All posts by Trevor Larkum

Our BMW i3 on display outside our office (Image: T. Larkum)

Our First Milton Keynes Electric Car Event

At Fuel Included we’re very pleased to be members of the Entrepreneurial Spark programme.

Our BMW i3 on display outside our office (Image: T. Larkum)
Our BMW i3 on display outside our office (Image: T. Larkum)

As part of this we have office space in the Milton Keynes Hub. It was natural therefore for our first electric car event in Milton Keynes to be a display outside the Hub building.

The centrepiece was our new BMW i3 94Ah on show. It generated a lot of interest, particularly amongst those visitors who had not seen an electric car up close before.

Naturally, we have plans for organising more MK events through this year – and you’ll read about them here first.


Rhapsody in Blue, Part 3

Today we had another trip to Birmingham but since our destination was past the city centre (130 miles round trip) and I wanted to go fast on the motorway I made no effort to do it all on one charge.

We were taking our daughter to a gymnastics competition. After it was over we headed back towards Northampton but stopped at Corley Services for dinner. And so we made use of the Corley Ecotricity rapid charger again.

While we had our burgers the i3 filled up with time to spare. I took photos of each step of the process and will write that up soon as a guide to rapid charging.

In Praise of the Ecotricity Charging Network

Last week I took a bunch of friends to a concert by the progressive rock band Haken. The round trip distance from Northampton to Nottingham was 150 miles. So, even in the new i3, I knew I would need a charge or be constrained to keep my speed low.

With a bit of Googling I settled on parking at the Victoria shopping centre as it had a charge point. On arriving we plugged in and I started a charge using an old Plugged in Midlands card.

The concert was great and Haken were in fine form. However afterwards we returned to the car to find the charge had failed. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to monitor its progress on my smartphone as the location had no signal.

So we went to Plan B and stopped off on the way back at Donnington Services to top up on the Ecotricity rapid charger. Although we might have gotten away with just a ten minute charge, there were signs saying the M1 was closed further south so I gave it a  good 20 minutes instead.

After a coffee and a Danish we were on our way. It turned out that it wasn’t just the M1 that was shut but also the main alternative, the A5, so we had to divert a long way out via Rugby.

The i3’s range was more than up to it though and we got home with charge to spare. The trip took place after going to work earlier in the day so the i3 had done 200 miles in a day without trouble. And all for £8.70 in fuel costs (the daytime charging at work in Milton Keynes).

Car tax to be scrapped for electric vehicles

Car tax is set to be overhauled this April, so what’s changing?

From 1 April 2017 the way car tax is figured out is set to change for any vehicles registered after this date. The change could be seen as good news for owners of electric or hybrid vehicles.

How will the new tax rates affect me?

While measures are being put in place to curb congestion and reduce air pollution with the investment of millions in congestion-cutting technology, could increasing the number of electric cars on the road be the solution?

The government seems to think so as it is introducing a change to the road tax system.

As it stands all vehicles, except for pedal bicycles, are subject to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), also known as road tax. It is split into several bands, based on CO2 emissions but as of 1 April, all electric vehicles will move into band A, which means drivers of electric vehicles will no longer pay road tax.

If this news has you thinking electric cars could be for you but aren’t quite sure which kind to buy, it’s worth noting  plug-in hybrids are also exempt, but not pure hybrids. This is because they still produce emissions, and only vehicles that produce either no emissions or emissions less than 100g/km are exempt from VED.

Further changes to the vehicle tax rates will take effect in April. The tax payable on a new vehicle for the first twelve months will be calculated based on its emissions – the higher the emissions, the higher the tax. This only applies to new vehicles registered after 1 April 2017. All vehicles registered between March 2001 and April 2017 will pay tax based on the old rates.

How can I save money on an electric car?

Buying an electric car can be quite expensive – something which will hopefully change as their popularity increases – but the good news is the plug-in vehicle grant has been extended to March 2018. This gives motorists money towards the cost of an electric vehicle, up to 35% of the cost of the vehicle. The maximum amount given is £4,500.

What it means for owners of diesel and petrol vehicles

It may still be expensive to purchase an electric vehicle, but they are expected to become cheaper over time. According to predictions by analysts at Bloomsberg New Energy Finance, the drop in battery costs could result in them being cheaper overall than petrol or diesel models by as early as 2022. Being exempt from VED will certainly contribute to this.

If you’re looking to buy a petrol or diesel vehicle, you could start paying up to £450 per month in tax. New vehicles worth over £40,000 will be taxed at the new rates for the first twelve months, after which, petrol and diesel owners will have to pay an additional rate of up to £310 per month.

Expensive as electric vehicles can be, their owners could potentially save money in the long run. Not only will you no longer have to pay expensive fuel prices, but you may well pay absolutely nothing in road tax and could qualify for the plug-in vehicle grant.

Source: Admiral Insurance

Money Box Live: The Cost of Buying a Car

There was an interesting programme on Radio 4 yesterday, it was Money Box Live on the topic of ‘The Cost of Buying a Car’. It’s well worth a listen – there’s a link below, plus the programme summary below that.

It starts with the impressive statistic that 2.7 million cars were sold in the UK last year. It then explains and discusses the various options for financing a new car, particularly PCP and PCH (lease). Some interesting facts were that 70-80% of sales were on PCP, and that 80% of those who take a PCP give the car back at the end.

There are then brief items on used cars (from 18.5 minutes), and on the poor outlook for diesels.

Finally there is a discussion on electric cars (from 20 minutes), with a contributor from the Next Green Car website covering the benefits and savings of going electric – including the tax changes from 1st April.

Overall an interesting and pretty will balanced programme.

iPlayer Radio – Money Box Live

“Louise Cooper looks at the finances of buying a car. New or used? Finance or cash? Electric or hybrid? What do we really need to know about payment plans, motoring costs, and how to buy safely?

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported record sales of new cars in 2016, boosted they say by strong consumer confidence, low-interest finance deals and the launch of several new models. Fleet vehicles accounted for much of the increase with sales to consumers falling for three out of four quarters.

Consumer confidence might be boosting sales but around 86% of private buyers rely on finance agreements to make the purchase, over £18bn was advanced to consumers for new car purchases and a further £13bn for used cars last year say The Finance and Leasing Association. So how does car finance work and how easy is it to compare the actual price of a car with so many different offers, interest rates, deposits and final payments in the mix?

Could you be tempted by the grants and lower mileage costs of running an electric or a hybrid model? Sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles rose by 48.9% in February with 3,308 new registrations. If you’ve switched from petrol or diesel to a low emission car let us know how it compares.

And is it better to buy online, from a dealer or privately? How can you check the history of the car you want to buy?”

What IS ‘one-pedal driving’ in an electric car?

One-pedal driving is rather like the experience of owning an electric car: it can be hard to appreciate until you’ve spend time doing it.

The phrase “one-pedal driving” refers to the ability of some electric cars to be driven almost entirely with the accelerator pedal alone.

It’s a feature much prized by owners of Teslas, BMW i3s, and most recently the Chevy Bolt EV.

And it’s something that everyone should know about, even if you don’t own an electric car. Even if perhaps you won’t completely understand why it would be appealing until you experience it.

One-pedal driving combines conventional acceleration, using the right-hand pedal, with a much higher degree of deceleration than in a conventional car.

That means that when a driver lifts off the pedal, the car slows down more quickly than an internal-combustion-powered car would.

It’s not found in every electric car. Some makers give their electric cars an identical driving experience to conventional vehicles, meaning they drive like an automatic-transmission car that never actually shifts.

Once you’ve acclimatized, the only times you hit the brakes is for emergency situations.

It may sound a little strange, but trust us: once you try it, you’ll never go back.

And then you’ll start to wonder why all cars don’t work that way.

Full article: Green Car Reports

The Charge Point Being Installed for my First EV, a Renault ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)

Installing a Charge Point for your Electric Car

There can be a significant lead time in arranging the installation of a charge point so it is best if this gets underway as soon as possible after your new electric car is ordered.

If the car is a new Renault ZOE or Nissan Leaf on PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) then installation of the charge point will be organised by the manufacturer. As part of this deal the manufacturer will specify their preferred charge point.

In most other cases you will need to arrange the installation yourself. We can help you through the process with advice and guidance:

  1. We provide details of the main installation companies below.
  2. Our guide to selecting the most suitable charge point for you is here: Choosing a Charge Point.
  3. Our guide to check on your eligibility for a government grant for the charge point is here: Government Grant for Electric Car Home Charge Point.

If you are a Fuel Included customer then you can of course call or email us at any time for more detailed advice.

Note you may find that a charge point is occasionally referred to by its more technical name ‘Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment’ or EVSE.

Charge Point Installers

The biggest companies making and installing domestic charge points  – let’s call them the ‘Big 3’ – are the following (with links to their website and to our news feed with articles about them):

  1. Chargemaster PLC: Chargemaster website, Chargemaster news items.
  2. POD Point: POD Point website, POD Point news items.
  3. Rolec EV (part of Rolec Services Ltd): Rolec website, Rolec news items.

However, there are many other smaller installers; here’s a brief (not definitive) list:

  1. ChargedEV, nationwide installation partners for Rolec, based near Sheffield.
  2. Charging Solutions Ltd, partner with Chargemaster, based in Wales.
  3. The Phoenix Works, nationwide installers, based near Leeds.
  4. SOL Electrical, install POD Point and Rolec charge points in the South West of England.
  5. EV Charging Solutions, based in the Midlands.
  6. Armstrong Renewables Ltd, install in the North East of England.
  7. New Motion EVSE Ltd, based in London and part of a Dutch group, the largest provider in Europe.


Installation Process

In most cases the installation company is likely to contact you for information on your property, including asking for photographs of your main consumer unit (‘fuse box’) and the preferred location for the charge point. Usually a dedicated cable will be run from the consumer unit to the charge point so sometimes the installer may also ask for information on, and photographs of, the route between the two. Generally an isolator switch will be installed in this new circuit.

The Charge Point Being Installed for my First EV, a Renault ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)
The Charge Point Being Installed for my First EV, a Renault ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)

Typically a standard installation will allow for cabling of up to 20m in length. If the distance is greater than this then there may be an additional cost to the customer (of perhaps £5 per metre). Similarly there may be additional costs if the installation is complex (e.g. passing a cable over a walkway or under a path); these issues are likely to be highlighted by the installer ahead of the installation visit. Sometimes the electrical system in the house will lack a mains isolator switch and this may need to be installed in advance by your electricity supplier; again the installer should flag this ahead of their visit.

The installation itself will take less than a day (it can be as little as an hour). You will need to be in attendance and the electricity supply will be turned off for much of the work.

After the installation is complete you will likely be asked to sign off on the work (and will be given a set of keys to the charge point if it is key protected). You should test the charge point as soon as possible by connecting your car, ideally while the engineer is still present in case it shows up any issues.

PS: I have previously described the installation of my charge point in detail here and here.

BMW i8 in Sophisto Grey (Image: T. Larkum)

BMW i8 Gallery

During a test drive of the BMW i3 I took the opportunity to photograph a pair of i8’s on show there.

BMW i8 in Sophisto Grey (Image: T. Larkum)
BMW i8 in Sophisto Grey (Image: T. Larkum)

The i8 is a rather good looking car by any account.

BMW i8 in Sophisto Grey (Image: T. Larkum)
BMW i8 in Sophisto Grey (Image: T. Larkum)

Of course, it is marred by the fact that it has a fossil fuel engine as well as an electric motor, giving it only about 20 miles of electric range.

BMW i8 in Sophisto Grey (Image: T. Larkum)
BMW i8 in Sophisto Grey (Image: T. Larkum)

But then no car is perfect.

BMW i8 in Ionic Silver (Image: T. Larkum)
BMW i8 in Ionic Silver (Image: T. Larkum)

My thanks to Vines of Guildford BMW for arranging the visit.