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Living with an Electric Car

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PDR
1344061.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 1:16 pm Reply with quote

[not quite sure which section to put this in - feel free to re-home it if you think somewhere else would be more appropriate, but remember if you do it will have to be quarantined for 14 days...]

Background
One of the minor consequences of 1stborn passing her test last december is that we have now handed both of the family's small cars to our daughters (they were both inherited, and that's what we hung onto them for anyway). This left us with my estate car (needed for both my hobby and the frequent 200 mile round trips which are an integral part of the new role I took on last september) and the 17 year old 7 seat Mazda MPV which we've had from new and will keep until it literally falls apart because it's too damned useful. My better third now works mostly at a site less than six miles away, and using the mazda for this run is likely to bring about its demise much sooner, so she needed to get another small runabout for daily commute and other local journeys. After reviewing the options she decided to try a small electric car.

That this has been an emotive topic on here is largely my fault. So I have decided to record the ownership experience and do my absolute best to record objectively - I'm going to do my damndest to avoid any opinions on anything that matters.

The Car
After looking at and test-driving several she settled on the Renault Zoe 40. The older Zoe models have a leased battery (presumably to mitigate battery life anxiety) but for the last year the lease has been optional. The very latest models (just arriving at the dealers now) support the ultra-fast charging mode, but there aren't many of these cars around and there is a waiting list for them. Cars available locally only had the leased batteries, and the lease charge is around £1,000 year. This is actually more than she spends fuelling a normal car, so it wasn't attractive.

After much searching she found a 3-month/400-mile-old Zoe 40 with a purchased battery at an acceptable price, with most of the manufacturer's 3-year warranty, being sold because the owner wanted a "fast charge" one. The only disadvantage was that it was at a dealer in Morcombe (270 miles away). The dealer offered to deliver it (on a trailer) for an only slightly larcenous fee, but as the Covid19 situation progressed he started suggesting that we wait until its over because his drivers didn't want to do an overnight stop in the deep south. So in the end she decided to get on a train and collect it, and at sparrow's-fart o'clock yesterday I dropped her off at the railway station. At one point in the journey she texted to say she was being crowded on the train and felt uncomfortable. I suggest she try coughing and looking like she was sweating. 10 mins later she texted to say she had the whole seat and table to herself...

:0)

The Journey Home
She arrived in Morcombe, completed the deal and the hour-long session of advice and setup from the dealer (this included setting up her accounts with the roadside charger providers on her phone) and set off at 13:30 with a full charge. As the primary objective was to get it home she decided to stick to 50mph for better range. The 270mile journey was accomplished with 3 recharging stops - the last one wasn't strictly necessary, but she wanted to arrive at home with a reasonable amount of charge, getting in at 22:30. The chargers at the service stations limited the user to 45mins, which put in about 17kHw (about 40%) costing £5 per charge (much cheaper than the £40ish the journey would have cost in diesel). Apparently there is an ettiquette which expects that you will move your car off the charger as soon as it is complete - so if you go off for a bite you must make sure you come back to move the car on-time.

So on this long-haul drive at max-economy speed she spent 6.75hrs driving and 2.25hrs charging, starting with 98% charge and finishing with 34% charge - a charge/drive time ratio of 33% (although strictly we should add another hour and a bit to the charge times to return the car to its starting charge state). If we assume that the energy consumption (kWh/mile) remains the same at more normal motorway speeds then this ratio drops to about 48%. So a good rule of thumb for long-haul driving looks like being 50:50 charging:driving time, or to put it another way - expect long journeys to take roughly double the time than for an internal combustion vehicle at similar speeds. There are lots of simplifications in this rule of thumb, but my opinion (one of the few I'll offer here) is that it;s not that important because this isn't a long-haul car so most charging will be done before/after rather than during journeys.

SWMBO said the journey home was what you'd expect for a journey of that length in a mini-sized car, made slightly worse by electing to stick at 50mph - but she didn't get it as a long-distance car so that's not important. However the heater doesn't seem to work. Some googling suggests this is a common fault on this car, so we will expect this to be resolved under the warranty.

Charging at home
With the car she bought a "portable charger" which can charge from a domestic 13A socket, which takes about 17 hours for a full charge. A better solution is to get a proper type 2 charger which will recharge the car in 3-4 hours and has to be installed by an electrician. In our area there is currently (sic) a 3-4 week waiting list for these installations, so we're in the queue.

In the mean time she'll use the 13A charger - this will be fine because of her low mileage. Whilst this charger plugs into a 13A socket it's not just a matter of plugging it into a 13A socket - the charger must be plugged into a direct spur from its own breaker at the distribution box (because it drinks a LOT of current) and it must have its own RCCD protection as you'd expect for safely using high-power electrics outdoors.

Now we want to charge the car on the drive, so I've spent the day fitting a dedicated weatherproof mains socket to the front wall of the garage, connected via an RCCD just inside the garage door directly to the garage supply cable from the 16A breaker in the house distribution box. there is a compromise here - it means that I can use my machine shop OR charge the car (as they share the same 16A supply). But we can live with that because I don't often use my machine shop after midnight, which is when the car will usually be charged.

I've listed that in some detail so that people appreciate that the 13A plug charger is not just a matter of plugging into some extension lead from any old mains socket. Even this "slow" charger draws 10A from the mains and that's something which is right at the limit of what can be safely done by DIY electricians. So if you want to do something similar and you're not an engineer then consult a Part-P qualified electrician EVEN FOR THE SLOW CHARGER.

We'll only be using this charger while we wait for the proper one, but it does give us a safe mains socket in the front of the house which will be more convenient for strimmers, hedge trimmers, pressure washers and other electrical stuff we use at the front of the house.

While I was doing this SWMBO popped out to get some things I needed (I needed to work flat out so that I could do the final electrical connections with the power off in daylight). Working in the garage with the door open I was completely unaware that she had returned - the car was silent. A bit later when she went out again I was standing right next to it as she drove out. I could barely hear a very quiet whining from the wheels, drowned by scrunching from the gravel on the drive. It's SO quiet that you could be unaware it was setting our or passing by - this may become a significant hazard as they become more common.

So the car is now on charge, and over the next days/weeks I'll give updates on day-to-day use.

In case anyone is interested.

PDR

 
AlmondFacialBar
1344066.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:25 pm Reply with quote

The silent bit is actually a very serious issue for people with vision loss because against the regular urban background noise you can't hear them at all. A blind friend of a friend successfully started a petition that at the very least in Dublin electric taxis are fitted with noise generators to make them safe. A start I guess...

But yes, do go on.

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 
tetsabb
1344068.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:47 pm Reply with quote

But I thought you had your staff to do all these sorts of mundane tasks.

Interesting stuff, though. I am looking to change vehicles, but am prepared to stay internal combustion for now, until the infrastructure for keeping them going is more widespread, and the vehicles themselves are more..... reliable? Trustworthy?

 
crissdee
1344069.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:59 pm Reply with quote

I will be sticking with my IC Saab for the forseeable, but my brother is considering getting an EV this year. On his behalf, I shalll watch this with interest.

 
Leith
1344083.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 6:07 pm Reply with quote

Interesting. Re the lack of noise, I spent a weekend in Amsterdam last year, and noticed a few electric cars about. As a pedestrian in the tourist season, you have to look in every direction at once to avoid walking into the path of trams, taxis or endless streams of cyclists. In that environment I had a couple of near misses with electric cars that had come up quickly and silently behind me. I was surprised to find they were often harder to hear coming than the cyclists.

 
bobwilson
1344085.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 6:12 pm Reply with quote

Jezza would probably pass a law to say that anyone driving an electric car had to do so with the top down and shouting as loud as they could "BRRRRM BRRRRM BRRRRM" and "PARP PARP".

 
Celebaelin
1344086.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 6:57 pm Reply with quote

Recently I've seen adverts (or one advert several times anyway) for a so-called 'self-charging' hybrid; I can't remember the brand and wouldn't mention it even if I could. Am I drastically wrong or is this just THE most stupid idea ever? If it 'self-charges' from the IC engine there isn't, and cannot be, any energy saving surely? Isn't that approach simply introducing another level of less than 100% efficiency (entropy etc) into the process? Whilst leaving the aforementioned Shirley out of this, for the time being at least, this seems really counter-productive AFAIK.

 
barbados
1344088.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 7:44 pm Reply with quote

I may be wrong, but it is my understanding that there has been something along the lines of a self charging hybrid car for a number of years. Itís more commonly know as a formula one car, and the system name for it is KERS.

 
Celebaelin
1344089.  Sun Mar 15, 2020 7:49 pm Reply with quote

Buses use that idea via a flywheel don't they? I wasn't aware that lightweight fast-moving vehicles used the concept.

 
PDR
1344093.  Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:37 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
Recently I've seen adverts (or one advert several times anyway) for a so-called 'self-charging' hybrid; I can't remember the brand and wouldn't mention it even if I could. Am I drastically wrong or is this just THE most stupid idea ever? If it 'self-charges' from the IC engine there isn't, and cannot be, any energy saving surely? Isn't that approach simply introducing another level of less than 100% efficiency (entropy etc) into the process? Whilst leaving the aforementioned Shirley out of this, for the time being at least, this seems really counter-productive AFAIK.


The original hybrids (eg the mk1 Toyata Prius) had a conventional IC engine plus an auxiliary electric system (either as an electric final drive or as a secondary power system feeding the gearbox mechanically). The electric system had a motor/generator unit which could provide "electric brakes" so that when slowing down the kinetic energy was harvested and stored in a battery rather than just dissipating as heat through the brake disks. The idea was simply to recover energy while braking and for re-use while accelerating. These cars showed benefits in stop/start driving in congested areas (but actually suffered much worse fuel consumption on motorways due to lugging the weight of the battery and generators).

A few years ago they started offering "plug-in hybrids". Initially the idea was just to top-up the battery overnight so that they started out full and to stop the battery being left discharged for long periods (which reduced the battery life). These cars exhibited lower apparent fuel consumption because (of course) the fuel consumption figures only measured the liquid fuel use, and ignored the electric fuel that went in from the mains. The plug-in hybrids became more extreme by simply putting bigger batteries in them, delivering apparent fuel consumptions of over 100mpg (for an SUV) but suffering poor performance and internal space due to the huge battery. People found that realising the benefit became dependant on the ability to charge frequently, so they started suffering "charger anxiety".

Some cynical wag in the car industry realised they could claim innovation by eliminating the external charging and reverting to the original concept, but marketing it as a "self-charging hybrid". Aside from some degrees of technical sophistication, the only difference between these systems and the mk1 Prius concept is that the new ones have larger generating systems which draw a bit more power directly from the IC engine to keep the battery topped up (you could reconfigure a Prius to do this by developing different software to change the charge management strategy). These cars will exhibit advantages [over non-hybrids] in congested areas by harvesting braking energy in stop-start traffic, but the idea is as much use as tits on a bull for long-haul cruising. So whether it's a good idea or marketing bollox depends on what sort of mission you use your car for.

PDR

 
PDR
1344094.  Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:38 am Reply with quote

In other news - the car achieved 100% charge from the slow-charger at around 07:45 this morning.

PDR

 
Awitt
1344096.  Mon Mar 16, 2020 4:39 am Reply with quote

Leith wrote:
Quote:
In that environment I had a couple of near misses with electric cars that had come up quickly and silently behind me. I was surprised to find they were often harder to hear coming than the cyclists.


Two things from me:

1. In doing my junk mail rounds, and often feeling unable to hear phone calls while out on the street (even a side street) when a car goes past -here in Aus. many cars are now less than ten years old, not many that would make a loud noise

2. In saying the above, I did not hear the car that almost hit me Sunday morning while I was crossing the road on the green man.

 
crissdee
1344104.  Mon Mar 16, 2020 6:21 am Reply with quote

Re; PDR's various comments about the early hybrids. I had (as a company car) a Honda Civic hybrid (2007 reg) and, other than the seats, which were the most consistently comfortable I have ever experienced, and the brakes, which were excellent, the whole car was a huge steaming pile of rancid horse dung, with laughably poor economy, no noticeable power, and a remarkable suspension set up that made it an underset blancmange in the corners AND a solid lump of granite over bumps.

Just found this on YT. Interesting maybe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftMxCehD08U

 
Dix
1344111.  Mon Mar 16, 2020 8:09 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
Jezza would probably pass a law to say that anyone driving an electric car had to do so with the top down and shouting as loud as they could "BRRRRM BRRRRM BRRRRM" and "PARP PARP".

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48815968

 
AlmondFacialBar
1344117.  Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:15 am Reply with quote

Thx about the self-charging hybrids! It's the only electric concept I've ever considered for myself, but as my commute is 60 kms of motorway and then the tram, that clearly wouldn't make sense. Also... What about the batteries? My German automotive engineering friends tell me that they're an environmental disaster, but then I'm well aware that German manufacturers are behind the curve there and so they're probably rather biased on the matter.

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 

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