Electric Cars Are Rubbish Right?

I have had the Nissan Leaf for over two months now. It replaced an aging but reliable Toyota Yaris powered by petrol. We give our cars names and the Yaris was called Yasmin. We had owned Yasmin for about 5 years and in many respects we were sorry to see her go. Yasmin did everything we wanted of a small hatchback but was used almost entirely for local trips. She was driven almost daily but generally speaking the trips were seldom more than 40 miles and always returned home towards the end of the day. Occasionally, no, very occasionally, she would accompany us on longer trips but that was such a rare event that it was quite a treat for her to get out of the local area. I think that a lot of households have a car like Yasmin.

In March this year we sold Yasmin and replaced her with a new car: A 100% electric Nissan Leaf called Electra. Electric… means limited range, nowhere to charge, no greener than non-electric cars, slow, boring, no good for families, expensive, no very expensive… I am right aren’t I?

So, if Electra is all those things after 2 months of ownership I can’t possibly be happy with my replacement for Yasmin can I?

Well, the honest truth is that I am very happy. In fact I am more than very happy; I am ecstatic! But how can this be so if electric cars are so rubbish? Well, it is not the car that is rubbish. People seem to think these things and it is not until you have driven one, owned one, lived with one that you fully appreciate that it is these preconceptions that are rubbish – not the car.

Electra would cost us £26,000 right now. That is a helava lot of dosh for a 5 seat family hatch. The closest comparison I can make is with a Ford Focus Titanium. Similar size, similar spec. The Ford would cost about £18,000. That means Electra is about £8,000 more. That is expensive right? Well not so fast. The Ford would cost you about £14 in diesel to go 100 miles. Electra costs me just £1.40 in electricity! That is just 10%. So, drive the average 12,000 miles in the Ford and you would spend about £1700 in diesel. Do the same in Electra and I will spend just £170… a saving of £1530. Add to that no car tax, no congestion charge in London, less servicing costs, and it all adds up to the fact that yes, it costs more to buy Electra but in 4-5 years of ownership Electra will be cheaper than the Ford. Not so expensive now is it!

So, Electra is slow and boring is she? You really do have to have a drive in a Nissan Leaf to fully understand just how wrong this statement is. The numbers are all very well… 0-60 in 9 secs and top speed nearly 100mph but the numbers don’t make you feel the acceleration when you floor it. It is a different kind of acceleration to a normal car. It is smooth, quiet and continuous and not something I was at all used to and it is quite a blast pulling away from lights and seeing the car behind disappear in the rear view mirror. I must say though that she is no sports car. The suspension and steering are designed for a family hatch and not a sports coupe but the overall feeling is just great fun. This is certainly no slow, boring car and if you don’t believe me… test drive one or ask me for a ride in mine… you will change your mind in an instant!

So we use Electra for all our daily trips, most of which are under 15 miles, and we return home and charge overnight. We have never run out of power. We haven’t even got close to running out yet. We always return home and charge overnight.

Charging up the car from the grid means that we just shift our emissions from the tailpipe to the power station doesn’t it? Electra is no more green that Yasmin was right? Well some of this is true to some extent but to say that Electra is not as green as Yasmin, or the Ford Focus for example, is quite simply wrong. The amount of CO2 that the power stations generate to power the grid works out at about 450g/kWh. The Nissan Leaf needs about 25kWh for a full charge to go 100 miles and so a full charge of the Leaf will create about 11kg of CO2. That is a CO2 rating of about 70g/km. Yasmin was only a 1.3l but she was producing about 130g CO2/km. The Ford Focus Titanium creates about 150g CO2/km. So Electra creates less CO2 than both and about half of the CO2 of the Ford. So it seems that although the Nissan Leaf is not “Zero Emissions” completely it is most certainly better than all fossil fuel cars and significantly better than Yasmin.

So, the limited range of Electra is a clearly a problem isn’t it? I must be constantly saying that I wished she had more range mustn’t I? Well, it is true that I wished she had more range. Once or twice a year I go to see family and friends near London and it would be great if we could take Electra. But you know what… apart from those one or two times a year the limited range is never going to be an issue. All our every day trips are well within the range of Electra.

I have recently done a longer trip and was unlucky in that the fast charger failed on me. But let’s not forget… that kind of trip is not why I bought a Nissan Leaf and I would not normally consider doing long trips like that in the Leaf… it is not what owning an electric car is about. It might be in the future but right now the big benefits come from their use locally… for those 80% of the trips we make.
So what about those occasional longer trips? In our case we have a second car in which we will do those trips but the reality is that we are using that second car so little now that we are seriously thinking about getting rid of it and making do with Electra as our only car. For the trips to friends we will either hire or go by train. It will be a lot cheaper. Or perhaps next year, when there are more plug-in hybrids available (Prius, Ampera etc), we might get one of those to allow us to make those longer trips but that would be a luxury not a necessity.
As for there being nowhere to charge… I charge every night at home. I always have somewhere to charge!!!

So, am I unhappy with Electra? No certainly not. I am completely happy with owning an electric car and what it means. It is different. It requires a slight change of working and a slightly different way of looking at my car but there are so many big advantages and so very few disadvantages.

Is she a worthy and capable replacement for Yasmin? Definitely. Yasmin did what we wanted but Electra does 95% of all of that whilst being cheaper, quieter, less polluting and nicer to drive and own. The 5% Electra can’t do is easily coped with by a second car or hiring or using public transport but that is so infrequent that it is simply not a concern. Would you really make a buying decision based on something that only happens once or twice a year. It doesn’t make sense does it?

Getting Electra has been the best move I have made from a car point of view in my entire life. I will never go back to a fossil fuel car now from choice and it has made me much more environmentally aware such that I am considering getting rid of my second fossil fuel car. So, if you are one of the millions that think electric cars are slow, boring, expensive, just as polluting as fossil fuel cars that are always running out of power with nowhere to charge – think again and please take a long, hard look at the facts… electric cars are here and are viable now.

Yes it is true that it is still early days and there are still many ways they can improve on this first wave. It is easy to criticise and to knock these early versions and in many ways I would not disagree with you I am sure. But look to the future. Look to what they will be like when we solve the issues, when they have matured. Look at what the world will be like without us all burning fossil fuels just to take our kids to school, go to work or go to the shops (which is what 80% of journeys are). With electric vehicles we finally have an alternative. Embrace it and run with it and all the issues we can see right now will soon be resolved and we will then eventually live is a fossil fuel free world.

I encourage everyone to find out the facts… not the myths. Speak to someone who owns an electric car. Speak to me! See how it has changed their lives. See how much money and CO2 they are saving and how they are actually living with the reality. Most people could happily live with an electric car and benefit in so many ways if only they would open their minds to the reality and not the myths.

We missed our Yasmin when she went but not any more… now we love our Electra.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.