Taking Charge: a newbie's guide to electric vehicles
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Tech-sperts beware. This is not a piece about engine power or mechanical matters. It’s about an EV newbie. And whether it changed his driving routine.
As a new and temporary member of the Driven team, the only electrified cars I’d been in were Ubers. I had no idea how or where to charge an EV, or how they drove. But I was aware of range anxiety. The dread caused by the notion that you might run out of fuel on the Desert Rd in a southerly with nothing but a browning banana and summer pullover to sustain and protect you.
When I picked up my top-of-the-range Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) on loan from Andrew Simms dealership, the first thing they said was: “You can get into it now and drive to Wellington without stopping.” Yes, mostly on petrol, but still: no drama, no worries.
My calm was cemented by TransNet saying you should charge your EV like you charge your phone — at home, overnight. It’s all about habits.
Unfortunately, I think I upset an EV driver by raising the spectre of another kind of habit. I wanted to try a charging station.
ChargeNet’s online map indicated a Vector station close to home, by the McDonald’s at Greenlane. There’s no charge to charge.
I arrived a little after 9am on a weekday. I found four spaces, the centre two occupied by matching Leafs in matching colours.
As I fumbled with the cables, the driver of one of the Leafs pointed out, rather quickly, that I couldn’t use it until he finished.
Nervous, and keen to make conversation with a fellow inhabitant of this exciting electric world, I asked, “Are you together?”. Because two people were in the same model at the same place at the same time. Searching for further smalltalk, I added: “Are you dealers?”
I meant car sellers. Only hours later did I realise his bewildered reply may have been because he thought I was suggesting some nefarious narcotic action. The other driver was helpful and got out of her car to check I used the correct cable. In little more than 10 minutes on the hardcore DC speedy supply, the electric battery was half-full and off I went.
The next time I needed to charge the PHEV, I adopted the right kind of habit. Although wall-mounted units are the way long-term, the Outlander comes with a basic home-charging unit.
We’ve no garage but we’ve a cat that uses a catflap. So, I plugged the home unit into the wall, draped the cable through the catflap and hooked it up to the Mitsi. My initial attempt to charge at peak evening heater/telly time plunged the lounge into darkness, so I reset the fusebox and waited. Two hours later, I plugged in my phone and the car and went to bed. When I got up, both were fully charged.
Halfway through the week I drove my 7-year-old daughter round the block.
I tried to explain the difference between petrol, hybrid and EVs. Why I thought PHEVs were good and why, when she’s ready to drive, they’ll be more common and technologically advanced.
Izzy said: “It’s sustainability Dad, we did it in school today.”
Proud Dad. She gets it. I get it. When it’s time for a new car, I’d buy an EV.
And what I learned: smooth, easy and quiet to drive; a comfortable cabin; enough grunt with the bonus that it doesn’t divert to petrol when you ramp up the revs on the on-ramp.
Did it change my routine? I drive to work in central Auckland most days, do school runs and errands. I rarely pass the city limits. I fell easily into the overnight charging routine and barely used petrol.
I couldn’t have cared less about range anxiety and I gave my daughter a practical example of things that might help the planet.
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