Saturday, July 28, 2018

An average EV day

Drivers of electric vehicles  are invariably asked as an opening question, 'How far will it go on a charge?' The question is often followed a shake of the head and a response along the lines 'That's not very far, is it?' This scenario becomes tedious after a short time. Most EV drivers have embraced the shortcomings of our vehicles, in order to focus on the many areas where owning an electric car eclipses FOSSIL car road tax, very low servicing costs, low fuel costs, lack of emissions and of course quiet driving. Below I have a personal response to those who suggest that a first generation Zoe (22KW) does not have enough range for them on a daily basis.

This post presupposes that there is such a thing as an average day for EV owners!
My story begins the evening prior, I usually plug in Zoe on my return from the work day. However, my charge does not begin at that point as I am a good citizen and am aware that the biggest strain on the UK National Grid is early evening when we come home and begin turning on appliances and of course cooking and watching TV. If I were to begin a charge at this time my usage along with others could trigger a fossil fuel power station being brought onstream....not a good thing!
On Zoe I can preset the charge time in advance, the majority of EV's globally can also do this. I usually set charging to begin around 1am the next morning, when the Grid is less stressed. If I had an Economy 7 tarrif this would also greatly reduced the cost of each KW of elecricity.
(The Renault ZE app)

Having charged Zoe overnight, at 7:30 am I always have 100% ready for the day.
I will select a Friday in school term time. At 7:40 I set off on the school run for my grandchildren requiring around 16 miles of range on average . I then drop in at our office, using 1 or 2 additional miles.
At around midday I set off on the 46 mile round trip to Chepstow which includes travelling from 60m above sea level up to 240m and back down to sea level in Chepstow. The benefit of an EV on this type of journey is that as with ICE cars we use energy going uphill, whers we differ is coming back down....Zoe can on a good day regen' 5-7 miles of range, basically the braking system turns into a dynamo enabling battery recharging going downhill and or braking. This is also a standard EV extra, in fact Zoe is the least effective EV on the road today.

On my return from Chepsrow  I am usually too late for the afternoon school run, but  I often drop my grandson to cricket training which is an additional 10 mile round trip.
I get home having travelled almost 75 miles without range the summer I would still have around 10 -15 range left, whereas in the winter it may just be under 10 miles remaining.....I can the set a charge time, plug into the ROLEC 3KW charger on my wall and leave the car to charge again overnight. This travel pattern would be repeated throughout the week.
You can see from this that for the majority of my week Zoe has a usage and recharge cycle that enables me the flexibilty that suits me and also makes best use of the battery pack in Zoe.
There will be out of the ordinary days like our trip to Coventry (109 miles away) which do require some planning, this may only occur half a dozen times each year....

I would say that users should look for an EV that fits their usual day and their budget.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

How did the story begin?

Since my return to the UK in 2016 I was using a 2011 Fiat Panda to get around, the Panda is a very economic and easy car to drive.
However, I have been increasingly concerned over our human carbon footprint for some time. Having followed many very dirty diesels in addition to hearing about the impact of car fumes on the next generation I had it in my mind to make a change.

Throughout 2017 I spent time researching the electric vehicle revolution, and our neighbours acquired a Nissan Leaf mid year. This led me to the Renault Zoe, as the Leaf is a bit big for me, also I think that they look quite ugly!
I am a semi-reformed petrol-head and can be swayed by the exhaust note of many classic cars, including my beloved MGB, having owned a few in my time. I searched many a car advert, from Jaguar S Type R to Mazda RX-8 and back again before finally returning to electric power.

In November I found the GoGreen Autos website and was taken by the no nonsense attitude of proprietor  Matt West. I made a trip up to Kingston Bagpuize to view and drive a very nice looking 2015 Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav 22KWh under warranty until 2019 with 20,000 miles on the clock.
As you can see from Matt's pictures Zoe was in very good order...
From front to back and even under the bonnet...
Also the Zoe is a good looking car, even when not compared directly to the Leaf!
After a short sensible negotiation the deal was agreed, part exchange signed and I had become the owner of Zoe. All that remained to complete was the battery lease application.....this is because the vast majority of Zoe's in Europe are sold where you own the car, but Renault own and lease the battery pack - annual mileage dictates the amount per month paid.

                 Annual Mileage 4500 6000   7500    9000    10500
                 22kW                   £49    £59      £69        £79        £89
The lease ensures that should your battery pack drop below 75% efficiency that Renault will replace it. For the lease you also get nationwide car recovery and up to 3 days car hire. You can call out the recovery for breakdowns, flat tyres and even running out of electric charge. I still think that this is a good deal as it give peace of mind for a relatively small cost.
If anyone considering an EV is squeamish about leasing the battery pack there are plenty of cars out there where you own the car and batteries.
We arranged the handover for the nearest motorway service station with a fast (45KW) charger thus enabling us to get home with ease. Matt from Go Green also loaned me a Granny Cable (it plugs into your domestic wall socket) until I had arranged the fitting of my own home charger. All part of the good service provided by the current EV seller community.
I selected a locally based supplier to fit my charger, in order to support local businesses. The cost £180 - using the UK Government Grant of £500 towards the fitting of chargers (you can fit a second charger and claim the full Grant again).
I now have a 3KWh Rolec charger on the front of the house (it is quite discrete) - so can now charge my 22KW battery pack from 0-100% in just over 7 hours at a price of £0.13 per KW - £2.86. I actually rarely if ever charge from empty, I mainly return with at least 40% charge remaining (13.2KW- charge cost £1.71).
EV drivers are always asked how far will it go? The answer for the 22KW Zoe is... it depends. Batteries do not like temperature extremes therefore the Zoe will usually manage 65-70 miles on a full charge in winter and 90-95 miles in the summer.. for me my daily range is usually around 50 miles giving me a good buffer to get home.
Of course on long journeys, especially in our part of Wales require a little planning in advance... 

So how have I found my time with Zoe... it has been challenging...
and frustrating....
But, ultimately I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wouldn't change anything, well, almost anything! My future choice is very likely to be another EV, perhaps with a slightly larger battery pack and a tad more range.... more to follow.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Life with Zoe

I have renamed our blog to begin telling stories of electric car ownership in Wales. Many readers will know that back in December 2017 that I finally took the step away from combustion engined travel - vehicles also know as ICE (Internal Combustion Engine or FOSSILS - named after the original of the fuel type and also because they have been around for over 100 years! ZOE came from a very nice man called Matt at Go Green Autos in Oxfordshire. ZOE was registered on my birthday in 2015, so was just over 2 years old and had covered 20,000 pollution free miles when she came to Wales.

ZOE is a 22KWh battery powered vehicle with a notional range at 3-4.5 Miles per KWh giving a range of between 66 ( cold/winter) and 99 ( warm/summer) miles between charges. The majority of the time ZOE charges at home for £0.13 per KW.... 0-100% charge costing £ could be cheaper if we had Economy 7 with cheap overnight electricity!

 Life with Zoe has not always been an easy road, she is basically more computer than car and as such suffers from occasional 'glitches', the technology is also relatively new and as such suffers from early adoption issues. However, I still would not swap her for anything other than a 40KWh+ battery vehicle.

ZOE has been on the back of a flatbed truck once or twice to the very nice people at Cardiff Renault, the team there led by another Matt on the service desk has always treated us courteously and with respect, I can't fault their customer service.

I wanted to give an insight into the up's and down's of EV ownership by describing our day yesterday. Jaycob and I set off from Abergavenny with 100% charge to drive the 118 miles to an event called EV's in the Park in Coventry.

You will note immediately that at best 99 miles does not equate to 118 miles. I had planned 2 stops for charging. The first was 58 miles away on the M5. We arrived with 20% battery remaining. We got lucky here as our 35 minute stop (including toilets and breakfast - at 8am) ... even more of a bonus was the fact that the charger gave us a FREE CHARGE ( this happens from time to time on the Ecotricity network and is a bonus).
Stop 2 was 23 miles away on the M42. We arrived and met some fellow travellers also on their way to Coventry, charge of 20 minutes to 96% ... cost £2.49. We arrived nicely at 11am to enter the show ground and parked right behind a Tesla Roadster... Jaycob was very happy!!! total cost for 118 miles £2.49
We had a great day trying out vehicles and talking to EV owners and members of the public. We left the show at around 3.45 in order to avoid the rush (there were 103+ vehicles at the show this year). We travelled back to our M42 charge point to charge up to 97% at a cost of £4.49)... now the journey home is a bit more challenging as there is not a fast charger on the southern service station that we needed on the M5. I had planned a short dash for a charge at Waitrose on London Road Worcester.... we arrived with a notional 63 miles and an onward journey of at least 68 miles... so needed a few electrons.
I had stopped at the POLAR chargers in Worcester previously with no problem... sadly not so on this occasion. The first post began charging with no problem, we were just about to go in for another drink break for about 20 minutes when we noticed that ZOE had stopped charging...also there were engine and charging warning lights flashing on the dashboard!!! The car would not allow me to select a gear only to stay in Park!... the charger has charged me the £1.20 connection fee! We decided to take a 20 minute break anyway in order to see if ZOE's computer cleared the error probably caused by the faulty charger....
On our return we were pleased that all seemed well, so we swapped to a second charge post at the same place.....NO charge possible, but at least no warning lights! Can we get home... probably not still 68 miles on motorway and dual carriageway with 63 notional miles on the Guess-O-Meter (GOM)! we searched for other chargers locally and found a similar 7KW charger at ASDA in Worcester... so off to ASDA we went.
Connected with no problem to the ASDA POLAR charger and we took a 30 minute stroll around while we waited for a boost a cost of £1.20.
We left for home with around 80 miles showing on the GOM and arrived home with 20 miles of charge remaining.
So not all plain sailing then and we probably took 1.5 hours longer than we would have in a FOSSIL car...cost for 236 miles of driving £9.38 ( sadly we had to count the extra £1.20 at Waitrose or it would have been £8.18 giving a cost of around £0.40 per mile... it would have been £0.35 if we hadn't paid twice in Worcester!

So all in all we had a lovely day, a bit of drama and tales to tell. That really sums up EV driving in 2018....more to follow.

A dear friend

It seems very apt to be writing this blog post in tribute to a dear, dear friend. The world has lost a true global educational  IT innovator...