‘Why I love my electric car – and why you should get one too’

IN September last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Con, Richmond) announced a delay on a ban on the sale of diesel and petrol-powered cars.

The plan, which dictated all new car sales to be ‘zero-emission’ by 2030, was delayed until 2035 in a move criticised by climate campaigners.

However, it was seen as a political move by many, after Mr Sunak’s Conservatives managed to cling on to the Uxbridge seat in a byelection in what was largely seen as a protest vote over the expansion of the ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emissions Zone) scheme – which sees people with high-polluting vehicles charged for driving in central London.

The Uxbridge byelection result, along with a concerted campaign by some prominent groups (many of them think tanks backed by dark money, but that’s another argument), provides the reasoning for such a move by the right-of-centre Government.

As a result, climate campaigners are largely presented in the media and in online forums as ‘eco warriors’, or ‘green fanatics’.

Indeed, when Mr Sunak announced the changes, then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the government was “not going to save the planet by bankrupting British people”.

And at the recent launch of the ‘Pop Cons’ (Popular Conservatives) group – led by ousted PM Liz Truss – former deputy chair of the Tory party, Lee Anderson (Con, Ashfield), said only “odd weirdos” care about net zero, before claiming coal could be called sustainable because it occurs naturally. Spoiler alert: Coal isn’t sustainable.

So, from a PR perspective, electric cars are not enjoying a very good time.

And in that context, I got one.

Now, I’ve always fancied an electric car. At heart, I’m an old hippy, and do everything I can to ‘do my bit’; our household is dedicated to recycling; we don’t go abroad on holiday; we walk where we can etc etc.

So I wanted it to be great. And it is.

The opportunity arose because my 13-year-old, diesel Ford C Max (we bought it when that was what the government was telling us to do – for the environment), finally gave up the ghost.

First things first, a big argument against electric cars is that they take an awful lot of resources to make, before they hit the road.

Yes, they do. But it has been established the carbon break-even point for your every-day, non-luxury electric vehicle lies between around 20,000 miles and 40,000 miles.

So, that argument for not getting one is out of the window pretty quickly.

Another argument against them is the cost of buying and then charging them.

Electric cars are not cheap, that much is true. However, there are a number out there now which are pretty comparable to their petrol counterpart. New cars from Volvo and Renault immediately spring to mind, and that choice is only going to grow.

As for charging, I’ve been driving an electric car for about six months, charging it at home, overnight, when electricity is cheap.

It’s handy, because we have an external plug in the back garden, where our little parking bay is, so it’s easy enough to plug in. This keeps me nicely topped up for the work week (which uses about 40% a day, there and back).

And it doesn’t cost a huge amount. Our bill has risen by an average of around £40 a month. Compared to a petrol car, that’s nothing. Think about that – a £40 fuel bill for the entire month, potentally. That’s unthinkable, even for the smallest car, really, at the pumps.

A recent survey showed, on average, electric car drivers save £700 each year compared to their diesel/petrol-driving counterparts. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

So it’s cheap to fuel, and will be ‘carbon neutral’ within around 30,000 miles. So far, so good – for the environment.

Another argument against the electric car, is range. Can you drive very far in your electric car?

With the car I drive, which has a 40KW battery, this is a bit of an issue. For driving to work (about 18 miles each way), and around the town, it’s absolutely fantastic.

However, when I hit the motorway, that’s when things get a bit more problematic. Now, it’s not as bad as many would have you believe, I can still do a decent journey – but not a long one.

I could easily drive 30 or 40 miles, I’d say, with a bit of motorway driving. But once you get on a journey of an hour or over, with the majority on the motorway, your battery will not do it. Simple as that.

At 70mph, the twitches begin, as I seem to lose 10% of charge every time I look at the dashboard. It soon becomes quite unnerving.

That said, charging on the go is not that big a deal, it just takes time – and costs money, obviously.

I regularly make the journey from our house in Langport, Somerset, to Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, a trip of around 75 miles, with a lot of motorway driving – straight up the M5 to junction 11, if you’re interested – and when I get there, the battery is usually around the 22%-full mark. So I need to charge to get back.

Cheltenham is quite a leafy, affluent place, so chargers are, thankfully, not too hard to come by.

(If any EV owners make the trip to Cheltenham and need a boost, there’s a Shell garage on Lansdown Road that has four high-speed chargers, which is great)

So I can charge. But getting that 20% up to a level that will get me home (I need around 90%), takes about 40 minutes. That’s a bit of a wait, particularly if you’ve got a mother-in-law waiting to be picked up…

On the other hand, it’s time to have a coffee and stretch your legs after a drive, so it’s not all bad. But it can drag.

The high-speed chargers are also more expensive, so charging to the 90% mark will cost around £21 – which when you bear in mind my usual bill is £40 for the month, is a bit steep.

That said, when we bring the petrol car to Cheltenham, we will need to pop at least £20 of petrol in the tank to get there, probably closer to £30, so actually, it’s probably still cheaper – if not about the same – and it’s better for the environment.

So after six months with my EV buddy, I have to say, I’m thrilled.

Yes, long drives require extra planning for the charge, and the tension of watching the gauge drop can be terrifying (I was once crawling the streets of Gloucester down to about 6% – genuinely harrowing), but overall, this is a brilliant way to drive.

My electric car is fast – which surprises a lot of folks when pulling off at the lights – despite looking like a brick with a few sticky out bits, and it is amazingly cost effective for commuting and town life, even here in Somerset, where towns are a bit further apart than other places.

(With that in mind, cars with much larger batteries are now available, so that trip to Cheltenham would not be a problem)

And – despite what many will try to tell you on social media – it is better for the environment, so long as you are not ditching a perfectly good petrol car for an electric.

My advice? When it’s time to get rid of your current car – get one, particularly if long journeys are not commonplace. You won’t regret it.

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.