So I’ve been a PHEV (Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle) driver for nearly 2 years, a Golf GTE, a fantastic car, I’ll cover it in another review here, it really is one of the best cars I’ve ever had, but driving it and a recent test drive in a Tesla Model S has made me literally crave the full Electric experience. I have a 32 amp (7.2kW) home Charger already fitted to my house, I know technically this is just power source as the charger is actually built into the cars, but we will not go into that. I use it to charge the GTE every night, I went for 32 amp even though the GTE only charges at 16 amps (3.6kW) in an effort to future-proof subsequent car decisions.
Interestingly you will note above the numbers in brackets, these are kilo Watts, I’ve been so used to using amps throughout my life, this is one thing that needs to change for the public to usefully accept Electric Vehicles, we need to start talking about kilo Watts (kW) instead of Amps, you will also notice the use of kWh or kilo watt hours, the difference is not initially easily understood, but a quick read of this article should help
In summary these two statements are key,
- kW is a unit of power, power is the rate of generation or use of energy.
- kWh is the measure of energy contained within something
So an electrical supply provides power at a kW rate, that can be stored in a battery that will provide energy in kWh. I’m sure some ‘specialists’ may point out flaws in what is written, but it’s largely correct I believe.
*note the capitalisation of kWh and Ah (in the case of BMW) is important, this link explains why
In summary again, Watts and Amps (Ampere) are named after people, hence the capitals, the other units, kilo and hours, are not named after people, hence the lower case, not that important really unless you post online, at which point someone will always point it out, may as well get it right!
Why an Electric car now?
I moved from a diesel Volvo to a PHEV Golf GTE nearly 2 years ago, I’d like to say it was entirely down to ‘Dieselgate‘ with VW and my conscience, but that would only be partially true, using my works salary sacrifice scheme the benefit in kind tax (BiK) is very attractive on Electric and Hybrid cars, so I went with a Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) as my initial risk-free step to electric.
This is how I believe most people will go to electric cars, via PHEV, they are a great way to safely introduce the benefits of electric, without the ‘anxiety’ of the downsides being a problem. I have found the Golf GTE to be a revelation, the electric experience is such that I started to consider my next car as a full BEV only a few months into running the Golf. My wife’s car is a 3 cylinder 1.0 Peugeot 208, a normal Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) this is due for replacement in March 2017 and after initial reluctance to drive my PHEV Golf, recently she has grown to love the experience in the GTE, so as we plan the replacement of her current ICE car, we have decided to focus on a selection of the most popular BEV’s (Battery Electric Vehicle) available today as our main options.
- BMW i3
- Nissan Leaf
- Renault Zoe
To properly test drive these cars you need to spend more time with them than a ‘normal’ 20 minute test drive, the Dealers, to be fair, understand this and will normally allow potential buyers to see how Electric cars fit their lifestyle by allowing them to take the car for between 24 hours to 4 days depending on the specific dealer.
I highly recommend driving these cars for an extended period, especially if you have never driven an electric car before, because you really have to get comfortable with the experience of charging, space and performance. You have to consider if these cars fit your lifestyle and driving habits, this can only be achieved by driving over the course of a day or two.
All of the dealers I approached warmly offered the extended test drives, Renault offered the car for 24 hours, while Nissan and BMW offered the car for up to 3-4 days if required.
I’ll report how I felt about the cars and what my order of choice is and, more importantly, how my wife felt about the cars and how she ranked them. I intend to test the range of each car with a ‘normal’ type trip, how the cars feel generally driving and any other pros or cons and ultimately our conclusion.
So, our experiences with each individual car will be published on the links below over the coming days.