Thursday 14 November 2019

The future is electric ...

... or maybe not. I have just spent a few days with an electric car. I have seen sights and visited places that I haven't noticed before, and not necessarily wish to visit again any time soon.

For instance, there I was yesterday afternoon marooned in the desolate wastes of North Lanarkshire looking over windswept, rain scoured moors with dark clouds dragging their wispy entrails over the horizon while my car was plugged in to a roadside charging station.

The only signs of life were the litter blowing down the car park from the overflowing bins and the diesel lorries thundering past on essential, life sustaining, transport duty. Yes, there was a chuck wagon in a nearby lay-by offering such tantalising delights as polystyrene tea, stale rolls and square sausage that could repair a block-pave drive, but I chose not to treat myself. Aye, VisitScotland - at your peril!
Sitting there watching the wee battery symbol filling up on the display panel, there was time to ponder the wisdom of our elected representatives in Edinburgh and Westminster urging us all to switch to electric cars. This advice coming from people who don't need to use them on a daily basis themselves. People who don't have a 'normal' job like us and therefore don't understand what a 'normal' working week is like for the majority of us.

Unless you have a high capacity charger at home and access to another at your place of business, then reliance on a purely electric vehicle is not an option. Using a domestic power supply can take anything up to 30 hours for a full charge whereas the latest high capacity chargers can accomplish the same task in 4 to 6 hours. Of course you can 'top up' your charge at various locations around the country where there is a mixture of standard and high capacity public roadside chargers.

On Tuesday I tried two, for one hour each. The standard charger gave me 16% of a full charge increasing my range by 31 miles, while the nearby high capacity charger provided a 44% boost, worth 93 miles in the same time. The trouble is there simply aren't enough of these high capacity chargers around. When I went back yesterday, there was a chap from Scottish Power in his electric company car already plugged in to the sole high capacity charger and when I tried the adjoining standard one - it wasn't working!

Annoyed? Frustrated? I let my big pal, Jaggy have a go. He was later spotted kicking sleeping policemen in his frustration and turning 'keep left' signs upside down on traffic islands in his annoyance.

I now understand the term 'range anxiety'. Even with a range of some 200 miles, that is dependent on weather. If it's cold, wet and dark, then wipers, heaters and lights will place further depletion demands on the battery. Those travelling more than just commuting distance will therefore have to plot their route via roadside chargers and then just hope that they work when they get there!

If you are tempted to purchase such a futuristic vehicle then I urge you not to decide on the basis of a test drive - take a week at least. Spend some time with it at home, at work and at play, even if you have to hire one for  a week. It's the only way you'll find out if you can live with it.

For those travelling big mileages it will change your lifestyle. You'll become a slave to the machine and road side chargers. A motoring vampire looking for that flicker of life-saving neon indicating the location of a roadside charger from which to draw the lifeblood of the open road warrior once again.

However, the biggest problem was, I really did like this electric car. It was comfortable, quick and quiet. The electric car most certainly has a future, but has the future arrived yet? I don't think so.

And now a warning dear reader, I will return to this subject - shortly. I'm not quite finished with it yet!

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