Who would have thought there could be so much ‘mileage’, in having a BEV. No, not my best friend, my BEV is a Battery Electric Vehicle, writes Helen Chessum.
Bought last year just before the pandemic took over our lives, BEV turned out to be the perfect lockdown project, providing endless hours of fun looking at stats with my husband, the engineer.
BEV records your driving stats and shows how energy-efficiently you drive. My husband was keen to make sure I didn’t drive on his stats. When we came to the first review I had a little chuckle when my stats beat his. Of course, this facility isn’t exclusive to electric vehicles. Anyone can make use of these stats on newer cars to reduce their own fuel consumption. It’s not rocket science: the more steadily you drive the less fuel you use!
As BEV doesn’t have a fuel tank, you have two displays to guide you: battery charge level and range display. Range anxiety is an issue for BEV owners so you need to be more aware of your charge level and range to manage your nerves, especially on a longer outing. Charging points are not on every corner like petrol stations. On a trip back from Exeter I suddenly got a shock when a flashing warning message was triggered: only 12 miles left in the battery!
The range display is where the magic starts. This is not a specific measure like the charge level indicator, but a prediction based on the conditions, previous driving style and the weather. I can leave home with a range of 140 miles, arrive in the centre of Newton Abbot and still see a range of 140. I’ve driven eight miles but according to the display I haven’t used any energy! It feels like magic but it’s due to energy recovery.
Both feedback displays really are useful to moderate your driving to save energy. At first there was a downside as I became obsessed with the displays but I have now found a good balance. I have to confess I was never so aware of my driving in my old petrol Polo.
BEV also has a blue and green zone energy display, next to the normal speedo. All part of the learning curve, I have trained myself to drive in the green zone as much as possible to maximise this energy recovery and make the magic happen. However, this can have some hairshirt consequences when you see how much energy is drawn from the battery by the radio or the heating. Early on I occasionally drove home shivering and with no entertainment just to protect my stats. This is the extreme end of the energy saving sport. But joking aside, it does graphically ‘drive’ home how much energy it takes to power the mod cons in our cars we take for granted.
What about charging and range anxiety I hear you ask? Well I’m fortunate to have a drive and can park right next to my charger. Much trickier if you live in town. The 13 amp charge lead comes as standard but takes about 10-11 hours to charge fully. Your next investment is a rapid charger. Just plug BEV into her life support overnight and bingo! Or not quite, as my other energy-saving challenge is to charge BEV as much as possible from our solar panels, using truly low-carbon electricity. So overnight is not the ideal time to charge. This all takes some management and engagement with BEV and her charger. So here’s the trick – plan ahead and charge only when you need to travel. At this time of year it’s much easier as there is (usually) more sun. If my journeys are local BEV doesn’t need to be fully charged every time and I can divert some of the solar power to other appliances in my house or to our batteries.
Of course I do still need to use the grid electricity for part of the year. The grid is using more power from low-carbon sources as we make the changes to combat climate change. But there is no guarantee the energy I’m drawing is from renewables. I have to live with that for the time being. By charging BEV from the grid only when I absolutely need to, I’m making quite an impact on my carbon footprint.
The next big challenge with BEV is driving to Bristol and back, which is outside BEV’s 145 mile range. This will involve charging away from home – a new adventure. So wish us luck!