ALD Automotive Maintenance Controller Jerry Clist’s electric vehicle diary
ALD Automotive has recently bought a new vehicle to evaluate, test and generally help us familiarise ourselves with the technology that seems to be causing the biggest buzz at the moment - the electric vehicle.
With little or no ‘’real world’’ information and plenty of doubters in the vehicle market place, the car will be evaluated to help understand the vehicle’s strengths, weaknesses and how practical this vehicle will be to our customers.
We aim to feed back to you as much of our driving experience with this vehicle as possible to help de-bunk any misinformation or preconceived ideas you may have or heard about electric vehicles.
The biggest question at the moment for any potential owner of an EV is what distance can I drive before the batteries run out? Well here in the South-West we have plenty of roads (in various conditions), along with a sufficient number of EV unfriendly hills, enabling us to deliver first-hand driver feedback on the range of the vehicle.
We also plan to record the miles covered and the amount of charge (kWh) fed back into the vehicle to calculate the cost per mile.
The cost-per-mile information available to us suggests that one kWh unit can cost between 22 pence and 26 pence and if you’re lucky enough to have an electric meter that records night time units (between 22:00hrs – 08:00hrs) the pence per kWh drops to a paltry 5 pence.
Now with the manufacturer claiming a driving range of 109 miles in good circumstances and our preferred dealer located 82 miles away, we thought it would be a good idea to take delivery from the dealer and drive it back to the ALD offices in Bristol!
The quoted driving range of 109 miles is based on the best-case driving scenario for the vehicle – i.e. – an ideal ambient temperature of 23 degrees and with the climate control switched off.
Luckily the day turned out to offer fine weather with slightly less than ideal 18 degrees centigrade.
The vehicle handover went smoothly enough but took a little longer because the batteries needed topping-up (1 hour) and the central locking needed re-calibrating.
Ready to go, the salesman handed over the ignition keys and opened the door for me to climb in whilst happening to mention that the full driving range is usually only achieved after the batteries have received a few charges, therefore today’s 95 mile range will improve!
The stakes just increased and the prospect of the embarrassing ‘’I’ve broken down’ phone call just became a little more realistic.
This news was compounded by me having to join the motorway a junction further away because of an accident just up the road meant a very challenging drive ahead.
The Motorway drive was fairly un-eventful and I have driven slower (ALD Automotive MPG Marathon) making it to the next junction without mishap.
The route I chose back to Bristol worked out to be the shortest route possible allowing me to take some comfort in an overall shorter distance, however it factored in a couple of long up hills (Mendip Hills Cheddar Gorge area) and a long haul up to Broadfield Down where Bristol Airport is located.
Luckily both these geographical challenges were overcome by a combination of light throttle applications and use of the vehicle’s brake regeneration system which fed some precious power back into the traction batteries.
Happily we arrived back at ALD Automotive Bristol with 13 miles range remaining to be greeted by my colleagues’ long faces - if I were a betting man I would have been a few pounds richer that afternoon.
Having had the pleasure of driving the car for a week I thought I would share a few EV experiences with you.
Generally the vehicle goes un-noticed by pedestrians and fellow motorists. A few people have turned on their heel and given it a puzzled stare. A few occupants of following vehicles have strained to look intently at it and on occasion frantically overtaken it to get a better look. Again they have a puzzled look on their face.
I have yet to experience a pedestrian stepping out in front of the car probably due to the audible whine emitted up to 30mph. I wonder if I should switch this off purely for test purposes.
I have experienced EV hate!
Over the weekend I thought I should try the award winning Cabot Circus Bristol Multi Storey EV car-parking facilities. Apparently whilst parked here you can take advantage of the free plug-in facilities to top-up your battery for the duration of the stay. I found the Level 2 EV parking facilities and squeezed into one of the three bays marked out for a golf buggy sized vehicle. I duly plugged the charge lead into the parking bay socket and made sure I used the handy combination lock on the vehicle at the end of the charge lead to stop anyone removing it from the car.
Four hours later we returned only to find someone had un-plugged the lead from the parking bay socket leaving the lead discarded on the floor to the side - - Not a great start with this EV friendly multi-storey car park!
I registered my displeasure with one of the car park attendants who promised to contact me later after investigating the incident.
The expected phone call failed to arrive so I have a pending investigation logged with Cabot Circus Car Park Manager and wait to see what they un-earth!
...and for now
I find that the more miles I put on the car’s clock the much talked about range anxiety diminish from my thoughts. From the day I picked up the car, my range anxiety was at its height. This feeling is akin to setting off on a long journey knowing fully well you have no money in your pocket to pay for fuel to reach your destination. And now with a mere 200 miles on the clock I have a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and can confidently say I would buy one tomorrow without hesitation.