So you have made the leap and bought an electric car. Here an EV owner of two years offers her top tips to help ease you through the first few days.
There is a right way to own an electric vehicle and a wrong way. I’d have to admit that for the first year I was in the former category – range anxiety, a feeling of panic when asked to drive to a meeting in the next city, abandoned cables and regular towings. Basically I was full of regret at having bought the damned thing.
It became a running joke at work to “ask Emma if she got towed on the weekend.” The good news is that all of these mistakes eventually led me to become a more chilled EV owner – and whilst you cannot plan for every failure, I’ve hopefully been through enough problems in two years to impart some advice to any new panicky EV owner.
EV buzz words explained
Panic # 1 – RANGE
You’ll pick up your car from the dealer with a full charge, with the expected mileage showing on the dashboard. At first you’ll likely notice your range is dropping faster than your distance travelled. In particular, the first time you charge it yourself the total range on the dashboard will be WAY lower than the car’s supposed range. Don’t panic! The ‘full charge’ figure will be different every time as it shows the mileage you got out of your last charge – this is a reflection of your driving style (which was suited to fuel cars) and will adjust.
Firstly, you’ll learn to lift your foot off the accelerator as often as possible (particularly when going downhill) allowing the recharge function to kick in. You’ll find you can eventually get maybe 80 or 90 miles out of it if you live somewhere flat and busy (like London), maybe 80 miles in a city like Bristol and about 65 miles of range on the motorway. It will take a few months to get the hang of it, just be patient and pay attention to the way you drive vs the range displayed.
Panic #2 – WHERE TO CHARGE
If you’re lucky enough to have a home charger installed, this takes the pressure off a great deal. Charge at home as often as possible and only use public chargers when necessary – public chargers now bill you for charging and are less reliable than home chargers. I was originally a home charger but have since moved into the city with no place to install it. So I’m now in the public-charging-only category too!
For your first public charge, pick a quiet time to try it – when you won’t have to queue with commuters or have an audience. Ideally try this well before you’re low on charge and somewhere close to home. The first time I ventured to a public changer was awful – I had no idea what I was doing and a coach of elderly were parked next to me asking questions and staring. (Fortunately a lot has changed in 2 years and people are far more familiar with electric cars now)
Before you go to your first public charger, make sure you’ve signed up to all the relevant charging companies – unfortunately there are quite a few now and they all charge different amounts. Usually a charger will be affiliated to one (maybe two) charging schemes and you’ll need the relevant membership to use it.
Panic #3 – HOW TO CHARGE
These instructions are based on my experiences with my Renault ZOE, but should translate to most EVs:
- Get out of your car with your RFID card in your hand (if you have one), or your phone containing the charging app (eg. Charge Your Car)
- View the public charger screen and follow the prompts – it should request you scan your membership RFID or simply connect via the app. It might ask you to select your charging type (eg. AC for Zoe and Tesla; DC for Nissan Leaf)
- Connect the cable to the charger (if you are using a portable cable)
- Press the charging button on your key to release the door and insert the cable into the car
- Check the public charger screen for any further prompts
- Listen for the high pitched charging sound and without unlocking your car (ie. look through the window), check the dashboard to ensure the battery is being charged.
NB: On the Renault Zoe, the actual charge time takes approx half the time predicted on the dashboard (so don’t abandon your car for too long!) You can also sit in your car during charging but I’d wait a few seconds before unlocking the doors as this can interrupt the charge on the Zoe.
Once finished, check the public charger monitor for prompts (you’ll probably have to rescan your RFID card or disconnect via the app); always unplug from your car first, remember to close the flap. Finally, disconnect the cable from the machine if you’re using a your own cable.