An electric vehicle (EV) doesn’t have to be a second car. New batteries and ever-improving charging infrastructure could make now the time to own an EV. To try and persuade petrol and diesel drivers that now’s the time to switch, Plug In Adventures founder and self-acclaimed EV enthusiast Chris Ramsey is driving a lightly modified Nissan Leaf 30kwh 10,000 miles from the UK to Mongolia as part of the Mongol Rally.
The man with the plan
Chris Ramsey is no stranger to long-haul trips in a Leaf EV – he’s previously driven one 1,652 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End and back in less than two days only using publicly available free EV charging points. Not content with that, he completed the equally demanding North Coast 500 – a challenging 516-mile route around the Scottish Highlands.
Chris is out to prove that EVs can replace more conventional cars by taking a Leaf to some of the world’s most remote locations. Don’t think he’s fitted any larger batteries, a spare generator or roof-mounted solar panels, however – this is pretty much a bog standard Nissan Leaf. Only some heavy-duty suspension, underbody protection and knobbly tyres have been added to help it cope with gruelling Siberian roads.
So why take an electric vehicle halfway across the world?
Electric cars are inherently simpler than petrol or diesel models, so there are fewer components to go wrong. Furthermore, in some locations fuel quality is poorer than others but electricity is pretty much the same wherever you go. So long as there’s a plug socket – and Chris remembered to pack the right adaptor – he has fuel. The Leaf is also comfortable and has plenty of luggage space – essential for a trip that could take up to two months.
Chris notes that driving an EV has changed some of his driving behaviour – in a quest to constantly squeeze that little bit of extra range, he anticipates coming to a stop well in advance and makes use of the car’s regenerative braking. This system helps recaptures lost energy by using the car’s motor as a brake to recharge its batteries.
Other techniques used by EV owners include ‘hypermiling’ or letting the car coast along in order to achieve maximum range. Unless you’re trekking across the country, you can simply treat an EV as you would a normal car.
Is an EV for me?
Driving an EV doesn’t have to be a complete paradigm shift, rather it’s like introducing a new electronic gadget into your life. Just like your phone, you charge your car before going to bed or top it up while you’re working, ready for your drive home. With EV ranges constantly increasing – the Leaf can manage 155 miles between charges – electric cars are no longer restricted to short commutes or inner-city trips either.
Some models may cost more up-front than other options but their low running costs – Nissan claims a Leaf will set you back just two pence per mile – lack of an annual Road Tax bill and the contribution from the Government plug-in car grant can help balance the books.
Ready to take the leap?
Some major manufacturers have already introduced electric variants of popular models, such as the VW e-Golf and the Ford Focus Electric, while others are planning to release all-new electric models in the next few years.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge yet, a plug-in hybrid or a conventional hybrid is a great stepping stone before buying a fully fledged EV. These cars still rely on a combustion engine for long journeys but most can cover short trips using electric power alone.