Monday, July 6, 2015

Living the life electric - part 3.

(This post follows from last week's - best read that first if you missed it).
So what's it like living with an electric car in the family? Well - it's different.
If you've never driven an all-electric car, it's weird at first. There's no engine noise, so there isn't really an 'ignition' to speak of. You just push a button and the car 'wakes up' and is ready to drive. The electric drivetrain sound is pretty sweet. Quiet, but sounds like power. As far as performance goes, our LEAF will embarass ANY sports car off-the-line for the first 50 meters. After that, not so much (obviously).
The dash display is a bit too oriented around the range-to-dead meter - giant fins either side and a huge numerical display. No wonder people get range anxiety - the dash literally screams at you. But the LEAF has an 'eco' mode which considerably dulls the accelerator response whilst increasing the amount of resistance under regenerative braking. In city traffic, this is not a bad mode to be in apart from one thing; because the regenerative resistance is so large, the car will slow down quite nicely without ever touching the brakes, meaning the person behind you is presented with a car that is slowing down with no brake lights. You have to be aware of that, so we've taken to just lightly loading the brake pedal in these conditions to ensure there is at least a clue for the people behind us.
In the suburbs or on the motorways, eco mode is a little too dull on the accelerator - you can find yourself being an obstruction in traffic if you're not careful, and you sure as hell don't want to use eco mode to turn across oncoming traffic. The snail-like acceleration means you need a gap in oncoming traffic the size of the Queen Mary to perform a turn.
Because we got the SV version with the Premium package, it has power-everything, heated-everything, 360 degree cameras, Bose audio - the works. All of these, of course, drain the range, but there is a display on the center console that shows you how much the HVAC and extras are 'costing' you.
It does change the way you drive, for sure, but I'm not getting into hypermiling or anything stupid like that. It's a damn car - just use it as a car. My wife loves never having to go to a petrol station and I love that the solar installation on our garage roof is offsetting the cost of charging it. My daily driver is still a Range Rover, but now we have an electric car in the family, I'm watching the developments in battery technology and new electric cars far more closely. We still need a car with large range and fast refuelling (I'm not going to sit around mid-road-trip for 3 hours waiting for my car to recharge - not even 30 minutes) - so going all-electric isn't an option right now. But someday - when batteries have more capacity and charging stations are plentiful and can recharge in 2 to 3 minutes? Yep - I'm all in.