My switch away from fossil fuels
Back in January 2021, I took out a lease on a Nissan Leaf. This was my first electric car, and as I am under 30, this won't be my last. The experience of moving away from a fossil fuel car has been interesting and flawed in several ways. Hopefully, some changes already underway will make the experience of running an EV a lot smoother.
Charging at home
I live in a semi-detached house with shared cul de sac parking in a small market town with no public charge points. I contacted several home charge point suppliers to enquire about installation, but not all of them got back to me. Those who did reply returned with inconsistent responses and a complicated survey document that one installer said they took little notice of anyway. I was told it would be difficult to take the charger with me if I moved house, which I plan to do.
To date, I still don't have a home charger, and because I have access to workplace charging – for free, which has proved to be a bonus, I will wait and see about home charging. In the meantime, free workplace charging has undoubtedly made life with the Nissan Leaf a lot easier.
With around 90% of my charging done at work, I have used public charging for the remaining 10%. This has been a mixed bag and typically involves needing a distressed low battery/range charge. Instavolt has by far been the simplest to use, with payment simply by debit or credit card. As a result, I am more likely to want to sign up to Instavolt should they set up a payment plan in the future because of the ease of use and reliability of their charge points.
Others, though, have been a less pleasant experience. It is challenging to get started with charging your car when you have to fill in a large amount of information on an app or mobile website with a poor internet connection, seemingly with a lot of unnecessary details. And taking £30 off my card to get my charging started and not issuing a receipt or a refund without multiple requests is not the kind of customer service needed to win the public over to electric vehicles.
One other point overlooked at many sites is that the charge points do not always feel safe. As a female EV driver, charging your car in a poorly lit and quiet location is far from ideal.
Driving an EV
Driving the Nissan Leaf has been enjoyable. It is quick and comfortable. Because of the free workplace charging, running the Leaf has been a lot cheaper than the equivalent fossil fuel car. The car's quietness is good for me, but not so good for the one or two pedestrians who haven't heard the car and have looked to cross the road in front of me. It has been reliable and easy to drive. But I have to plan where I am going, and it doesn't feel as convenient as the current fossil fuel experience. Although shopping at the supermarket means guaranteed parking at the charge point and being closer to the store when it is raining.
Overall having my Nissan Leaf has been a mixed experience. One obvious conclusion is that public charging is a challenge in some parts of the country, and there is a long way to go before this becomes as simple as pulling up to a fuel station and filling up.
The recently published SMMT-commissioned study, Full Throttle, called for installing at least 2.3 million charging points nationwide before the end of the decade. That is a considerable program of development from where we are now. I know I will drive many more electric vehicles, and my experience will get better. Certainly, if I move to a house where I can install a home charger driving an EV will become easier. And improving customer service throughout the charging supply chain will enhance the experience and make a move away from fossil fuel more seamless than now.