Whatâ€™s it like to use an electric car as a daily driver?
Can an electric car work even if you have a long commute? Weâ€™ve been living with a Renault Zoe for the past few months to find out. The carâ€™s main keeper has a daily drive of more than 50 miles each way, meaning they can get into the office just fine, but if they canâ€™t recharge it once there, theyâ€™ll have a problem getting backâ€¦
Sure, the real-world range is, in theory, 130 miles. But, with the weather as cold as it is at the moment, and with our manâ€™s drive taking in a big chunk of motorway miles, the recipe for quickly draining the battery was almost perfect. The first time they attempted the trip home was with trepidation.
They reported back that they capped speed to a maximum of 65mph, and tried to fully use the regenerative braking to recover energy. But once they got home, it was clear there was more than enough power left remaining in the batteries for the drive into work. They didnâ€™t even bother plugging it in.
Next day, they went further â€“ speed increased to 70mph, they turned the heater up some more, and enjoyed a relaxed and far from pensive drive. Did they make it to the office? They did indeedâ€¦ and again, with plenty of charge left over.
They were hooked. The Zoe is a smooth car to drive, a haven of peace and quiet that, because of the electric drive, encourages an easygoing driving style. You look further ahead, plan your route so you donâ€™t have to slow down and speed up again, and naturally drive in a more considered way.
Over time, weâ€™ve developed a routine. We charge the Zoe at our office. Most drivers charge at home, but still live within a commutable distance on a full battery. It means the times when you need to use a public charging point may be rarer than you think: thatâ€™s why we didnâ€™t bother applying for a Source London charging point card â€“ the fact it only offers a monthly subscription, rather than pay-as-you-go, was another factor.
But then one of our drivers faced the frustration of this. They were late, and looking to park up near to a Tube station. And, lo, they encountered a brand-new bay of electric car parking spots right next to the station. Perfect? No â€“ because the bays had been installed by Source London, and because we hadnâ€™t registered, we couldnâ€™t use them.
They had to take the Zoe further up the road and park in a standard bay, which sort of defeated the point of having dedicated electric car charging bays. This frustration might become more commonplace in the future, too: Source London says it will double the number of parking bays it has in the capital this year.
Thatâ€™s all well and good, but bringing down the costs would be more useful to drivers like us. It currently charges 9.5p per minute of use, and it takes 100 minutes to give the Zoe a 100-mile range boost from a 22kW charger. Thatâ€™s Â£9.50 for 100 miles, which isnâ€™t far shy of a normal petrol car. The lower-power 7.4kW chargers are 3.6p a minute, and have an Â£8 cap for four hoursâ€™ use. That would leave us with just a 50% charge â€“ 60 miles. Even worse value for money.
Itâ€™s no wonder the steward of the Zoe only ever charges it up at workâ€¦