 miles to spare on the range. Let charging commence.
5.75 hours later, (the meeting went over time) and the range indicator stated 66miles. Distance to home 72miles. This was going to be a painful drive home. So on the hottest day of the year so far in 2016, I limped back to Romsey at 50mph with the air-con and ventilation system switched off, eeking out as many miles as I could. To my relief, chugging along in Eco mode with full regenerative braking on and not exceeding 51mph I clawed back the missing miles, soon I had 5 miles to spare, then at it’s peak 18 miles extra. I made it back with 14 miles showing left on the range. I was hot and bothered though and had well and truly experienced Range Anxiety. So I put the car back on charge and went into the house for a cold drink and a lie down….
Disconnect the car, after 14 hours of charging……. 88% charged, 109 miles range. It still required another 6 hours of charging to reach fully charged. I changed my plans and took the car back to the dealership. I wasn’t going to have another day like the previous day.
My 4 day test drive had barely lasted 36 hours.