Britain is one of the leading countries when it comes to adopting electric vehicles, with the UK ranking seventh in terms of global sales in 2016.
Although sales crossed the 100,000 mark in 2017, electric cars are still a minority on the UK’s roads with many people sceptical about the practicalities of charging and deterred by the initial cost of the cars.
To help dispel any confusion and curiosities you may have about electric cars, we’re testing one for two months and will document our experiences in #MyElectricCarDiary.
We’ll be using the Ford Focus BEV on the roads of London and elsewhere across the UK to see how we manage with everything from finding charging stations to locating your car’s location using an app.
If you have any questions about the experience, pop them in the comments section below or tweet our test driver Jamie Harris at @jamieharris1990.
Sunday, October 8: Selfish drivers...
I've got to the point now where I know where the most convenient and cheapest charging points are. There's one a 10-minute walk away from where I live which uses the Polar Network. Polar has a cheap membership option, which waives any individual connection fees - usually £1.50. Instead you just pay per kW... except many of Polar's charging points don't even charge per kW, so it's very cheap to charge.
Today, I went to leave my car overnight at my nearest charge point but unfortunately some selfish non-electric car driver thought it would be OK to park in the electric car point - even though there are plenty of spaces elsewhere. Ordinarily, I wouldn't care that much (especially as there's space just behind said car) however, the cable is not long enough to reach the charging point... so I can't charge. It's an unecessarily, easily avoided inconvenience and there ought to be a more effective way of preventing non-electric cars from taking up these spaces.
I considered leaving a passive-aggressive note on their windscreen but then thought better of it and just headed to the next point which is another five minutes down the road. Luckily, they were all available...
Saturday, September 23: Electric on the motorway = energy worries
Today I took the Focus on the motorway for the first time and it was pretty much like driving a normal petrol or diesel car but with one big difference: I was constantly worrying about the car's power.
Finding yourself without petrol or diesel fuel is stressful enough but I don't have the foggiest what you'd do without electricity. It's not like I hike to and from the nearest service station with an electricity cannister in my hand, is it?
The car's on-board system assured me I had enough energy to get where I need to, so I went with a watchful eye on the meter.
I arrived in Kent after the drive from London and realised the car would need some juice to get back in the evening. The Focus comes with a 3-pin adaptor which is the slowest way to charge - about 3.7kW, which gives you about 15 miles of driving time an hour. But as I was staying for the day, it meant I could park the car in my parent's drive and charge away without a worry in the world.
Saturday, September 16: Parking advantages and disadvantages
Today I took the Focus out for a proper drive around to Ikea Wembley, deciding that now of all times would be a good opportunity to test charging out.
Charging is one of the sticky points that many people fail to grapple with when it comes to electric vehicles. How do you find them? How do you pay for them?
In this case I looked online before I left home to find out whether there was an electric charging point at Ikea but you don’t have to do this every time you head out. Instead, you can use the Focus’s touchscreen assistant and entertainment system - known as SYNC 3 - to find the nearest charging point just like you can to find petrol stations with regular satnavs.
So here’s where it does get tricky. How long will it take to charge? How much am I going to pay? And, most importantly, how do I pay?
Most charge stations are run through apps, which tell you everything you need to know about the charge station you’re using. It has pros and cons though – one pro is that you can see the price and whether the station is working instantly even before you get there. Unfortunately, there are several car charging providers, so you could soon find your phone clogged up with apps – and they’ve all got to be set up before you can start using them (although once that’s out of the way you don’t have to do it again, but it’s a bit of a nuisance).
The particular station I used costs £3 to connect and then 17p per kilowatt, which is at the more medium end of electric charging prices from our comparisons but price will depend on location and most importantly, the speed of charging. In this case, it’s pretty fast at 43kW. Plus, lots of places incentivise eco driving, and Ikea offers you a £6 off voucher every time you charge there.
To top it off, it’s a busy Saturday and while everyone else is struggling to find a parking spot, I got a space right at the entrance. That is a real bonus, although not all retailers place their EV bays in such good spots.
Thursday, September 14: Ford Focus BEV arrival – but how do I start it up?
Today the Focus arrived and I had to deal with the first issue – how do I start this thing? Most of us are used to turning a key or pressing a button to get going, and using the sound of the exhausted as confirmation that you're good to go.
The difference here is that electric cars are so silent – I’ve heard vacuum cleaners that are louder – so this time I was forced to read the instruction manually fully to understand the ins and outs.
So here's my first tip: it turns out that starting the car requires you to push and hold the brake before clicking the start button.
Now, let’s get this motor on the road a bit…