Ally McCormick shares the goss on her newest love affair with E.V.
Lucky me – I got to borrow a zero emission Nissan Leaf for the weekend. It is the very first E.V. that I have had the pleasure of getting to know intimately. I suppose that would make me a virgin as far as electric vehicles are concerned.
And just like a new teen driver filling up an ICE (internal combustion engine) car at the pump for the first time, my first time charging my Leaf at one of the new Fast Charging stations that are springing up all around the country was not without fumbling nervousness.
Suffice to say, as a newbie at, my 20 minute fast charge-up didn’t go smoothly on first try and I had to phone the Charge Net NZ office to admit my fail and seek advice on how to insert the socket into my plug.
The range of the Leaf is about 134 km when fully charged and driven carefully. I only charged it up to 80% which gave it a range of about 106 km (66 miles) and drove it in my usual reckless way. Even so, this would have been more than adequate to drive the 69 km home, but being the dumb-brunette that I am, I then proceeded to run a few errands first adding another 11km onto my trip.
My commute home begins with rush hour stop/start traffic but then morphs into relatively fast highway driving over a bunch of ranges. Unlike traditional ICE vehicles, you can’t just stop into the closest gas station if you are running low. Routes need to be planned carefully so that you reach the nearest public charging station and there are none of these available on my route home—Yet! Constantly checking the battery level is apparently a common behaviour amongst EV drivers.
Needless to say, I was about half way across the ranges when I began to feel very anxious about the car’s ability to see me home. My very first experience of Range Anxiety kept me on edge; it was an exciting, nerve-wracking situation to be in. My head sifted through options if the battery ran out before I got home, such as knocking on a stranger’s door and then proceeding to beg to plug my car in. I thought about phoning for a tow or crawling home at the speed of a teenager offering to wash the dishes. None of these felt particularly seductive to me.
Just like any other kind of anxiety, my breathing became clipped and rapid. Occasionally I watched the battery charge going back up again and was able to take a few deep revitalising breaths myself. This is because when an electric vehicle runs downhill the regenerative braking technology converts the car’s forward motion into electric power thereby recharging the battery somewhat.
In the end I made it home with just 7 km range showing on the dashboard, whereupon, my first impulse was to dash inside to down a stiff G&T.
Did it put me off electric vehicles? No way! There is just so much to love about them. To begin with the acceleration alone is phenomenal for a family hatchback.
The smooth, noiseless ride was a unique experience for me.
I had not realised that there was an alternative to the rowdy, clunking barrage performed by an engine driven vehicle. In fact I found the noise when I got back into my Mazda quite worrying.
The Nissan Leaf, 2012 (type 1) model seats five, all with 3-point seat belts, in a reasonably roomy fashion. The heavy Li-ion battery packs are situated low under the seats, giving both stability and extra room front and back. Although it is marketed as a family car, it is compact and I even managed to squeeze it into my garage at home, which hasn’t housed a car since my gym equipment took over.
Of course it is a keyless entry and pushbutton start, so for an old-school type like me, simply turning it on was a novelty. There is no noise to indicate your success, but the dashboard lights up and “talks” you through the process. After driving it just four metres across the concrete to the fast charging station at work, I soon discovered some of the idiosyncrasies of this car. For example, if you are not actually sitting in the driver’s seat, then reaching in to turn it off doesn’t necessarily work first time. The handbrake is a push-down button which you can also flick up. It took the whole weekend for me to remember which direction did what.
Electric beats Fossil Fuels Hands Down
The Leaf comes with two charging ports which are situated in the front of the vehicle. One is for fast charging and the other is for normal and trickle charging. As I don’t have an EV charging plug installed at home, I had to use the trickle charge. The Leaf comes with a charging cable especially for charging from an ordinary 240V household power point. It is slow, taking about eight hours, but can be done overnight (on a timer), when power costs are lower. The result is a daily fuel cost of less than a couple of dollars. Compare that to my Mazda ICE car, which costs me about $25/day if I drive into work.
When you add to all this the fact that there is very little maintenance required on an electric vehicle, you have to admit electric beats fossil fuels hands down.
I can almost guess that some readers will be thinking: “the power has to come from somewhere, so is this really an environmentally friendly alternative to petrol/gasoline or diesel cars?” The answer is YES IT IS – especially in New Zealand where 80% of our electricity is produced from clean, renewable sources such as hydro and wind. Even though oil prices have come down considerably recently, you can see the cost of charging an EV is still a massive saving over traditional fuel costs.
Not pumping emissions out of a car’s rear end has got to be a positive thing and in my view, the way forward. Equally important is lessening our dependence on non-renewable resources.
All we need now is a comprehensive network of charging stations across the country. Then we might achieve the impressive stats that Norway are already achieving; that country is proposing all new cars be fully electric by 2025. Charge Net NZ has already opened 18 fast charging stations across New Zealand and plan to open a further 70+ over the next few years.
So the upshot is that I am now an EV convert. With second-hand EVs coming into the market gradually, I encourage everyone to consider a fully electric vehicle as their next car purchase.