This post is a 6 month review on having a electric hybrid car and the things I wish we’d known before it arrived.
The thing about looking for opportunities to live a greener version of life is that, every now and then, one of the things on the ‘too difficult (or too expensive) to do list’ presents itself as a ‘can do now’ surprise option.
A new car, of any variety, is an expensive investment so while a hybrid or electric car was on the list of things we would like to swap for our diesel cars we thought we would be saving for a long time in order to be able to afford one. Even so, an electric car is on the list. Meanwhile we try to reduce our mileage wherever we can, combine journeys where we can and I generally feel the pain and shame of driving a small diesel car whenever I go out in it.
Last year Mr TreadingSofter asked if he could replace the diesel company lease vehicle with a hybrid or electric vehicle. Having gone through the decision making about what car, range and costs he chose a hydrid with a petrol engine and about 25 mile electric range. It works for us on the school run and local about town driving electric mode but still allows him to travel for work across the South West of England.
What I wish we’d known before the car arrived:
- To make the most of charging electric – you need an electric smart meter and be on a tariff that charges you less when you use electric overnight. It has taken us nearly the whole six months of having the car to get our energy provider to first install a smart meter and then troubleshoot because the meter wasn’t connecting to them so they can read it in order for the cheaper tariff to be available.
- If you have a very short range on your electric car (ours is 25 miles) the likelihood is you will be charging your vehicle every night – ours takes about three hours to charge. It is another little job to connect up the car when you get home from work. It doesn’t always charge in one block – the system is sensitive to electric used in the house and occasionally will stop charging until other things reduce – it isn’t supposed to get interrupted but we are troubleshooting as to what upsets the system.
- The car and the wall charger didn’t arrive at the same time. We had to wait a few weeks for the car charger to be installed after the car arrived so initially charging was from a three pin plug in the house ……….. running the cable out through the window…………. to the car (In December). This way of charging takes much longer, to protect the cable and circuits. Thankfully we didn’t have to do this for very long. The wall charger is much safer than running a cable from your closest house socket and you don’t have to leave a window open for the cable to reach the car!
- You will likely need more than one type of charging cable – we have one with a three pin plug and one that connects to the wall charger. They aren’t cheap and you’ll likely only get to choose one with the car…….
- The car, the type of charger you choose and the type of cable will dictate how fast your car can charge. Make sure you understand what combination will work for you – fully electric cars can take an age to charge and the reality of that is that charging overnight at home might not fully charge the battery for your next trip out. There are chargers out there which will charge very fast but need their own electric supply (i.e. it doesn’t come through your house electrics first). They are not suitable for everyone since they require their own electric supply to be laid.
- We haven’t ventured into using public charging points much since our local mileage is low and can charge at home. However, our limited experience shows that you need a reasonably up to date smart phone to be able to download an app for the charger you want to use in order to log into their system and charge your car. Remembering the charge times discussion above – an hour at the supermarket isn’t going to charge your car fully.
- Electric is cheaper than fuel but in all of this be prepared for your electric bill to go up lots! Energy Saving Trust quotes £4-6 per charge at home (every day or night). Instead of this being a car expense at the petrol station this comes through on the house budget. That is an even bigger/ more annoying shock when you realise you can’t charge on a cheaper tariff because your smart meter isn’t working as it should.
- While the electric car doesn’t have emissions as you drive if your aren’t on a green energy tariff at home for your electric then you are still contributing to fossil fuel use at the power station. Choose a green energy tariff with your existing supplier or move to another supplier to make the whole driving activity as environmentally friendly as possible.
- Our journey into green energy started with the need to replace the roof on our house – in so doing we will be installing solar panels and a wall battery. The charger is one that will hook up to the solar panels when they are eventually installed.
We are absolutely delighted we were able to have a hybrid car, despite all the annoyances. The technology is still fairly new and there are still bugs in how it all works but in general we would encourage you to change to an electric car if you can. We just want things to be be more visible about how to go about it so that it can work for everyone. We feel like we have been on steep learning curve for something that should have been simple.
If you would like to read more on electric vehicles (EV). We found information on the Energy saving trust website really useful and their blog gives lots of helpful tips from people who use electric vehicles.
Have you switched to an EV? What do you think about smart meters and solar panels?
Have a good week. x
This is a great post, Sarah, and I was interested to read it having just seen this article about electric cars. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/28/leading-the-charge-can-i-make-it-from-lands-end-to-john-ogroats-in-an-electric-car. I think the change to EVs will be fraught with problems so sharing your experience is a very valuable thing to do – it’s usually the unexpected that causes difficulties and frustrations. Well done for sticking with it! 🥰I must admit I have some pretty big questions about the shift to EVs. Will the infrastructure be in place for recharging millions of EVs every day / night? Can the National Grid cope? What percentage of the electricity will be generated from renewables and how will the rest be generated? Why should people be forced to own a smartphone in order to charge their vehicle? I understand the need for greener transport but the cars (and charging infrastructure) will still be manufactured from precious resources and much of the electricity still generated from fossil fuels or nuclear energy. I’d like to see governments banning the sale of large-engined cars, SUVs and the like, which is something that could be done now, but ultimately encouraging people to make fewer journeys and only ones that are really necessary. Also, do we really need so much freight moving around the country / world – and is electrifying lorry routes a truly viable alternative? Couldn’t we all just manage with less shopping and stuff? It would be a huge cultural shift, I know, but one that I think must happen if we’re truly committed to tackling climate change. Interesting times!
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Yes totally agree! So many questions and the infrastructure needed is immense even just for charging at home it hasn’t been straightforward. Very little information aside from suppliers who want to sell you their model. Imagining every household currently with a car trying to change to electric unbiased info is essential but also the reality of what it is like to charge every night/ day. Witnessed first hand holiday makers queuing for charging points here in southwest England this week. I hope to be able to do without my car once I get my youngest child into a closer primary school. I”m fortunate my longest journey is the school run and it is feasible for me to get rid of that. Longer trips we either go as a family or we can take the train. It is difficult without government being honest about what travel will need to look like in the future. Telling us all not to travel by car doesn’t sound like fun and yet somehow that is the reality we probably need to adopt. Developing public transport that is pleasant and affordable to use is essential to replacing car journeys but that is also nowhere to be seen.
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Mmm, I can’t even begin to imagine the ensuing chaos! I think there’s an awful lot of ostrich behaviour going on, like so many other changes that need to be tackled, it’s easier just to ignore and carry on shopping (or maybe I’m just cynical? 😆). One of the loveliest things about being back in Mayenne is that I can use my bike so much and I far prefer it to driving anyway, even in bad weather.
Not sure whether it is ostrich behaviour or pretending as though no one knows the answers yet that is more frustrating. For me though the crux of the problem isn’t whether we can all afford electric cars or charging points or the infrastructure I just wish the focus was on mass transit and public transport – get us all away from cars to bikes for the shorter journeys and buses for longer ones. For that someone needs to be planning our roads differently and I’m worried no-one is thinking this big. Evolution to electric cars and bikes won’t get the planet the change it needs – this needs revolution!
We were camping all last week – just so lovely to be away from everything but woke up this morning to the IPCC report headlines I hope this is the ignition point for governments to rapidly stir to action.
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