Peter's Blog

10,000 miles on Electric Avenue

Written by Peter Johnston on .

It has been quite a long time since I have had an update on my ongoing journey with an electric vehicle, though I have been keeping my video blog going throughout the year and have many regular viewers on YouTube - with regular correspondence as a result (my Youtube channel is www.youtube.com/alloam). Indeed, if I look back at all that correspondence I am heading to around 20 people who have bought a Renault ZOE influenced by my video blog and realising that an electric vehicle could fit easily into their routine and normal driving. So much so that more than a few folks think I should be on commission by Renault!

For many, many years I have been receiving a weekly copy of Auto Express in the post (one of those birthday presents from over 15 years ago that just keeps giving!) who annually carry out a Driver Power Survey. I have never been able to complete one of these as one of the restrictions to completing it is that your car needs to be less than three years old and our cars were always older. However, I did complete the extensive questionnaire for the 2015 survey for the first time giving my input as a driver of the electric Renault ZOE.

A week ago the results came out and I was blown away to see my wee Renault come out in 5th place out of 200 cars. It was the highest rated electric vehicle, though the Nissan Leaf was just three places behind - a good showing from these two electric cars. It was no surprise to see the Renault come out in first place for running costs (what running costs?), and in second place for ease of driving. This is a survey from data of real life users (rather than reviewers who may have a car for a day or two on which to base their review) and so much more representative of actual user satisfaction. Of course, I think this wee Renault is a great car. It is not perfect, but for our uses it works brilliantly and extraordinarily efficiently. As the survey reveals, I am not alone in thinking this.

This is important for people to know as I hear over and over again, "that is great, but..." Hearing the stories of people who have made the jump and how straightforward it turns out to be (and this will only become increasingly the case as the charging network grows and as cars with longer ranges as a result of improving battery technology and increased efficiency grow).

ZOE at 10,000 miles

A few weeks ago I tipped over 10,000 miles in the car. The car has behaved faultlessly during that time. The only slight ripples along the way have related to the public charging infrastructure though I have never been left stranded as a result. The only time I ran out of battery juice completely I did intentionally to see what the car would do (I like to know these things!). ZOE finally drifted to a halt after more than 128 miles completed on a single charge - really very impressive when you think about it.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. Indeed, though it will be a couple more years before we can afford to replace the other much larger diesel car, I am already wishing there were some 6 or 7 seater electric cars on the market now so that by the time we are looking for a replacement for the second car we would have some second-hand affordable options available. I wish Citroën had a plug-in hybrid version of the C4 Picasso in the market.

It is becoming increasingly important to see more diversity in powertrains for cars as it looks as though diesel power will be coming under increasing pressure as a result of pollution constraints for cities and towns where diesel engines are a large source of nitrous oxide emissions which are linked to poor health. The rush to diesel to combat carbon dioxide emissions (they are generally more efficient than petrol motors) to aid global climate has had a nasty side effect in raised nitrous oxide levels in built-up areas. No such problems with electric vehicles, of course, which produce no emissions from the car.

This week Tesla (which produce the most aspirational electric cars) announced that they are going to be selling large batteries for the home which allow you to store energy (10 or 15kWh sizes). These would be fantastic in areas where energy supply can be interrupted, though this is not really an issue for us here. However, where these batteries would head into no-brainer territory is for homes that have solar arrays on their roofs. At the moment solar power is either used by the house or fed back into the power grid (for which you receive some money back). These batteries would add a whole lot more flexibility. You could draw on them during times of peak power draw when the power utilities have to fire up extra gas plants to meet the demand, or use that power to charge your electric car overnight, then letting the sun top up the household batteries during the day.

Which is all a way of saying that things are changing and our old presumptions about how we use energy and produce energy are slowly beginning to change. They need to.