What I learned: Five electric cars in five days

Until a few days ago, I knew very little about electric cars. I was then given a crash-course in them by the guys at EVr Go Electric. To my great delight this involved spending two days with a Tesla Model X. Having driven a Tesla, let me make crystal clear that every motoring experience I have from this point forward will be judged by that standard.

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The Tesla Model X with the trademark ‘falcon wing’ doors open at the rear. It’s just one of the cars available to drive from EVr Go Electric.

Let’s just take a step back for a moment. You’ve probably gathered this was an amazing experience.

This presents a number of questions. Who is EVr Go Electric? What was this crash course? Why was the Tesla Model X experience so amazing?

I’ll start from the very beginning. EVr Go Electric is a brand-new company, officially launched at the end of April (Editor’s update: Company  . I was testing out its Pick ‘n’ Mix service which enables you to test drive a number of different electric cars on an extended-loan basis. You can then go on to buy your own electric vehicle in confidence. To be clear, EVr does not sell the vehicles.

Over the course of five days I drove a:

  • Volkswagen e-Golf
  • Nissan Leaf
  • BMW i3
  • Renault Zoe
  • Tesla Model X
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The BMW i3, one of the five vehicles I drove while trying out the EVr Go Electric Pick ‘n’ Mix service.

The Pick ‘n’ Mix concept

You can read all about the Pick ‘n’ Mix service here. Put very simply, however, you can borrow four different electric vehicles either for a day, or a week at a time. Pay a small supplement, and you can also drive a Tesla.

The company founder, Paul Cook, has been driving electric cars for some time. He realised most people lacked knowledge about electric vehicles and so he came up with the idea of loaning the vehicles on an extended basis so they could really get a feel for what they are like and what vehicle might meet their needs.

It’s not like a typical car rental where the vehicle is briefly checked for any damage before the paperwork is signed. You get a proper hand-over with each vehicle so you are made aware of all its pros and cons. At the time of writing, prices for the service started at £399.

I made a video of the entire experience. You can watch it by clicking on play below.

What I learned

As you have probably gathered, the aim of this exercise was not to write a detailed review of five different cars. I was there to learn about driving electric. Here are the main points I learned.

The range of most electric cars is probably better than you think. Most cars seemed to have a range of just under 200 miles. For day to day use, I would have no issues whatsoever with driving electric. All the cars coped with my typical day without emptying the battery.

Charging an electric car is simple. This is something I have been asked about a few times. You can charge an electric car by plugging it into the mains at home if you wish.

Charge times differ. The Volkswagen e-Golf, for instance, doesn’t have a rapid charge so ideally needs to be left to charge all night.  Using a rapid charger, however, I’m told the Tesla Model X can go from flat to fully-charged in 90 minutes.

My plan had been to use a rapid charger at some point during this exercise. Unfortunately, my plans for the week fell apart for a variety of reasons and so that opportunity didn’t present itself. That said, I have done my homework and there are considerably more public charge points available than you perhaps realise.

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Charging electric cars is easy and can be done either at home, or using a public charge point.

Electric cars charge themselves (a little bit). If you watch the video, you’ll see I was somewhat perplexed at first by the Volkswagen e-Golf’s charge gauge because it went up and down.

Electric cars have a system called regenerative braking. Every time you apply the brakes (these are often electromagnetic, not your usual shoe / pad combination) the speed is taken out of the wheels and that energy delivered back into the battery so as you drive, the car charges itself a little bit.

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The Volkswagen e-Golf. the charge gauge caused me a little confusion at first, but I got there in the end.

You have to be extra careful about pedestrians. This was one of the most unexpected aspects of driving electric. The vehicles are almost silent and so pedestrians won’t necessarily hear you coming.

The mechanical engineering is considerably more simple than a car with an internal combustion engine. Each of these cars is highly computerised, the Tesla being in a league entirely of its own. When it comes to mechanics, however, you essentially have a battery and an electric motor.

There is no transmission system, no fuel injection system, very few fluids and as I’ve mentioned above, some of the cars have electromagnetic breaks so there is no wear and tear to pads and shoes. There is less wear and tear and so servicing costs are generally lower. There is also less to go wrong.

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Under the bonnet of the Nissan Leaf. Mechanically, electric cars are much simpler than their petrol or diesel counterparts.

Electric cars are reasonably priced. You may imagine these highly computerised vehicles would come with a massive price tag. This is not the case. A basic Renault Zoe, for instance, can be on the road for a shade over £14,000.

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The Renault Zoe, nicknamed Zoella by the guys in the local Renault dealership.

There is, of course, one further aspect to mention and that’s the environmental benefits of driving an electric car. They produce zero emissions and so the cars themselves are not as damaging to the environment as vehicles with an internal combustion engine.

Yes, okay, the electricity has to come from somewhere. As more of our energy comes from renewable sources, however, we can but hope that in time motoring will become a completely zero emission enterprise.

A few words about the different cars

I felt the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe (referred to as Zoella by the guys at the local Renault dealership) had the most in common. Rather like their non-electric counterparts, they were small, about-town run-arounds. They were good, solid performers, they just didn’t set my world alight. I couldn’t say anything bad about them and I’d encourage anyone to try them, they were just a bit small for my family.

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The Nissan Leaf. A very solid performer.

The BMW i3 was a quirky little number. The interior is made entirely of recycled and recyclable materials giving you a very guilt-free motoring experience. It differed from the other cars as it has a small internal combustion engine so you can limp home if you do find your battery goes flat.

I really liked the i3. The only thing that let it down was the lack of space in the back seat. With two young kids still in car seats, we need that space. If you don’t have young family, however, I would seriously look at this car.

The Volkswagen e-Golf was another small run around. That said, it felt bigger and definitely had more space in the back. The only small concern was the lack of a rapid charge facility. If the car was only going to be used as a run-around, that shouldn’t be an issue.

We then come onto the Tesla Model X. This is a high-end, large, six-seater vehicle. It’s at the top of the electric vehicle tree and would set you back about £90,000.

For those old enough to remember Knight Rider, this car is as close to Kit as you’re going to get (not, you understand, that I’m claiming to be David Hasselhoff. I could never wear trousers that tight for so long). It has sensors all around the vehicle giving you feedback on your driving.

The car can drive itself, regulating its own speed and distance from the kerb and the vehicle in front (although there are obviously legal restrictions on using this function). It has WiFi and has phenomenal acceleration. The model I drove could go from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds.

Those falcon wing doors at the rear stop people in their tracks. If you want to make an impression, drive a Tesla.

My favourite vehicle

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Oh go on then, one final picture of the Tesla Model X, although the Volkswagen e-Golf would be the car I’d most like parked in my garage. Unless, of course, you want to give me bags of cash so I could afford one.

I can tell you that my favourite was the Tesla Model X. The vehicle I’d most like to park in my garage, however, would be the Volswagen e-Golf.

It’s a great, solid performer making it a great about-town car, which is what a family like mine needs. It also has the space we require. If I were to buy electric, this would be my first choice.

The EVr Go Electric experience

This was a very valuable experience. I learned a huge amount about electric cars in a short space of time. If you want an introduction to electric vehicles and don’t know where to start, these guys could help you a lot.

Disclosure: This commissioned post was produced in partnership with EVr Go Electric. 

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10 Comments

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 9:47 am

      Thanks Sam. I would seriously consider an electric car. If you’re not going to do long journeys, it will serve you perfectly. When we next get a car, I think we may have to look into it.

  1. May 5, 2017 / 4:13 pm

    Excellent post John! I think most people have huge preconceptions of what electric vehicles are like, and it takes an extended test drive to see that they really do fit into people’s lives better than you’d expect! The pick and mix service from EVr Go sounds like a great way to get to know a range of electric vehicles to see how they’d fit with your lifestyle.

    I have to say, as a Nissan LEAF owner I think you’re a little harsh on the LEAF. It’s bigger than the the other cars (well, Tesla aside!) and makes a great sized family car. I know, I know… I’m biased 😉

    I SO want to drive that Tesla! What a shame EVr Go don’t cover Cheshire!

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 9:50 am

      The extended test drive was well worth it and receiving a detailed handover with each vehicle also added to the experience. I wouldn’t have l;earned as much about driving electric without spending days trying the cars out.

      As for the Leaf, it’s a perfectly good car! We just found it a bit small with two car seats in the back. It may not have been for us, but I have no doubt it would serve other families well.

  2. May 5, 2017 / 7:03 pm

    What an excellent post, John. And what a fun thing to do.

    I’d love an electric car (when I was sustainability correspondent I was lucky enough to get a look at a variety of different ones but I bet they come on leaps and bounds since then). I still worry about how the electric is being generated. Did they have much to say about that at all? (I’m genuinely interested as to how they compare).

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 9:52 am

      Well Tara, you can see Paul’s comment below re electricity production and storage. I initially wrote this post without even mentioning the environment because I simply took it as a given. Sure, driving electric isn’t perfect, but I think it has to be a vast improvement on directly burning fossil fuels. Good luck if you do decide to go electric.

  3. May 6, 2017 / 5:25 am

    Really great post John, thanks for helping us out with this and glad you enjoyed the cars and I think we all learned something.

    Ruth – completely agree about the LEAF, it is a great car to travel in – smooth ride and spacious. It has a massive boot. I wouldn’t pick it from our fleet for a long distance trip but we use it for shorter range ones.

    Tara – so we run all our cars ( and our electric life ) off loco2’s planet tariff – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pUFdY-nyzg. The UK has a storage problem for renewables overnight and EVs present a great opportunity to balance the grid. I learned at a conference last week that if everyone switched over to electric with smart charging the net fossil fuel pollution from electricity production in the UK could decrease. Smart charging is where cars deliver power back to the grid during the day but this is done in small bursts so you won’t find your car is empty if you unplug it just after Coronation Street. It is harder to find 100% renewables when you are out and about as charging points run off whatever the existing business has. We are trying to build and borrow a network of 100% renewable charging points to deliver on this goal. However, the bigger issue right now is public health related so we’d rather fossil fuels were burned in the countryside than in cities where the evidence of damage to children’s health is deeply disturbing.

    EVs are not a perfect solution, minerals still need to be mined to produce the batteries and some of that happens under pretty poor social and environmental conditions. On the positive side, batteries are fully recycled and hat’s off to BMW who made the i3 from recycled materials and have a production line for recycling old vehicles. More than anything else we’d say get an electric car because it’s a lot more fun and relaxing.

    • May 7, 2017 / 5:59 am

      Thanks, Paul. That’s a really informative and interesting answer.

    • John Adams
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 9:45 am

      Thanks Paul for this response. It only occurred to me at the weekend that I wrote this entire piece and made the video without making reference to the environment because I just take the benefits as a given (I have done a small update)!

      Fascinating to read about balancing the grid in that way. Further evidence we should Go Electric (see what I did there?).

  4. June 12, 2017 / 8:40 am

    Actually that is the point really, I’d drive electric even it wasn’t for the environment, they’re just a much nicer way to travel and more fun to drive. Eco is actually a nice to have for most people, it needs to make life easier or more comfortable.