John Ingleby, Chair, Transition in Kings
By Christmas 2015 it was obvious our old diesel car would have to go. “Dieselgate” had exposed the shortcomings of emission testing, but at 15 years of age our car had simply become too expensive to fix.
I had been thinking about an electric car, so when a BMW leaflet came through the door I signed up for a test drive of the little i3. I also booked a test drive on the Nissan Leaf. BMW took longer to set a date, and so it happened that my wife and I went to the Nissan dealer first.
In spite of all the different instruments and switches (we’re both in our 70’s), we were impressed by our brief experience of driving the Leaf. Compared to our old banger we welcomed its quietness, the powerful acceleration and precise handling.
Now, my wife is a bookkeeper. I’m not afraid of numbers, but she has always been our Finance Director. So when we sat down with the salesman, I started explaining again how the purpose of our test drive was simply, you know, to find out about electric cars, generally? And we definitely weren’t ready to buy.
However, my hopes of getting away evaporated as my wife started asking about numbers. We were told about the government allowance and dealer’s discount. At this point I suggested that my wife and I step out for a private chat, but this was calmly and lovingly brushed aside. Soon after, quite large amounts of money were mentioned.
I mean, one should never jump at the first offer, right? Otherwise, how do you know there isn’t something better elsewhere? And two months for delivery? (But it would be a March ‘16 registration.) £150 for our old banger? (I had to admit it wasn’t worth more.) Only 100 miles before you must fill up again? (But 25 minutes = a cup of coffee.) And so on … .
We didn’t step outside for a chat, and we did sign away a big chunk of money, but I haven’t regretted it for one moment. There are many things about our Leaf that make it really work well for us:
- Even now, 20 months later, we love driving it. We love talking to each other without shouting.
- It drives like a powerful GT roadster, and with its low centre of gravity it corners like a sports car.
- We plug in at home and add 50% to the battery overnight. So it rarely goes below 30%, and it’s usually fully charged by morning.
- With one exception, our long drives are around 90 miles, and yes, it does take 25 minutes to top up in order to get us home.
- We do the longest journey (150 miles) twice a year, and on these occasions we stop and top up in both directions.
- There are smartphone apps for almost everything to do with electric driving, such as locating charge points and keeping track of charging while enjoying coffee.
- The Leaf satnav is the best we’ve ever used. Moreover, she tells you if you haven’t enough charge to reach your destination. Then she guides you to your chosen charge point.
- One night, my wife was driving alone and the battery was getting low. Using our phones, I tracked her location and reassured her about reaching the charge point.
- It requires very little servicing. No diesel, petrol, oil. Just filling the washer and checking tyres. No road tax or congestion charge!
- It is much cheaper to run, 2p-3p per mile.
When it comes to carbon savings, critics say “Yes, but overnight electricity comes from fossil-fuelled power stations”. True, but remember, much more of Britain’s electricity is coming from renewable sources, especially wind. The total lifetime “carbon cost” of an electric car is less than half of an equivalent petrol or diesel car, and that’s in countries like Poland or USA where most electricity comes from coal. It’s even better in countries with more renewable energy.
In the not-very-distant future, our solar panels will charge the car battery, and then give back a small amount for the fridge overnight.
Interesting times, eh?