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Simon's electric adventure

By Simon Pickett | Posted June 06, 2018

My Blue Lab EV journey

In February, I was lucky to move to a role in Blue Lab, EDF Energy’s innovation accelerator. 

I’ve always been interested in cars – I grew up going to rally events and race weekends, and my dad has had a number of classic cars. While my own cars have been far from low carbon, a colleague arranged for me to test-drive an EV. Suddenly, this petrol-head could see himself falling for an altogether different type of vehicle, and it was quite a shock to me!

My EV interest became more of a reality when I was offered the chance to join Blue Lab’s EV team, which has been set up to help us better understand the EV market and what our place in this market could be.

My EV challenge was born

A few weeks into the job it almost all went wrong when I commented to a colleague that “people who do a lot of miles will still need to use a diesel”. Their swift response, with a belittling glance, was: “We are in the EV Team, we are advocates and we are trying to help reduce emissions.”

A few weeks later a chance arose to get back in my colleague’s good books. I needed to attend a number of face-to-face meetings in the South West. As part of our work with EVs we have a Nissan Leaf demo vehicle. I decided to attempt my journey in that, but was met by a bit of ridicule from some of my old work friends, who joked about me never reaching my destination or needing multiple hotel stays along the way.

I’ll be honest and say that I really didn’t know if they were right. I sensed that, underneath the encouraging smiles of the EV Team, there was some trepidation. The Leaf states a range of 235 miles; I know that its real-world range is about 170.

Plan ahead for a smooth journey

I decided it was all about the planning. We’ve all heard of people turning up at chargers only for them to be out of order, in use by someone else for the day, or just off. We’re not yet at the point where it is as easy as it would be in my petrol car – I wouldn’t be able to drive a mile or two down the road to another garage. I used the popular Zap-Map website to look at my options and found that I didn’t even need to change my planned route (the fastest option that Google could offer me). 

What was even more surprising was I booked a hotel based on the best available price only. Then, having done so, found that, by chance, it claimed to have EV charging on site. I called and they confirmed it. I couldn’t book to use it in advance, but just the opportunity was good enough for me.

But even the best-laid plans can stall (get the car pun?) along the way. The Nissan Leaf was supposed to be 100% charged when I collected it at work. My language wouldn’t be printable when I found it was at 79%, but  I took the car home and plugged it into my house using the three-pin plug converter that comes with the car, no special charge point was required.

My drive to Exeter was easy. The Leaf had adaptive cruise control, so semi-autonomously followed the car in front. I drove through Chichester in rush hour without touching the pedals (but ready to do so should I need to at any point). It was a surreal and interesting experience. 

More importantly, the range left on the car was dropping at a realistic rate. When I got to the first planned stop I had plenty of charge still but our business rules state we shouldn’t travel for more than 2 hours without stopping. Abiding by this rule gave me a chance to top up with breakfast and a cuppa while I caught up on emails, and the car got a power top up too. By chance, these charge points belong to ChargePoint Services, who EDF Energy has recently started working with to provide bespoke EV charging solutions to business customers.

After a decent break of 50 minutes I was back on the road. Exeter got closer and closer and any range anxiety I might have had was vanishing fast.

I couldn’t believe how cheap and easy the journey was turning out to be

I’d only paid £6.70 to recharge the car and I would easily make the on-site charger at our Exeter offices. I got there in plenty of time and plugged in for a top-up charge while I had my meetings and grabbed some lunch.

My last drive of the day was a little over a hundred miles and I had no concerns about my driving range or needing to charge again. I arrived at the hotel to find a free EV bay and plugged in with no issue at all – I just tapped the charger membership card on the unit, plugged in and locked the car up. It was time to find some dinner and reflect on the day.

The free overnight charge at the hotel was so convenient and meant I didn’t need to consider using the company charging point at our Barnwood office the next morning.

After my meetings there I was on the road again with a number of options for charging on the way home. Deep down I considered not charging at all, just to prove a point, but I wanted to remain compliant with our business travel policy so I put the car on the rapid charger at Chieveley services, sat in the sunshine and had another cup of tea. My half-hour stop got me more than enough charge to drive home and onto work in Hove the next morning.

I went into my Blue Lab EV Challenge half-expecting to be forced to change meeting times or join in by phone – but the car was an easy drive for the whole of my journey. I had no fears about getting stranded without power and I was stunned that the whole trip, of more than 400 miles, cost just £11.26.

Good planning, and possibly a bit of luck, certainly helped. I’d definitely recommend having a look at your own EV challenge.

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