In with the old

I now have an old Nissan Leaf fully electric car, an older 2012 model. Bought it for fun and to understand how it all works, as in how it fits into work life along with the pros and cons. I wanted to see what life is like living with electric cars and whether by using it to make my daily drive to work, to the shops and to teach karate, whether I can also keep my gas guzzling Mazda CX-7 and be cost-neutral.

The owner of the garage had already told me that it might say 90 miles as the range, but 70 is more realistic. I can accept that, given the age of the car and its batteries.

I had only zipped around town for the first 3 days and only got it fully charged for Saturday morning. It declared a range of 90 miles. I popped over to Christchurch for an order of KFC's 20 wing bucket and could see the 90 coming down pretty quickly to 70 something in no time at all.

I went home and plugged it in for a top-up before the night's journey to a friends wedding anniversary near Fordingbridge. That was 18.5 miles away, making the whole journey 37 miles. At the end of the night when we returned, the car said it had 25 miles left. It feels like 60 is more realistic. That was in the summer.

I did have the aircon on when driving earlier in the day and going up the Wessex Way I tried to keep it to 60 mph maximum. People do ask whether it uses more energy when going faster, and my response is yes, just like a petrol car.

Range anxiety

The first real test of Range Anxiety came in my drive to a secondary business location we set up, at the Dorset Innovation Park near Wool. Google Maps it says it is 28 miles, via my preferred route of going through Bere Regis rather than the Wareham route.

Two times 28 gives 56, which is less than 60 miles. So, in my mind I should be fine, but there's always that lingering doubt about whether that is too close to call, and what if once I get to the Park, that the range estimated was going to be 28 or less. In the end I was fine, but changed the car into ECO mode that gives about 10% more on paper, by curtailing the enthusiastic acceleration that these spritely cars can have.

Any range anxiety about driving to Wool and back went away when we installed a charging point at our facility. Whether it's a quick top up or charging to full, it means I can get the aircon on, or heating on the way home. It's surprising how much electricity even just having the blowers on, aircon or not, just to demist the windscreen. That's one reason why you get more range in summer.

Be in charge

One thing I learnt about batteries, they are best charged to 80% max for long term battery life. When I saw there was a configuration that limited te maximum charge to 80% and not 100%, I initially removed it thinking why wouldn't I want a "full" charge. Once I had read up on things, I re-enabled that setting but I can manually override when I know I am doing a longer journey the next day and need a safety net. When I can, I let it run down to 20% and then plug in to charge overnight, rather than doing a top up every day.

Oh about driving in Winter. The batteries go down quicker, even without the blowers on. You tend to mist up more and need a quick blast on the windscreen every now and again.

I love driving the car, I absolutely do. It's just so easy. Get in, start and press the peddle. It’s just a gradual increase of speed. Even automatics have that gapping when changing gears that can be annoying. The EV is relaxing, calming. The quick pickup is speed is fun too. One big Audi must have got annoyed at me pulling away, and away, as they floored it and overtook at speed (dangerously) on the road from the Triangle to Westbourne.

I can definitely imagine how nice it would be with reduced noise and no vehicle fumes in city centres. That will be a big benefit for us and the children when there are more and more electric cars in use.

Getting to know you...

Driving an all electric vehicle is about getting to know it well, getting to know how far it can go as part of your every day life. Don't do what a friend did in their new Nissan Leaf within a couple of weeks of getting it, which was to drive to Wales from near Bournemouth. That's way too early in your relationship to do that!

I'm not here to recommend anything to you. This just works for me and I like it. I could get rid of the Mazda, it's hefty road tax and sometimes way expensive servicing costs, and just hire a new car when I need to do a long journey. However, it suits me right now.

I am hoping at some point soon, there will be a 3rd party path to replacing the battery pack in the Leaf, so it becomes like new. The engines are basic, so less to go wrong. As long as the chassis frame and internals hold up to wear and tear, the car should last for ages and still be a smooth runner.