By Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards at IAM RoadSmart
In 2030, whether we are ready or not, legislation will prevent the sale of ICE vehicles, including hybrid or plug-in hybrid versions, so my current vehicle which is a PHEV would not be an option. This blog isn’t about whether the PHEV is the best or worst of both worlds, and I can see the arguments either way, but for my current driving needs it does work. I can use no petrol when doing my daily tasks or rely on the ICE for the longer journeys that work sometimes presents.
The purpose of this story is to outline how living with a full EV affected my ability to do my job, is range anxiety a thing, how did I cope with the infrastructure and the claims made by the car manufacturers. It is not intended to be a road test of any of the vehicles, far cleverer people than I have extolled the virtues of these latest bits of kit. Having tried three different models all with approximately the same performance, specification and range I would have to say all three are a nice place to be and the performance is akin to a supercar of only a few years back.
My first journey after a day of filming in Welwyn Garden City was to journey home to North Yorkshire – a not inconsiderable 210 miles. My planning for the journey hadn’t been the best and starting the journey with only 20% battery meant an extended stay at Baldock services only 12 miles into my journey. Plugging the car into a medium speed charger meant that I would need at least 50 minutes to get to 80% battery ready to set off in earnest.
Just to discuss the 80%, all the vehicles quote a range for 100% battery but then suggest for longevity you limit the charge to either 80 or 90% depending on the manufacturer. Of course, this means my range will have reduced by 20% before I have even started. As I was going to be here for some time, I did make use of the excellent new fish and chip shop in the service area – you’ll see that fast food and coffee becomes a bit of a theme.
Fast forward to my fully charged car. I would recommend keeping an eye on the cost of electricity because at 39p per kWh the medium charger is one of the better rates, which cost just short of £20. A fast charger would have taken a few minutes off my wait but at 69p per kWh, it would’ve taken the cost to £32.
At last, I was ready to hit the road, the excellent navigation system listened to me and told me that my destination was out of range on an 80% charge and asked if I would like to programme in a stop. Wetherby services seemed like a good bet, 35 miles from home and I would have the choice of a short boost to the battery just to get me home, or a more substantial re-charge to leave me some range. As I had worked out that, with only a 13amp plug to charge on at home, the battery would take about 48hours to fully charge so I elected to take the pain and go for a longer re-charge. Anyone for coffee and cake?
After half an hour and another 30kWh added to the battery, I had plenty of mileage to get home. The journey as a whole was uneventful, the car is a nice place to be and apart from my 3 hours 15 minute journey taking me the best part of 5 hours, it was business as usual.
The next morning my diary was taking me from home in Yorkshire to Dundee and back, so working on what I had learned on my journey home and considering the likely temperatures when I left home at 05:00am, the projected charge of 60% wouldn’t be enough. I elected to take the PHEV and can report that it did the journey with one fuel stop - taking less than 5 minutes.
Saturday saw me planning to travel to Edale and back for a training session. Leaving home with my 80% battery I was easily going to make my destination. With no charging facility available at my destination and not enough range to make the return, I decided to plan my journey with a boost on the way down allowing me to make a stop at my soon to be favourite Wetherby services to ensure I had enough battery for the return journey. The costings for both charges worked out at slightly less than £35 and when I arrived home I had about 50% battery. The forecast of charging showed that my late finish and an early start was not going to allow the battery to get beyond 65% and this would mean an even lengthier stop for the same route on Sunday. I took the PHEV and did the return journey without stopping.
It’s safe to say it’s baby steps but at the end of my first week the jury is still out, when the car is moving it’s great, I quite like fast food so the opportunity to work my way along the counters is a positive. A 7kWh home charger may have made a difference, 13 hours to full charge is a lot different to just short of 50.
To be continued…