Having thoroughly enjoyed my first couple of days of EV ownership, today was the first real test of living with an EV. I’m currently renting a flat in the North West of England about ten miles away from my main client; I collected the car from a local dealership so my journeys so far have been short and with charging points at the office I’ve been able to enjoy the benefits of EV without the pitfalls. Today however, I needed to complete the 140-mile journey back to my house in the Cotswolds, which should be no problem for a car with a claimed 296 mile range.
Starting with some basics, the journey is 90% motorway and with plenty of range to spare I wasn’t going to be driving too cautiously. I’m not a top-end speed merchant but I do like to make rapid progress and the exceptional acceleration is not wasted on me, so I was never going to get anywhere near maximum range. I had charged to 90% and the car was telling me I had a range of 252 miles. Throughout the journey, I used Waze via Apple CarPlay, listened to music interspersed with some phone calls, and I had a bit of Air Conditioning on. Outside temperature was early twenties and it was dry.
Everything was going great and although the range was not entirely as promised I was happy to put that down to some dynamic driving. With about 40 miles remaining I was down to a range of 110 miles, due to arrive home with 70 miles still in the tank so I’d lost about 40 miles of claimed range which all things considered seemed ok. At this point, given my home charger isn’t being fitted until next week and given I was now satisfied that I can make it to and from the office on a single charge, I decided to test the process for public charging whilst catching up on some e-mails and calls.
I had anticipated this situation before leaving the office and had earlier in the day signed up to Electric Highway so that I could use the Ecotricity Chargers that can be found at Motorway Service Areas. I had read about these chargers having a bad reputation but overall, I figure they must work more than not. What seemed like many hours of driving round the car park, and many hours more walking around the car park, I left the Services having failed to find the charging stations! First fail of the day!
Slightly miffed but undeterred I decided to complete my journey home with a plan to take my wife out for coffee to Gloucester Services where I would charge my EV. My wife hadn’t seen the car yet and was keen to have a ride, we like coffee, and Gloucester Services is far more glamorous than it sounds, with a fantastic farm shop, it’s a genuinely nice place to go and only a couple of junctions down the motorway.
We arrive at Gloucester Services and unlike Strensham, there is clear signage directing you to the charging stations, which were available. There was a Tesla parked in the bay next to the charging stations but I assumed they were even newer to EV than me, given that they didn’t appear to realise they needed to actually plug in! Or maybe there was another reason…
I quickly and easily identify the DC charger so that I could rapid charge, connect everything up, and open the App so that I can get things underway. The instruction to scan the QR code seemed pretty straight forward and I’m thinking that this is perfectly simple and I will have no trouble with my EV life, despite my earlier show of incompetence. And then it all went a bit wobbly. There was a problem, a message appeared telling me that there was an error retrieving the data from the server. I was a little frustrated, but rather than give up I decided to call the Ecotricity helpline. My wife is a little grumpy at this point, wanting coffee.
The lines are unusually busy apparently (seems unlikely that the ‘unusually’ bit was true) but after about 20 minutes a very helpful lady answered and told me that it was no problem and she could remotely start the charge for me. The process took about ten minutes by the time she had explained how to stop the charge if I needed to, how I would be charged, and the collection of my payment details. We’d been there half an hour which was frustrating, but at least we were now charging and this seemed like an ok situation. And then, as we were walking away from the charger, I heard a noise! To my dismay I turned around to see that charging had stopped due to a fault!
I could have called the helpful lady back and asked her to try again, but it was approaching 7pm, at which point the helpline closes, and with the wait times being what they were I decided there was little chance of getting through. No problem I say cheerily (obviously putting a brave face on it for my now very grumpy wife) we can go to the Services the other side of the motorway and use the charger there. We get there, no cars charging so a good start, but there is a reason it seems for empty charging bays, the chargers don’t work! Same issue!
At this point I treated my wife to a coffee, which disappointingly didn’t seem to reduce the level of grumpiness.
We returned home, frustrated by the experience, slightly more worried about the infrastructure than previously, and down to 25 miles range. Left with no choice, the car is currently slow charging on a 3-pin plug at home.
Luckily, the car looks awesome on the driveway!