Wednesday, 4 December 2013

All I want for Christmas is an electric car

I love electric cars, I’d love to have one, but I can barely afford to keep the car I have on the road, never mind an electric one too and let’s be honest, range anxiety is still a very real thing (and the sort of electric car I could afford wouldn't have range as a selling point). For sure the situation will improve with time and the network of charging points is increasing, but who wants to have to stop every couple of hours on a long trip?

That there is why I love what +Tesla Motors are doing with their cars, they’re starting from scratch and really thinking the whole problem through. They’re slowly working their way towards mainstream, but of course they have to start somewhere. More power to them, at least they’re taking the risk at being at the cutting edge of this, which is risky.

There’s reasons for the high cost of the cars, of course there is, as +Elon Musk mentioned in his recent blog post, but at the same time this slows down the time it takes for the technology to get mainstream. The more people who have electric cars, the more charging stations; more infrastructure will then push up adoption figures. Plus the more people who own electric cars and the more they can provide useful feedback and usage figures which will help improve the technology.

The sort of media coverage they've been getting recently may not help, even with great responses by Elon (see the above linked blog post); they need users who will actively push the good news into the social media and traditional media.

As a software developer I see it all too often that the best way to understand whether you've developed something right is to test it and take notes of how it is used and how the users feel about it and I think the situation is the same here.

I'm never going to afford a brand new top-of-the-line Model S, frankly it’ll be years before I’ll be able to afford a decent used electric car. So I did what any sane person would do, I wrote to them and asked them to send me a free car in exchange for regular reviews, blog posts and articles. Unfortunately I haven’t had a reply, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up hope.

If they considered a lease type offering, that could work out similar to the costs of running an internal combustion vehicle. You see with tax, insurance, fuel and maintenance that can cost a fair amount each month; and whilst there would be a hike in my electricity bill, I’d imagine that I’d be able to work around that considerably.

We've had a new Sainsbury's supermarket open in Penzance and that, rather helpfully, includes an electric car charging point. We simply change from monthly shops to weekly, change where we normally do our shopping and have a meal there in their excellent cafe to extend charging times. Our food shop bill will go up a little, but against the savings being made on our car running costs it’ll probably be negligible. Whenever we’re planning a trip away we’ll have to do an overnight charge at home (on Economy 7) and plan around en route charging points.

No, I haven’t thought much about this…

I really want an electric car and I can’t wait until they become mainstream! I want to be involved in making them mainstream.

The tales of an electric car towing a caravan and being used successfully away from home for a week or doing fairly ordinary journeys like Cornwall to Bristol, Cornwall to London, Cornwall to North Wales would make people rethink about range anxiety. Having an electric car that is fast enough to compete in races is one thing, but what about an electric car that can be used by a family with minimal or even no inconvenience? Now that’s something that’s going to encourage uptake, and in turn encourage the infrastructure to improve.


What I’d like to see Tesla do now is some sort of subsidised lease programme, with all costs included (except electricity), in exchange for enhanced coverage of the vehicles. Like an extended test drive crossed with Peugeot's “just add fuel” scheme… I can see the branding now, “Tesla, just add leccy”. But seriously, this would be a way to get an advanced electric vehicle in the hands of an average car driver for a year and really accelerate the whole process. I’d like to nominate myself for the scheme; I’ll take a red model S with a towbar please or a charcoal Model X, if they’re coming soon...
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