In February 2019, we bought (second-hand) our first electric car; a 2015 Renault Zoe. I wrote a post about it shortly after we picked it up and now, one year on, it’s time for an update.
What’s it like to drive?
It is a very comfortable and fun car to drive. It’s very quiet too; you still get road and wind noise but there’s little or no engine noise, except the – entirely artificial – sound it makes below 20mph to warn pedestrians.
The batteries are under the seats, which means a high driving position and good visibility. The screen and entertainment systems feel a little dated, but they work well enough. The air-con was amazing during the summer and it also warms up pretty quickly in winter, though this is one reason why the range suffers in the colder months (more on that later).
It’s really nippy at low speeds, which is what you do most of the time if you live and work in a city, as we do. 0 to 60 (mph) takes about 12 seconds, but 0 to 30 takes about 3-4. It’s great when you’re sitting at a roundabout, for example, to know that when you spot a gap you can put your foot down and it will just go (even if it causes some passengers to scream the first time they experience it!).
The brakes feel sensitive too, but that could just be compared to our old car. However, you don’t actually use the breaks all that much, if you drive it properly. Like most electric cars, it has Regenerative Braking (or ‘Regen’); you take your foot off the gas and the car will start to slow down, recuperating energy back into the battery, adding a few miles to the range and avoiding wear on the brake pads. It’s a little odd at first, but you soon get used to it.
So, when the car is fully charged, it reports a range of around 78 miles in July, dropping to around 58 miles in February. This is probably a slightly conservative estimate, plus I don’t know how much of its original capacity the battery has lost (we may find out when we get it serviced). Either way, we’ve never had to drive it with less than 10 miles left on the clock, so range anxiety hasn’t been an issue for us most of the time.
We’ve done a few longer trips and motorway journeys now. In Eco Mode, the car is effectively limited to 60mph; it will stop accelerating and you feel some resistance in the pedal. You can push beyond it to accelerate further if you need to, but the dashboard turns yellow to show you that you aren’t driving efficiently. Most of the time, however, we leave it in Normal Mode, where you can accelerate without interference and it is more fun to drive, at the expense of some range. We only use Eco mode for longer journeys, mostly to places within about 30 miles of our home where we know that we have enough power to get back (not that we often travel further than that anyway). The only longer journey we make regularly is the 60ish-mile journey to my parents’, which we haven’t actually done yet, mainly because we need to buy an additional cable so we can plug it in at their house. I will report back on how that goes when we get the chance to try it out.
I’m happy to admit that there have been one or two occasions where the Zoe has arguably ‘let us down’. For example, we attended a friend’s wedding in North Wales; a journey of over 250 miles that would have required us to stop and charge multiple times on the way there and back (for around 40 minutes each time). We accept that this is not practical and, in the end, we hired a petrol car for this one-off journey. However, as I’ve said, it is rare for us to travel this kind of distance, so the Zoe is still, on balance, a perfect car for us day-to-day.
It is worth noting that newer cars, such as the 2019 Leaf and Zoe, can do around 250 miles on a charge (and some can now do over 350). That would mean that we could have done the journey to Wales with one stop on the way down and one on the way back (as we did with the petrol car anyway!). As Robert Llewelyn says, that’s more than the human miles-to-the-bladder limit and so is plenty for most journeys. We are limited mainly by the fact that we could only afford the 2015 model, but battery capacity has increased rapidly in the last few years and soon these newer, longer-range cars will be available second-hand.
We have a PodPoint charger installed at home and, so far, we have only needed to use a public charger once (and have optionally used them on only two other occasions). Mostly, we just charge the car at home so the battery is always full and ready to go when we need it. Charging in public can be a faff, as you usually have to register with the company that owns the charger and download an app to use the ‘pump’. But, as I said, we’ve rarely had to use it and, from this year, legislation is due to change to make the whole process easier.
The PodPoint app lets us keep track of our usage and the average monthly cost of charging the car over the last year was £14.32. Even at its highest (£21.65 in January), that is less than we used to spend on petrol. Even factoring in the cost of the battery lease, we’ve worked out that paying for, servicing, insuring and fueling the car is cheaper, if only slightly, than our old petrol car. The cost wasn’t our main consideration when buying the car, but it is a nice bonus that we haven’t really had to pay a premium to go green.
If you want to know more about electric cars in general, I’d recommend a new series from Fully Charged called ‘Maddie Goes Electric‘, where science presenter Maddie Moate talks about buying an electric car for the first time and all the stuff that goes along with it. It’s well worth a watch, particularly if, like her, you’re thinking of going into it with little or no idea of what to expect.
I fully accept that electric cars are not suitable for everyone (yet!). If you regularly travel long distances or do not have somewhere to park/charge, then the technology is not quite ready for you (mainly due to the lack of easy-to-use charging infrastructure, rather than the cars themselves!). But if, like us, you have off-street parking and mostly make short journeys, then it could well be a viable option for your next car.
We’d definitely recommend the Zoe; it certainly works for us. It’s comfortable, fun to drive and is cheaper to run than our old petrol car. We’re already thinking about upgrading in a few years (just because we will need a bigger car as our family grows) but, whatever it is, it’s definitely going to be electric!