As part of our exploration into the pros and cons of owning an electric vehicle (EV) we reached out to an EV driver to find out what it’s really like to make the switch over from fossil fuels.
The following is our interview with Rob Cooling, an EV driver and driving instructor from Nottingham.
So, what made you decide to buy an EV and move away from petrol/diesel?
I suffer from adult asthma, so I’ve always been concerned about air pollution. I also used to regularly walk my kids to school and the sheer amount of smog on the roads during those walks is what finally compelled me to explore greener alternatives.
What are the running costs of your EV?
I used to spend £240 on petrol per month for my driving school vehicle, but now I only spend £70 on electricity (a saving of £170). I also lease my car for £275, so that £170 saving covers about 60% of my leasing costs. Beyond that, my servicing is cheaper at £120 per year and my insurance is about the same as it always has been. Oh, and I also don’t have to pay road tax!
What are the benefits and drawbacks of owning an EV?
Obvious cost savings aside, it’s the total lack of fumes and the knowledge that I’m contributing towards cleaning up the environment. Then there's this peaceful smooth grace of driving a car that doesn’t vibrate or lag when I accelerate.
With an electric car it honestly feels like a significant upgrade over my old petrol car, so much so that I would actually pay more for the experience, even if I wasn’t saving money on running costs.
The only drawback is the planning of longer journeys for current generation vehicles. Though it’s worth noting that the combustion engine had similar problems in the early days due to a lack of petrol. It took 25 years for the combustion engine infrastructure to catch up and it’s getting sorted out much faster this time around with electric cars.
So how do you approach charging for long journeys?
I usually choose a primary charging destination along the way, with a second as a backup. It’s also a good idea to check the charge coverage if you’re visiting rural locations where coverage may be patchy.
It’s actually recommended that drivers take a break every two hours to stretch their legs and refresh themselves. So really, the current EV range limitation (around 170 miles in my experience) is actually a positive thing – giving drivers the opportunity to recharge their car while also recharging themselves.
Can you explain how the charge stations work?
All you need to do is plug-in and pay for your electricity. The only drawback is there are a number of companies fighting to be the dominant charging provider for EV’s. Fortunately, the UK Government is pushing for standardisation across the network, such as making sure that payment by debit cards becomes the norm, rather than using fiddly apps or top-up cards.
Was switching to an electric car a big decision?
I actually test drove my first EV back in 2015, but I didn’t make the switch until 2017. Personally, I felt that the current generation of EV’s (at the time) still had some teething problems to overcome, particularly around pricing and battery capacity. When I did finally switch, the costs had reduced quite significantly, and I paid no more than I would for the petrol equivalent. Once I started to realise the savings on running costs, I never looked back!
What were the initial reactions from friends and family?
As a driving instructor, my friends and family know that I wouldn’t take the decision to switch lightly. If anything though, the reaction from loved ones has been one of boundless curiosity, with so many questions about how the car works, how much money I’m saving and whether I prefer it to my old car.
Do you have a charging station fitted to your home? If so, what’s it like?
Yes, I do! In fact, I have two, as my partner also drives an EV. For me, the ability to charge my car at home is immensely satisfying. That freedom to simply plug your car in before bed and wake up to a fully charged vehicle is something that’s never got old. My partner and I are also looking at installing solar panels to charge our cars in a truly renewable way.
How do you keep tabs on the energy you use throughout the day?
The car keeps track of energy usage via the dashboard readout. You can also purchase a smart home charger to monitor how much electricity you are using to charge your EV. Personally, I just keep it simple and fully re-charge my EV each day.
Have your driving habits changed? Such as being more aware of pedestrians?
This question comes up quite a lot actually. The interesting thing is that in my experience, the current generation EV's already generate an artificial driving noise for pedestrian awareness. So the new laws that enforce noise generation are enforcing something that’s already taking place.
Have you persuaded anyone else to electric vehicles since your switch?
Oh definitely, particularly through my driving school. I also take part in podcasts, write articles and attend events where I regularly discuss the benefits of driving EVs. I’d also like to think that the many strangers that ask about my car have also made the decision to switch, particularly those that had false perceptions beforehand.
Would you ever go back to using a fossil fuel powered vehicle?
An emphatic no! As far as I’m concerned, the combustion engine is an outdated 19th-century era technology that should be replaced with renewable energy technologies as soon as possible.
When was the last time you visited a petrol station?
Not so long ago actually, while (unfortunately) using a petrol courtesy car. Ironically, that was the first time in a while that I’ve actually felt “fuel anxiety” as the petrol car had little to no fuel in the tank. Those 10 minutes of frantically searching for a petrol station may have taken years off my life!