When it comes to cars, it’s no secret that I like driving – but, like all of us, I have to consider what’s best for my family’s lifestyle. Driving a Nissan LEAF EV (electric vehicle) and leasing it is, for me, the best option. For less than £300 per month, I have instant access to a zero emission vehicle that can get me anywhere I need to go.
I leased my LEAF from a company called Greenhous in Shropshire, which specialises in hybrid and electric vehicles. Despite being one of the biggest car leasing companies in the UK, I still received fantastic personal service; the company certainly lives up to its motto of ‘being the best’ it can.
For me, the first and most important thing to mention about driving an EV is the joy of not having to step inside a petrol station. Ever. I’ve avoided them for over four months now – and the fact that I’ve paid pennies for over a thousand miles of driving is remarkable. That looks likely to change in 2016 – but even if fees are applied to charging, overall it will never cost more than liquid gold!
If I only recharge the battery on the road and use Ecotricity’s Electric Highway, POD Point or Chargemaster stations, then recharging is free. If charging at home then it costs about 2p per mile – but those with their own renewable energy supply would, of course, also avoid paying for the charge.
My experience with Pod Point and Chargemaster stations has been great; scattered around car parks, these power points are great for topping up while you take a break from driving. The other option is Ecotricity’s Electric Highway, which covers pretty much all of Britain’s motorway network; I’ve never been more than 60 miles from a convenient charge point on any of the motorway journeys I’ve made.
If I drive conservatively (no faster than 60mph) I can get about 80 miles out of a full charge in my LEAF, meaning I can easily get from one to the next – though the driving style required does sometimes attract the odd beep and flash!
A lot of the Ecotricity charge points I visited were offline between December and February, apparently because the systems were being upgraded – but I’m pretty sure the cold weather had some impact as well. Cold spells also affected the LEAF’s range pretty significantly, but to Nissan’s credit, I’ve felt more let down by the EV infrastructure than by the car itself.
This is hardly surprising considering that no one governs the structure of the EV network. The result is that each changing station is different; some have leads, some don’t – some are online and ready to charge when you roll up, but some aren’t. And then you face the reality of being miles from your closest charge point with only a sniff of power left in your battery.
There are various websites to help you avoid this frankly terrifying dilemma; I found Zap Map to be the most reliable and useful way to keep track of which stations are working and where they are.
I was told Ecotricity and Nissan LEAF worked together to create the Electric Highway, and it’s an excellent service (when it’s working). But the strange thing is that, even though the LEAF has an on-board computer that directs me to the closest charging stations, it doesn’t pick up the Electric Highway ones.
Now I’m no scientist, but one would have thought this might have been quite an important feature. Tesla, of course, has this nailed; it recently announced its on-board technology would never let you stray too far from a charging station, which should put an end to range anxiety.
I’m glad I’m doing my bit for humanity; the drive from Brighton to Yorkshire took longer in our LEAF than it would have with a foot-down-with-no-consideration-to-the-fact-that-oil-will-soon-be-gone mentality, but I enjoyed the quality time with my fiancée and daughter – singing and chatting away while HGVs flew past us.
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