After four years of driving electric I would much prefer to take an electric car on a long journey than a piston car. Most people wouldn’t expect that, except those experienced with driving long distances in an electric vehicle.
Some of the benefits are obvious, of course, such as the cheap fuelling costs and reduced environmental impacts (both local pollution and reduced greenhouse gases). However, it’s worth looking at the other aspects as they aren’t often spelled out.
An electric car is much better to drive for a number of reasons. The electric motor itself is quiet and smooth so you don’t have to put up with the noise and vibration of a combustion engine. As well as being less stressful, this also means it’s more enjoyable listening to music, radio, audiobooks, etc.
Further, the lack of a gearbox is a big benefit. Compared to a manual gearbox, there is no need to operate a clutch or gear lever – this is a particular advantage in stop-and-go traffic. Compared to an automatic gearbox, there is smooth acceleration from zero to full speed without the annoying jumps as the gearbox changes its gear or the sound of the gear changes.
Best of all, electric cars have braking regeneration, meaning the motor can act as a brake (and in so doing recharge the battery). This feels like ‘engine braking’ but can be considerably stronger. Electric vehicles with strong ‘regen’, like the Tesla Model S and BMW i3, are best of all as they allow for ‘one-pedal driving’.
Releasing the accelerator pedal causes the car to slow down all the way to a stop. This means it isn’t necessary to use the brake pedal at all, except in an emergency. Using the accelerator alone for speed control makes the driving very easy and relaxing. This is such a benefit that Nissan are promoting it heavily, as the e-Pedal, for the next version of their Leaf.
Of course, if the electric car isn’t a Tesla then it will have less range than most piston cars and this has to be taken into account as there will be a need to charge on a long journey. However, as the range of all electric cars increases, and the infrastructure improves, charging isn’t the issue it used to be.
Even in going from the 80 mile range of my previous Renault ZOE to the 120 mile range of my current BMW i3 I have found charging to become much easier. I now have to stop to charge only after about 2 hours of driving, which is as long as my family is prepared to go without a break anyway.
We’re currently holidaying in Devon, having driven from Northampton. On the way down we stopped twice to charge. The first time we stopped for lunch, so the car just charged while we ate. The second time we stopped for a comfort break, and then just waited an extra 15 minutes or so for the charge to complete.
Quarter of an hour is a small time cost in a journey of 7-8 hours. It would have been quicker if it hadn’t been for some terrible Friday afternoon traffic around Bristol, and the one-pedal driving and other benefits outlined above more than made up for small time spent charging.
The charging itself went really easily both times. The first time we had just a brief delay (although we saw a queue as we left). The second time we were the only EV there and just started and stopped charging as we wanted. And each charge cost me less than £5.
Overall the benefits of driving an EV on a long journey far outweigh the minor inconveniences of charging, so I personally could not go back to driving a piston car. As EV ranges continue to increase, the benefits will become obvious to all drivers.