back to article Review: Renault Zoe electric car

To argue that the electric car has already failed is farcical. To date only one mass-market EV from an established car maker has been launched in the UK: the Nissan Leaf. Even I’m not fully convinced by the Leaf. I think it’s too big, too ugly and too expensive. A revised, cheaper, longer-range Sunderland-built model will …

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Chad HLies...damn lies...and statistics.

"You're comparing 100% of the chalk with 65% of the cheese again. You can't compare one unit with another of a completely different type."

That's because you're comparing the wrong units. If your unit is "driving a mile in a car" then it becomes extremely easy to compare IC cars to electric cars--how much (net) CO2 is produced, pollution, cost, etc.

I've met people like you before. As soon as electric cars are mentioned, you chime in immediately and say "but where does electricity come from!" as if you're the only person in the world who knows electricity isn't made by unicorns and fairy dust, and you consider the discussion over due to your extreme cleverness. It's all very juvenile and unproductive.

Tesla wrote an interesting and informative short paper on the subject in 2006. Of course, one might assume that its numbers are optimistic but even so, electric cars seem like a net win almost any way you look at it, from an efficiency and pollution standpoint:

http://www.evworld.com/library/Tesla_21centuryEV.pdf

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Go

Re: Lies...damn lies...and statistics.

Very interesting. I once did an IT project for a major car manufacturer's farm and construction equipement subsidiary and the joke around the office was that it took more fossil fuel to run the tractors than you got in terms of bio fuel from the crop the farmer grows.

One question: How much CO2 for a petrol car per km vs used in generating the electricity used by an EV per km?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "I think you will find [brownouts] are a thing of the future."

"I think you will find [brownouts] are a thing of the future."

Not when the UK hits the peak capacity problem in a few years time they're not.

Brown-outs (meaning reduced grid voltage) made sense decades ago when there was a significant proportion of load on the grid that was (a) behaviourally resistive ie supply fewer volts, it consumes fewer amps and fewer watts (b) behaviourally dumb (see below).

Now look around the average home/shop/office/etc.

Anything with a significant power supply in it will be using a modern switched mode supply, which doesn't consume less power as the voltage drops, it will simply consume more amps instead. So no power saving by reducing the voltage there.

Anything with a significant power consumption used for heating is likely to be thermostatically controlled, and because it is not a "dumb" device its energy consumption (over time) will not reduce simply because the voltage is reduced. Instead, it will simply be consuming power a larger proportion of the time. So no power saving by reducing the voltage there.

Because of this, there will not be brownouts, because they will not have sufficient effect. Instead, there will be rolling blackouts. Enjoy your smartmeters, serfs.

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Silver badge

Re: If EVs get popular...

Nope - you can't turn down coal plants. So leccy is cheaper at night because you have all those coal plants running flat out and nowhere for the power to go.

What will make a huge difference is when these car chargers are smart. So instead of having to have a gas turbine plant starting up at 8:50 for the end of "strictly come pop idol in the attic" you can have all the cars stop charging for 15mins or even put power back into the grid.

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Re: Lies...damn lies...and statistics.

You did a fine job, but your final conclusion is wrong. EVs need time to develop, as well as their supporting infrastructure, so it makes sense to start deploying them even when they make no much ecological or economic sense. Only when you have proved and working technology and consumer acceptance with predictable growth rate you can start investing into recharging and power-generating infrastructure, first of all zero-emission nukes (which make an excellent fit), that could not be constructed overnight. Your analysis is reasoned, but first, tentative generation of EVs serves more to test the market than to move people around.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If EVs get popular...

"you can't turn down coal plants"

Course you can. It just takes them an hour or three to warm up, and a bit less to cool down. It's nukes you can't vary on sensible timescales.

As usual, http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk has the facts (it's a prettified version of figures direct from the National Grid), for coal, nuclear, and the various other sources.

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FAIL

Re: @thegrouch

erm no.

The draw back of fossil fuels is that that they still generate power when there in no demand for them at say 3am. Although they can be turned down a little coal fired stations keep runnning at night because it takes ages for them to get up to temeprature and generate power ready for peak demand.

A hydro plant on the other hand can be stopped at night, you can even happily let the water level behind the dam start to build up and then turn them on almost at at the flick of switch at times of peak demand.

A lot of electrity that is currently generated at night is wasted. Cars being charged overnight would actually help minimise waste by evening out the demand for power!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @thegrouch

Where is this "coal is inflexible" coming from?

A unit of a coal fired power station typically has three major states. A typical power station has several units.

1) Cold. Ages before it can generate electricity. This is the state more and more UK coal-fired stations will be in. Permanently.

2) Spinning reserve. It's up to temperature, give or take, but is only burning a minimal amount of fuel because there is no significant energy being supplied to the turbines, because the station isn't supplying the grid. If called upon, it can supply the grid very quickly (seconds or minutes).

3) Generating. Everything is up to temperature and the fuel used matches the electricity output (well, more, because it's far from 100% efficient).

Coal *can* follow the daily demand cycle, but isn't always operated that way as running steady-state is more economical in the present market.

CCGT and hydro can run up and down more quickly than coal, but coal is a lot more flexible than nuclear.

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Re: Lies...damn lies...and statistics.

@Ben Rose:

Stop it, stop it! You're using facts and that's just not fair. Please stick to prejudice and emotion in any future discussions.

Brilliant post, thank you.

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Meh

Re: Aaand we have the obligatory idiot

... petrol is a much less polluting fuel than coal ...

True ... but most recent fixed power stations burn natural gas, which is less polluting still (more hydrogen turning to water and less carbon turning to dioxide per unit energy produced) than petrol.

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Pint

Where do I sign up?

"this review will no doubt draw the usual flak from libertarian yahoos who seem to object on principle to any product even partly inspired by the need to try to reduce the all too obvious causes of climate change"

For that line alone, sir, a beer.

Cheers!

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Devil

Re: Where do I sign up?

I suppose real libertarians would say "let the market decide", which is a reasonable attitude, while Gaiaists and Greentards would lay the subsidy hose to mine lithium in Afghanistan after bombing it so that 50'000 cars and its concomitant production chain (the "invested capital" - hold on that has to do with "capitalism" and must be bad, right?) can be shat out at enormous cost while the power magically comes from "somewhere" so that they can drive by gas stations smiling and so feel good about actually NOT saving on the carbon emissions.

I hope that beer gives you the runs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where do I sign up?

Like the market gave us seat belts, air bags, cat converters, removed lead from petrol etc etc?

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Silver badge

Re: Where do I sign up?

Actually... yes.

You think some dude in an office came up with those ideas or made them work in the first place? LOLNO.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where do I sign up?

No, engineers and technicians came up with them, legislation made sure they appeared on the cars we drive. The market had sod all to do with it. Quite the reverse in fact.

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Re: Where do I sign up?

Seatbelts save lives. Catalytic converters and unleaded fuel shorten your engine's lifespan. Guess which of these were inspired by market forces and which were legislated from on high.

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Headmaster

Fail

Or - buy a 3k decent car and:

1- avoid another car being made

2 - use yer car less (cycle, public transport, etc)

I have an 11 year old 4.4 litre V8 X5. I bought it when it was 3 years old - so didn't create the massive environmental ming of a new car being made for me... and I keep the mile down to 4k a year or so. It does 20mpg - but I do very little milage, and when I do, I have a nice luxury motor. Real running costs are far less than any new car purchase... what's not to like

I maintain that that makes me far more green than buying a new electric car.

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FAIL

Re: Fail

That logic forgets that someone has to buy the car new originally, otherwise you will find that the supply of used cars dries up. Do you object to buying a used EV in 3-5 years time because of all the energy that went into manufacturing it?

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Childcatcher

Re: Fail

"I maintain that that makes me far more green than buying a new electric car."

Indeed. No mention of the disposal of the batteries, either. Imagine millions of these things ...

... people who think that being Green = 'hiding the mess from me' make me want to slap them.

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Thumb Up

Re: Fail

You are completely correct - i have done exactly the same, with a Jeep grand Cherokee I think i put around £15 of petrol in it a week on average. (I would like to quote clarkson - yes, you can buy a car that does 70mpg, and tell people about it - but you look a giant c**t driving it.)

To be honest, i was thinking what a great EV car, until this paragraph, 'On top of that you’ll need to find £70 a month for the cheapest 36-month battery lease' WTF might as well buy something bluemotion / small. That is just a joke, on top of the electricity you have to pay, made it awesome and cheap to something pointless.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: Fail

What a stupid argument. Lets all buy 2nd hand cars because clearly then we'll never need new ones.

The point is that the new cars being introduced as old ones wear out should be as clean as possible, not that everyone should ditch their car for a new e-car. It's a long game, there is no infrastructure for everyone to switch anyway.

Stop making ludicrous arguments. Drive your car until you would buy a new one anyway, then switch.

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FAIL

Re: Re: Fail

"That logic forgets that someone has to buy the car new originally, otherwise you will find that the supply of used cars dries up."

Er. No.

There's currently a glut of used cars, which force the prices down to the point that perfectly serviceable and useful vehicles are worth more as scrap or spares.

Making less new cars can only be a good thing IMO, regardless of how 'green' they are.

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Mushroom

Re: Fail

>What a stupid argument. Lets all buy 2nd hand cars because clearly then we'll never need new ones.

good idea. why not ?

>The point is that the new cars being introduced as old ones wear out should be as clean as possible, not that >everyone should ditch their car for a new e-car. It's a long game, there is no infrastructure for everyone to switch >anyway.

does your house wear out ? Do you sell it and get a new one every 5-10 years even ?

no - of course not - you 'maintain' it - and by doing so it last indefinately. Sure, in the end after maybe 100 years there's some 'ship of theseus' going on, but have economically replaced old parts as required, recycling them as necessary.

Do we still need new houses ? sure - growing population, and a small amount of poor housing being renewed - but would you ever even consider knocking a house down after a certain number of years just because it's old ? of course not - it would be mental. And yet we do exactly that with cars.

A modern car is much the same as a new and has arguably no defined maximum lifetime anymore than your house does.

My X5 has done 150K miles and drives like it's just came out the showroom. In other 50k it might need a reconditioned gearbox, perhaps in another 150K miles, a new engine. The bodywork shows no signs of rust whatsoever after 11 year, so I imagine that will be just as good in 10 years time.

The people buying new cars are not the people who have previously run a new car for the last 20 years until it was no longer maintainable - if they were you might have a point. They are people, that 'buy new cars'. They are the main contributors to any environmental pollution. It doesn't matter whether they are buying an EV, a diesel or a ferrari - they are still the no.1 polluters.

The economics of new cars, now only works with a worldwide market because of the longevity of the cars these days. How many 10 year old cars do you see on British roads ? Not a fraction as many as there should be - because they have been shipped out to eastern europe, china, etc.

As long as the supply of new cars continues unabated, the supply of 10 year old cars to china is unabated, and the inefficient recycling of perfectly good 20 year old cars will continue (since who in China will want a 20 year old car, when 10 year old one are coming in all the time).

stu

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FAIL

Re: Fail

Fail yourself sir...

Not everyone can afford to drive only 4K a year...

Those of us who do long journeys need more efficient cars....

those of us with work that doesn't allow home working need efficient cars...

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Re: Fail

My wife regularly gets in excess of 60mpg. It's a Mercedes C-class diesel estate which puts out just 117g/km while still having a 170 horses under the hood. So, you can have decent fuel economy in a decent car (insert obligatory sniping at Mercedes drivers here).

On the other hand, the g/km are only half the story. It really annoys me that cars get taxed on g/km at all. I own a big V6 powered Renault which puts out a frightening 271g/km.. but I don't drive it very much because the fuel consumption is frankly Not Good. The more CO2 you put out.. the more fuel you use. And the more fuel you use, the more tax you pay. And that's the way it should be. CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are directly linked.. if you drive less and drive more prudently, then you will pay less, which is exactly the sort of behaviour that is good. If you have a V8-powered behemoth that you take out to the shops at weekends, then your not doing a lot of harm.. except the people who set the vehicle excise duties will make you pay through the nose.

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Anonymous Coward

House analogies never work

Have a think for a minute about the different methods of construction used in building cars and building houses.

Now join me in despairing at how horribly inefficient the construction industry is.

Energy use of cars are dominated by use. While low mileage drivers can drive old guzzlers and people shouldn't rush to upgrade for small fuel efficiency gains, putting a high number of miles on a failure-prone, smoke-spewing guzzler is not doing anyone a favor.

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JDX
Gold badge

does your house wear out ? Do you sell it and get a new one every 5-10 years even ?

Are you actually retarded? A car is not a house. Even boats - which have FAR more longevity than cars - eventually wear out.

And your point still makes no sense because you still need new parts to replace the ones that wear out. You're still building new cars, just in bits. When your engine wears out, you can replace it with a new electric one.

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Stop

Re: Fail

"To be honest, i was thinking what a great EV car, until this paragraph, 'On top of that you’ll need to find £70"

Strangely, it would seem that I don't do enough miles to actually make the car economically viable!

"What a stupid argument. Lets all buy 2nd hand cars because clearly then we'll never need new ones.... Stop making ludicrous arguments. Drive your car until you would buy a new one anyway, then switch."

No, it's not a stupid argument. It's just a stupid argument for *you*. Some of us NEVER buy new cars, which makes it your argument that's stupid for us.

Personally, I drive a thirty year old vehicle that will last another thirty years. Sure: It sucks fuel, but it's by far the most economical approach for me, as I do only 50 miles a week, at most.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fail

You could say that people don't need phones and that software should be optimised instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: does your house wear out ? Do you sell it and get a new one every 5-10 years even ?

People change kitchens, extend their house, paint it etc.. and all of this is more complex then doing things to cars.

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Anonymous Coward

It's not bitching, it's reality.

>Bitching about it makes as much sense as complaining that you can’t get a three-seat sofa and five fat blokes in a VW Up. Of course you can’t, so don’t buy one.

I beg to differ. Until electric cars can go a decent distance then they are completely useless beyond a few niche users. Will they be able to take you and the family for a day out, no, well maybe half way there but you'd have to walk home. Even if they get to a reasonable distance, let's say 500 miles you still have the hours of charging time to continue a long journey. When they do become popular there'll be huge queues for the charging points. It's all utopia now with being the only user.

What use are they as a second car for the office run for example. You spend 13,000 plus inurance and tax to save a few pence. You'd never get your money back, not even if it saved you the London congestion tax or whatever it's called.

At the moment electric cars are like Windows, released before they have been fully developed.

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Joke

Re: It's not bitching, it's reality.

I think we have found Eadon's alter ego

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not bitching, it's reality.

I don't think the range is really a problem. You could, cost permitting, hire a car for longer journeys.

The real problem is that its most suited to city dwellers, who are exactly the sort of people who are unlikely to have a driveway or garage suitable for charging it. Currently, they are a 2nd car for the rich.

Maybe they'll take off if we have a "Boris Bikes" style car hire system. If you live in a city, hiring a pre-charged electric car by the hour might by appealing, and you could always opt for petrol/diesel for longer journeys.

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Facepalm

Re: It's not bitching, it's reality.

"Until electric cars can go a decent distance then they are completely useless beyond a few niche users"

Well, I beg to differ from your deferral. Firstly, your "niche users" argument is bollocks. I could just as easily say: "until Ferraris and Aston Martins can be bought for £20k, they are completely useless beyond a few niche users". The point is that, for those "niche" users, the cars are completely useful, and they don't need to be useful to anyone else. If they are not useful to you, OK, don't buy one. But complaining that they are not useful is akin to complaining to rich folk that their Ferrari is useless because you can't afford one.

Secondly, what is a "niche" user anyway? I don't have exact stats, but I would expect that a large proportion of families already have 2 cars. So having an e-car as a second car is not an extra expense, and 1 petrol + 1 e-car will not in any way change their mobility options with respect to having 2 petrol cars. Secondly, I think there's also a fair few people who habitually drive less than 80 miles a day, and only drive more than 80 miles a day a handful of times a year. These people can own an e-car and rent a petrol car for their long trips, with the petrol savings from using the e-car day-to-day offsetting the rental costs.

I think that those 2 categories combined make up a lot, lot more than a "niche"

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JDX
Gold badge

completely useless beyond a few niche users

You mean the few million 'niche users' who live in cities and drive only a few miles every day? How many people exactly do you think live in Greater London alone and drive to work?

It's good to see that just as Londoners are ignorant of everywhere else, bumpkins also assume everyone is just like them with their 50mile commute.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

>You mean the few million 'niche users' who live in cities and drive only a few miles every day? How many people exactly do you think live in Greater London alone and drive to work?

Probably far too many so explain to me why there aren't long queues to buy these cars even when they are subsidised and currently have low running costs because while you're thinking about an answer here's another reality. Once electric cars do become popular the government will find a way to put a fuel tax on the electricity used to charge them.

So in the future you can look forward to unsubsidised cars, similar per mile fuel costs and higher insurance premiums as inurers are still wary of batteries bursting into flames in an accident.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

"So in the future you can look forward to unsubsidised cars, similar per mile fuel costs and higher insurance premiums as inurers are still wary of batteries bursting into flames in an accident."

Not really. It's all about the battery prices. Cheap batteries mean success for PEVs, expensive batteries mean failure and moving on to natural gas. Insurers don't worry about battery fires, because they aren't a problem, they only care about the cost of repair and trying to screw customers who've bought more expensive cars.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Re: It's not bitching, it's reality.

> You could, cost permitting, hire a car for longer journeys.

Only if there are just a few electric cars around. If most people had electric cars there wouldn't be enough "long journey" cars, because it would be uneconomical to maintain a hire fleet.

Besides, price is irrelevant here. Electric cars are only cheaper than diesel/petrol ones because:

1) Other taxpayers subsidise your purchase. That won't last.

2) Electricity isn't taxed at the same rate as road fuel (of which > half the pump price is tax)

The moment a government realizes that tax income has fallen because too many people are driving electric cars, it'll find a way to get the same per-mile income from them as it does from diesel or petrol ones.

There are sound reasons not to extravagantly burn finite resources like petroleum, but plug-in electric cars aren't a solution.

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Re: It's not bitching, it's reality.

Quote: "I beg to differ. Until electric cars can go a decent distance then they are completely useless beyond a few niche users."

Erm, you are aware the 'niche users' are the ones that need to do 'a decent distance', this car is aimed at normal people, not the niche high mileage crowd?

Most users have the common sense to have home and work within a reasonable distance, i.e < 10 or so miles and most other journeys will be even less (supermarket, cinema etc.).

So a 70 mile range in a car would probably be enough for the vast majority of most car users.

It's the people doing the 50+ miles commutes every day that are the odd ones here, and it'll be some time before an EV car can cope with that type of journey.

But we have to start somewhere. so aim for the majority low mileage users first, then deal with the niche high mileage users later when the technology has matured some more and economies of scale start to improve costs etc.

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Thumb Down

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

Maybe the people who "drive a few miles every day" should be introduced to a bicycle. Or perhaps have the point of their legs and feet explained to them. Or failing that, we can probably locate the closest bus/tram/tube stop for them.

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Meh

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

For us bumpkins the nearest bus/tram/tube stop is probably further away than our destination.

Actually, in fairness to rural bus services, there probably is a bus stop nearby, so as long as you only want to travel to your destination or back again on any given day, you'll probably be sorted.

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Silver badge
Stop

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

Yeh, bicycles are completely practical for doing the shopping, moving young kids around, the old and infirm, in poor weather, in hilly regions etc. aren't they? They have a place, but don't assume that they are the answer to the problem.

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WTF?

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

Bus and train services in Cornwall are available but less than practical...

To get to Truro from where I live on a bus will take over 2 hours and require 2 changes

And there is only one bus service that can get me there for 9am (start of work)

To take a train takes 30 mins minimum, and I still have to get to a station - 20 mins average

The cost is also so high, that driving makes it cheeper and I can choose when I leave home or work

I tested an Electric Car a while back, for a week, it costed a lot to recharge at home - approx £3.80 per night

And to recharge at work approx £5.60 (Tarriff thing I guess)

So altogether approx £9.40 a day total and the round trip was 48 miles

My petrol car does 40mpg approx, so a tank (£60) will last all week, with shopping trips etc

An EV would cost me £47 just to get to work, never mind anything else.

If I had to go to a site visit, it just wouldn't be practical. 150 mile range is rubbish

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Silver badge
Stop

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

What the heck were you testing? That has to be about the least efficient EV I've heard of. £3.80 is about 25 kwh of power. Most EVs should get 75-100 miles out of that. Call it 150 miles both ways then that's a minimum of 2.5 gallons from a 60MPG car. 2.5*4.5*1.40 = £15.75 for your daily round trip. Charge off of Economy 7 power and the EV price comes down by 1/3rd.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

Stretching it a bit aren't you? I think you're making things up.

Spending nearly £10 on electricity even at an eye watering 20p/unit is ~50kw/h. Drive an EV like a complete loon an you'll still get 50 miles per 20kw/h charge. So, what were you doing with the other 30kw/h?

Do you work on a drag racing strip?

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Boffin

Lack of charging points...

"The real problem is that its most suited to city dwellers, who are exactly the sort of people who are unlikely to have a driveway or garage suitable for charging it. Currently, they are a 2nd car for the rich."

THIS is the main problem I've seen with EVs. My current apartment block lacks charging points in the parking lot, and I guess the same applies for most apartment block dwellers in large cities ... the very ones that would benefit from EVs.

By the way, Mexico City now has a car hire system since last year, and they do rent out both petrol and EV cars by the hour. This is how I finally got my hands on a Leaf, and I was actually surprised to find out that the Leaf's range will exceed by far my daily commute requirements. It did 75kms and it still had half the battery charge left. Given that my regular commute is around 20km, I'd easily get Monday-Friday covered with a single charge. Mighty appealing, though I'll probably stay with the car hire system.

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Silver badge

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

$orkplace is semirural.

Taking the bus might be an option if I didn't mind a 2 1/2 hour journey time, arriving at 10am and leaving by 4pm.

It's a 10 minute car journey, plus the hours are (notionally) 9-5:30. Guess which I use?

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Silver badge

Re: completely useless beyond a few niche users

One word: explains poor range in cornwall: Hills.

You don't need to drive like a loon. A few steep hills put a big dent in EV range even with regenerative braking (steep declines overwhelm regeneration systems). I found the same problem when I tested an EV for commuting.

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Meh

I like the car...

But that white interior's going to look like shit when my toddler's have been in it for 10 minutes.

A more practical black/grey option...?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I like the car...

I bet you don't understand the irony of what you posted.

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