Turning over a (nearly) new Leaf

Simple to charge, better for the environment, a calmer drive - and it goes up hills! Dave Roberts, a member of Government's Active Travel Group, writes about his first electric vehicle.

Simple to charge, better for the environment, a calmer drive - and it goes up hills! Dave Roberts, a member of Government's Active Travel Group, writes about his first electric vehicle:

My first close encounter with an electric vehicle (EV) came when my place of work transferred to the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture in late 2017.

The Department had a Nissan Leaf as one of its pool cars and, as I was part of the Energy Policy Team, I thought that I had better use it rather than one of the petrol or diesel vehicles in the fleet.

Before my first drive of the Leaf, my impression of electric vehicles was based upon the Walker Brothers' milk float that slowly delivered my family's milk when I was a child, and the memory that the milk arrived in a 'proper' van when we moved to a house that was up a hill because the electric float couldn’t cope with that round.

Times have changed though because the Leaf had no problems going up hills or going more than adequately quickly.

After a few teething problems, routed in my 'bloke psyche', which forbade me from reading the manual, I quickly decided that I liked driving an EV because it was smooth and quiet, it removed the need to change gear and, overall, added a calming dimension to driving.

Given the opportunity, I would prefer to drive an EV than a conventional car.

Extending my newly found preference to my personal driving, I rationalised that the limited range of an EV - so-called 'range anxiety' - would not be a major issue to me as my regular and typical journeys would always allow me to return home to recharge and I have no intention of taking a car off the Island.

The cost was an issue, though. Even second-hand EVs seemed to have a premium price.

The fuel saving over an economical petrol or diesel car would take an unfeasibly long period to recover, especially given my relatively low annual mileage.

Jumping ahead two years, I still preferred to drive the DEFA Leaf and I needed to replace one of my two household cars. My procurement brief was for a fairly new, low-mileage car, within a set price limit.

Looking around at what was available, I was surprised to find that the local Nissan dealer seemed to be offering second-hand Leafs which met my nearly new criteria. The garage sourced one that met my requirements and I bought it.

I’m lucky to have a private driveway so I installed a home charging point on the outside wall of my garage and switched my Manx Utilities electricity supply to their EV Tariff, which allows me to benefit from a lower unit cost during the night.

I have set the timer to charge the car for two hours in the middle of the night and normally need to do that twice a week to keep me running.

My car is able to charge from flat to full in about three and a half hours, so a two hours charge is all that is needed unless the battery has been allowed to run very low.

I do want to contribute to the climate change crisis by lowering my own carbon footprint and I believe that driving an EV plays a significant part in that.

I understand the arguments that EVs are not truly 'green' because they need to be manufactured in the first place and that they use materials in the batteries that have been mined, causing environmental damage.

I also hear the argument that most of the electricity that I use to charge with has been generated by burning fossil fuel. 

On balance, though, the car had been manufactured and sold once already and I’m confident that the emissions generated in the creation of the electricity that I require for charging were lower than those I would generate in a petrol or diesel car.

I won’t pretend though that not having to spend money on diesel played a big part in my decision to buy a EV. I’m sure my electricity bills will be higher, but I will make a considerable saving overall.

My advice to anyone thinking of changing to an EV would be to look at their own need in terms of vehicle capability and distance to be travelled, and the practicality of charging when required.

The support infrastructure will expand and improve as more public charging points are established.        

Posted up on 7th February 2020


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