James Willis reflects on 30,000 miles of EV motoring

The government’s announcement of a massive increase in the number of public electric vehicle chargers is as welcome as it is overdue.

Just as important and just as overdue is the requirement to make paying for a charge as straightforward as paying for a tank of petrol, allowing the UK to move on from the present jungle of incompatible networks, all requiring different membership and payment procedures, which have made EV travel a game for the dedicated enthusiast.

With the exception, that is, of Tesla drivers, whose exclusive network of superchargers had it all sorted from the beginning. Almost supernaturally easy to use, you just plug in, charge for as long as you choose, unplug, and go.

The Tesla “pump” detects who you are and charges (no pun) your account automatically. We did this both ways on the M4 on a 500-mile round trip to West Wales recently – taking under an hour (a coffee) each time – and the total cost came in at £26. We started with 300 miles in the battery, some of it, even in March’s low sun, from our solar panels, and to that extent entirely free of cost, of CO2, of guilt. And well over 100 miles in hand when we got home.

If the Government’s announcements prove to be more than aspirations, they will go a long way to making longer journeys practical for all EV drivers. Even so, most of us will continue to do most of our charging at home, either from an ordinary 13-amp plug – adding 8 to 10 miles per hour (all we have ever needed for local journeys) – or from a special charge point, charging about three times as quickly.

That leaves a huge problem for people who cannot charge at home, or who couldn’t get a lead across a pavement to their car even if they could rely on a free space outside. And this is another thing that won’t be solved if it is left to market forces – it needs a coordinated plan. Government, you haven’t finished yet.

The other thing we need is a simple, no frills electric car, with a big battery and lots of load capacity. Something like a post-war VW, or people’s car. We really didn’t need cameras all round and a boot that opens automatically.

You don’t need frills for electric motoring to be a dream. No gears, no clutch, almost no need for a brake (the motor pulls back and puts the kinetic energy back into the battery when you lift your foot – gorgeous). Silent, smooth, punchy when you need it. Clean. Mechanically simple, few moving parts, minimal servicing.

Everybody thinks it must be dangerous being so quiet. Secret – it isn’t. All modern cars are almost silent at slow speeds, and above that the tyre noise is all you need, plus being considerate – the gentle character of the EV driving experience somehow seems to encourage that. Pedestrians buried in headphones, or cyclists, will sometimes need a toot however noisy your car (although they rarely thank you for it) but in over thirty thousand miles of EV motoring I can honestly say this has not once been a problem.

27,000 of those miles were during the seven years we had our beloved VW e-up! which traded-in for an astonishing £9,000 when we bought the Tesla last autumn.

The days when we can burn fossil fuels in order to travel are over. Get used to it. Problems remain, but at mankind’s eleventh hour we are within reach of a viable alternative. Let’s make it work.