With the electric revolution well underway it is noticeable there are more EVs out and about, charging in driveways or in a pub car park, so SPAL was curious to know what the experience of switching to pure electric is like in real life.
Before then let’s take a look at the ultimate transition car, the hybrid. SPAL has always argued hybrids should be retained as one of the options on the road to zero emission and spoke to one of the early adopters in its circle about their motivation for choosing a hybrid and how it fitted into their lifestyle.
First of all I should issue the caveat that AM tends to choose our cars and take more interest in them than I do!
Our first hybrid car was a non-plug-in version of a Prius from about 2009. This one had an electric battery that charged itself as well as a petrol engine. We thought it would be good as most of our journeys are relatively short ones around the city, ferrying teenagers to their sporting activities, and most of all A’s commute which tended to be in heavy traffic. He would gleefully send me phone pics of the dashboard display showing a petrol consumption of 100 mpg while he was sitting in a jam on Broad Street. We also enjoyed the quiet ride and found it generally lovely to drive.
It was fine for longer journeys too and we drove it around the UK and Europe on holiday. Obviously most of the time in those situations you’re using petrol and it’s no greener than any other car, but it’s good to sit silently non-polluting when you’re waiting to get on the Channel Tunnel, pay a toll on the autoroute, etc! We ran out of petrol in deepest France once and crept around on electric trying to find a garage – pure electric only gave us a few minutes but that bought us enough time to get off the motorway and find a friendly Frenchman who went off to fill a jerrycan for us.
We would probably still have that car now but somebody ploughed into the back of it and wrote it off. We now have a plug-in hybrid Prius – a 2012 model which I think is the oldest plug-in hybrid you can get. We bought it second hand in about 2016. We had to install a charge point outside our house which was a pretty easy matter – half a day’s work for an approved engineer and most of, if not all the cost was paid by a government subsidy (I’m not sure if this still applies). So charging at home is not a problem.
I’m not sure how long it takes to charge but at least a few hours (newer cars will be quicker I’m sure) – we tend to leave it plugged in overnight. I’ve noticed a slight bump in the electricity bills but not massive – not as massive as the one from having 5 people WFH for several months last year!
The electric battery of this car fully charged gives us about 10 miles - this is better than our old non-plug-in Prius but obviously nothing like the range of modern electric cars. However, it’s enough to drive to my mum’s in Bournville and back, which is the single most common journey either of us has done during the pandemic. I think we’ve only filled the car up three times in the past 15 months, i.e. since 1st lockdown, when we were able to take longer trips (e.g. to Suffolk and the Lake District). Obviously this is a great feeling!
Like everyone else we loved those quiet streets full of birdsong and clean air last year, and I do appreciate the fact that we can make our short city journeys without polluting. Not having to pay any car tax or congestion charges is also a good feeling!
I guess we will have to go full electric eventually but I do like the flexibility of the hybrid. I know with the transition to full electric there’ll be some new issues. Friends drive a full-electric car, they have a charge point outside their house which is all fine and they get a much bigger range than we do. But longer journeys still require some planning (although you could say since we’ve managed to run out of petrol that problem is not unique to electric cars).
The same friends actually ran out of charge once when they went to pick up their son from uni and had to call a breakdown service, but now they have got used to sussing out where charge points are en route. (Apparently Duncan Bannatyne has a network of health clubs close to motorway junctions that have charging points, and things to do while you wait!). We went to a farmhouse in Suffolk with these friends and they called ahead to the place to check they had an outdoor plug point (they did) – I suppose we will all get used to this type of thing. I’m sure the infrastructure can only get better and I’ve started to notice electric-only parking spaces etc – it’s probably the sort of thing you tend to notice more when you need it.