Rexel Energy Solutions’ energy product specialist Martyn Crabb recently decided to put his money where his mouth was and live with an electric vehicle (EV) to see if it could function as his main means of transport.
The idea was to discover for himself the advantages and pitfalls of doing so – especially as he wouldn’t generally be classed as a low mileage user and often drives in the region of, and in excess of 100 miles a day.
It is also an opportunity to highlight any potential concerns people may have in regards to ‘range anxiety’ and how EV charging infrastructure is going to play such a big part in how quickly this exciting market expands.
Picked up the BMW i3 REX (Range Extender) and was immediately concerned that I was three miles short of my range compared to my home destination but very quickly switched over to the fuel engine to give myself additional mileage until I can access a charge point for a period of time later today. I did use the onboard map to find a charge point but was disappointed to find that, not only were there cars (non EVs) parked in the bays, but also that I wasn’t going to be allowed to use the points as only accessible to people on the site – contrary to the ‘scheme membership’ map showing accessibility.
It will be interesting to see if this is a problem elsewhere or purely a one off. The maps for the ‘scheme membership’ or ‘free-to-use’ need to be up-to-date but I can honestly say I am already enjoying the experience.
So today was going to be the first real test with an 80 mile round trip to cover my journey to the office. One really nice thing was that I had set a departure time in the car for when I was going to be leaving so it was lovely and warm with all the windows cleared of any ice. A great start to the journey.
I wanted to cover as much of the journey on the battery as possible. After leaving it on charge at home my only concern was, as yet, we don’t have a charge point at work (a conversation to have). With the temperatures dropping I wanted to have the car in comfort mode which was bringing down the mileage so a bit of a juggling act but something I think I would be quick to understand fully.
I found a charge point close to the office that was supposed to be available (again via a scheme membership but free to use) at a local supermarket. However, out of 10 bays there was not one charge point available. I would love to say there were 10 EVs charging but unfortunately not. Apparently, these were staff personal cars. I didn’t want to charge up then but was checking it out for later and, when I duly returned a couple of hours later, there was an available bay so I got to work. When I spoke to the store manager he was really apologetic and did say he would ensure that he gets the message out to staff that these bays should be left clear. I doubt we will need 10 bays at once for a few years to come yet but please leave a couple free. I did appreciate his assistance though as I think it was the first time they had been asked.
With an additional two hour charge on board the return trip was made really easy and I must say it is quite amusing the amount of people looking at the car with keen interest. For EVs to really take off, I think it is a case of:
- Exposure in certain parts of the country
- Accessibility of charging points
- For staff to feel comfortable using an EV
- A charge point at work as well as at home
I had to arrange for a lift to and from my charge point, so come on Corporate UK, let’s get involved: reduce carbon emissions, reduce our dependency on rising fuel costs and a great way to help in regards to your Corporate Social Responsibilities.
Overall, I am really enjoying the opportunity to experience driving an EV (especially the BMW i3) and the issues and considerations that drivers have in regards to the charging infrastructure and the perceived issue of ‘range anxiety’, a consideration maybe but with a range extender?
Again, woke up in the morning and the car was fully charged from my 16a HomeCharge unit and was only due to work from one of the local branches therefore didn’t really need to concern myself with where I may need to charge. It really brings it home to you that short local journeys are ideal and really beneficial for 100% EVs but for anything in the region of 100 miles, I would certainly look for a ‘range extender’ or ‘plug in hybrid’.
Day four and five
I was really interested to see how I would cope over a weekend. With two teenagers, I was driving from one club to another. My son is a keen golfer so it was interesting to see how his golf clubs would fit and whether I’d have enough mileage in the tank for the round trip. Yes I needed to drop the back seats but once that was done there was no problem and the BMW i3 coped in almost the same way as any other hatchback in regards to space. I must have driven 150 miles over the weekend and as long as you take the opportunity to charge when and where you can, I see no problem whatsoever with range.
Disregard the charging times you think about which are usually when looking at charging a car from zero to full and purely charge when you can. Public car parks, golf clubs, shopping centres and of course at your home offer plenty of opportunities to charge –
there shouldn’t be a problem at all. Maybe it is making me more organised which may well be a good thing!
Another day back in the office with an 80 mile round trip. I am unsure about the stated range of the EVs but the beauty of the car is that it does show you what mileage it can do under current conditions and I believe I am already getting the hang of knowing how far I can go or want to go between charges.
I decided to check out the local supermarket close to the office (see Day two) and this time there was a bay available which was nice to see, so carried on into the office and made arrangements with someone to pick me up once I put the car on charge.
Unfortunately, when I went back to the store all the ten bays were again full without one kWh being charged across all the bays. I did consider leaving it but decided to go into the store and asked if it was possible to have access to one of the points. Anyway, a couple of Tannoy announcements and a few minutes later a staff member kindly gave up their parking space to allow me to charge..
The journey home was uneventful except for delays whereby an hour and half journey took two and a half hours. But I must say it is so easy with the BMW i3 – as the evening drew in, it was very interesting and noticeable to see the exhaust emissions from other cars safe in the knowledge that I was doing my bit.
This whole experience really does highlight why people should have charging points at their place of work as well as home. This would allow charging to become a natural thing which you do when you can to ensure your vehicle is topped up as much as possible. You shouldn’t need to go out of your way to find a public charge point.
Even better during the day if you have solar PV on the office building, an even better way to use solar power!