Having recently her first electric car, writer Alison Fogg says the 100% electric Zoe is amazing.
Here’s the inside track on her experience. Plus her top tips for what car showrooms could do to promote clean technology.
She recommends that anyone who can, buys or leases one, as the technology is superb.
“Gliding silently along the Cornish lanes in a zircon blue Starship Enterprise is utterly mind-blowing. The technology is superb, the design beautiful and its pollution free journey incredibly pleasing”.
What made you choose the all-electric Zoe?
“Most of my journeys are within a 20 mile radius of home on narrow country lanes. For longer journeys I let the train take the strain. Therefore, the 180 mile battery range on the Zoe is perfectly adequate for my needs. I can top it up on the home charger at night once a week, and that gives me enough battery life to last the whole week. The local petrol station is about 8 miles away, so it is much easier having an electric car than having to make a 40 minute round trip to fill up at the petrol station.”
“I also wanted a smaller car, a bit like a Golf.”
“Oversized cars are a complete pain in the neck on Cornish lanes as you can’t squeeze past one another. Locals groan at the start of the holiday season when the Chelsea tractors start arriving and the lanes get blocked up.”
“The Zoe is a really nice sized car. It is perfect for parking in town and holds its own on the motorways in all the traffic. When I first overtook some lorries on the motorway, I was a bit nervous. But the car just accelerated past them perfectly and held the road well.”
The changing market for motoring
In the 1980s, VW stole a march on other automotive players when it marketed the Golf at women drivers. VW had noticed that two-car households were on the rise, and women often wanted a run around car for the school run or local shopping trip as the second family car. The iconic 1987 TV ad aimed at women drivers helped seal that position.
“Zoe is already the number one selling electric vehicle in Europe. And I think sales will skyrocket. It ticks all the right boxes and makes the perfect town run around or second household car.”
Were you worried about range?
“No. The range is about 180 miles and I can get to Exeter easily on that. At Exeter there’s a Sainsbury’s which has six charging points operated by Podpoint. By the time I’ve stopped for a coffee and checked my emails, gone to the loo, and done my shopping the battery is charged and ready to go again.”
“I’m not really into technology and didn’t read any of the reviews before I bought the Zoe. It was a bit of an impulse purchase. But I thought that if Zoe is the number one electric car in Europe it must be OK. And I was right. It is amazing.”
“The Kia Niro is getting pretty good reviews with the 300 mile range and 7 year warranty. But I still prefer the design of the Zoe.”
“What is strange is trying to gauge how far the 180 miles on the battery gets you. I’ve never worked out driving distances in the past. You simply hop in a car and set off. Driving an electric car is a whole new learning experience. And the freaky bit is watching the battery miles drop faster on a cold day or going up steep hills. A mile on the battery doesn’t always match a mile on the ground. It slightly depends on the driving conditions. So that takes a bit of getting used to.
“Other than that, I think the Zoe is set to become another iconic model on the electric vehicle revolution roadmap.”
What do you like about the Zoe?
“It accelerates really well up steep hills. Even from a standing start. Then it glides along the country lanes as you don’t have any engine noise. That’s quite exhilarating.
“Its like flying a spaceship. Gliding silently along the Cornish lanes in a zircon blue Starship Enterprise is utterly mind-blowing. The technology is superb, the design beautiful and its pollution free journey incredibly pleasing.
“I love the fact that the air is still crystal clear after I’ve gone by. Unlike petrol or diesel vehicles that belch out terrible fumes. The air in Cornwall is really clean as it blows in fresh from the Atlantic. So I can’t complain about air pollution. But I can smell when a fossil fuel powered car has gone by.
“Funnily enough, not having to change gear on these windy lanes is an extra bonus that I hadn’t been expecting. And the regenerative braking is brilliant as it helps charge the battery whilst going downhill.
“I absolutely love all the interior design. It is really beautiful inside. From the pen holder to the heating controls and seat trim. It took me a bit of getting used to having a Sat Nav for the first time, but unlike most technology, everything is extremely intuitive.”
How did you find the dealership car buying experience?
“I stupidly thought that buying a new car for the first time, the sales guys would make you feel a bit special. But you get more attention buying a cardigan from a Sea Salt sales assistant than buying a twenty grand car.
“First of all I went to Fully Charged Live to test drive a Renault Zoe but had no luck there.
“Second up, I booked a test drive at a car dealership in Plymouth, which is the largest car dealership in the South West. The good thing is that they sell eleven different car marques, so you can test drive a Nissan LEAF, Renault Zoe or Peugeot iOn.
“The problem is that you walk into an ocean of petrol and diesel cars. And the staff just don’t get it. They couldn’t have been less interested in electric vehicles if you paid them.
“On a personal level the sales assistant couldn’t have been more helpful. It was the first electric car that she had sold so it was a learning curve for her as well. She was really supportive when I had difficulties charging the car at home for the first time. They are all extremely nice people. It is just that they don’t get climate change or understand my motivation for making the switch.
“I wasn’t given any information on renewable energy suppliers, how to charge the car or even what support services were available. Just handed a piece of paper saying that I had paid the deposit. Unbelievable missed cross-sales opportunity. And terribly disappointing for me working in the renewable energy sector.
“The shocker for me is that nothing was said about carbon dioxide savings, renewable energy or how to charge your car. I left with a sales receipt saying my car would arrive in October. As a new electric car owner, I was extremely happy. But as a renewable energy professional, I was the opposite (understatement).”
Car dealerships appear to be wedded to the old fossil fuel car models where they make their money from servicing the engines. As electric cars have far fewer moving parts, they require considerably less servicing. Early signs are that there is a huge disconnect between parts of the automotive industry and consumer demand for electric cars. With UK Government phasing out the sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, we expect a few winners and losers along the line. After all, there are going to be thousands, if not millions, of people wanting electric cars out there soon.
“I should have received a welcome to electric driving pack saying:
- Congratulations on buying an electric car.
- How this is helping the planet (carbon dioxide savings and air pollution).
- How I can run it on renewable energy, either a green electricity supplier (iSupplyEnergy, Ecotricity, Good Energy, Octopus Energy etc.) and self-generation by solar power (photovoltaics), wind and battery storage.
- What else is out there to help me (Zapmap, EV owners’ groups, Fully Charged Show, local solar installers like Solar South West, Mole Energy, Sungift and Natural Generation).
“Fortunately, I’m familiar with the electric vehicle tariffs from Good Energy and the charging point apps for Zap Map and Podpoint. But it was frightening to see how little the dealerships understand about the massive transition that’s just around the corner.”
“Having said this, the installation of my home charging point went extremely well. Chargemaster were excellent.
“Friends working in the renewable energy industry were even more helpful and knowledgeable. They helped me to work out what to do when the home charging point wasn’t working and how to find the nearest charge points.
“The Renault website and call centre weren’t very helpful and I was surprised that no-one at Renault gave me a sales call to see if everything was alright.
“In essence, it is like being given the keys to the Starship Enterprise without anyone on hand to help you fly it.
“Having now made the leap, I can see that this is a completely new customer buying process. Electric car customers need far more hand holding than traditional petrol or diesel dealerships or manufacturers give you.”
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“Tesla has reinvented the sales process and by all accounts their new customers have a much better car buying experience.
“It’s a steep learning curve as you have to learn how to
- Drive a brand new car (scary).
- Drive an automatic car (my old one had gears).
- Use a Sat Nav (never done that before as Sat Navs are useless in Cornwall).
- Find the nearest charging stations (where are they!).
- Use apps for different charging stations (no-one told me about any of this).
- Work out which charging stations are right for my car (I still can’t get my head around all the different types of chargers and didn’t actually know what my one is. Type 2 charger?).
- Plan my journey on a battery range of 180 miles.”
What tips do you recommend to others buying their first electric car?
Buy an electric car from a dealership that cares about climate change like Completely Green in Somerset.
- Do a test drive in your local area first to suss out the charging points.
- Don’t head off on a long journey straight away (I did that!)
- Download the charging apps (Zap Map and Podpoint) onto your phone before you set off.
- Buy a good road map as that comes in handy to look up places on Zap Map charging point locations.
- Don’t head into the Gobi desert of charging stations (i.e. Somerset) on your first trip.
- Buy a conventional, 13 amp, 3 pin charging cable as back up to a fast charging cable (so that you can charge up anywhere).
- Take time to get to grips with your new car.”
How much money are you saving on running costs?
“I must admit that I didn’t do any research into the running costs, charging options, battery life or comparisons on pence per mile. I just know that climate change is happening very fast and I can’t humanly drive a petrol car any longer.”
“My sole motivation for buying the car was climate change. Nothing else.”
“All my electricity is 100% renewable energy from Good Energy. I’ve set up my house to run entirely on electricity from renewable energy. As a result, I’m not burning any fossil fuels in my home or car, which is a huge relief because I am very concerned about climate change. With my new electric car, the only problem left to fix is the lawnmower!”
For more information on electric cars see here:
Electric Cars for Sale or Lease
- Drive Green https://drive-green.co.uk/
- Drive Electric https://www.drive-electric.co.uk/
- Tesla https://www.tesla.com/en_GB/
- Completely Green https://completely-green.co.uk/green-technologies/electric-cars-for-sale/