Living with an EV - One Year On

4 minute read

In my previous article I wrote about my experiences of nine months of living with an EV. Coming up to two years of ownership I’ve had occasion to do another couple of length-of-England drives (>350 miles each way) and the experience has been somewhat different and much improved.

What has Changed?

In short: the abundance of charging stations. As I wrote last January:

The thing about range anxiety is the level of anxiety is directly related to the abundance of available filling/charging stations. If there’s a filler/charger every few miles on your route then there’s nothing to worry about; pick the most convenient one before you become too desperate and if there’s a problem with it, move on to the next. ICE and EV cars are no different in this respect.

Whilst it’s certainly not the case that there are suddenly as many charging stations as petrol stations, there are a lot more than a year ago. Planning the route down I was pleasantly surprised to find clusters of high-performance charging stations dotted much more regularly and frequently along the major roads of my route, as well as some in towns not too far off it. And the two hotels we stayed at both had a handful of 7kW charge points, despite the fact I forgot to check this when booking them!

And the number of available charging stations was further enhanced by the fact that every single one we tried worked first time. This is obviously not a scientific survey but the fact that we have always found at least one out-of-service or malfunctioning charger on every long-distance journey showed that reliability was a real problem. I’m sure this isn’t resolved yet but, on the evidence of this journey, reliability seems to be improving.

One Year On

The route we drove last week was very similar to the one we did in November 2022 but the experience was very different.

In November 2022 there were no destination charge points at the places we were staying so we had to think ahead and make sure that, when we got to stay-over points, there was enough charge to get us to another charging station. This meant longer waits at each station - not a problem in itself if timed to coincide with meal and comfort stops - and more anxiety because it was more necessary that we could charge at the planned stops.

In April 2024 the fact that the overnight stops had chargers meant doing a significant charge en route wasn’t strictly necessary. We had to stop anyway for comfort breaks (my post-coffee range is shorter than the EV’s!) and so put the car on charge for 10-15 minutes while we did so, meaning that we arrived at each destination with 30-50% charge remaining; plenty to get to the next charging station if the hotel chargers weren’t in service. But they were and so the car charged to 100% overnight as we slept.

What’s more, the vastly increased number of high-speed charging stations meant we could stop when we wanted to rather than when we had to in 2022. In one case we’d planned to stop at a charger in St Albans and go for a walk to stretch our legs while the car charged, but the charging station was so fast that we only managed a short stroll before we had to go back to avoid blocking the charge point we were connected to … the first time in my experience where charging was just too damn fast!

What I was particularly interested in was the fact that the journey couldn’t have been any quicker with an ICE. Yes, just filling up would be quicker but the end-to-end process of stopping, filling up, going to the loo, and getting a drink & something to eat, before heading off again wouldn’t have been. In a life-or-death get-there-as-soon-as-possible-at-any-cost situation I could have shaved maybe 15 minutes off the 8 hour journey in an ICE at the expense of some comfort but, otherwise, it was no slower in the EV.

Driving from Northumberland to South Sussex means using the A1, M1 and M25 and, of course, these are going to be the focus for roll-out of better charging infrastructure. But a couple of recent, slightly shorter (~250 mile round trip), journeys into rural Scotland had a very similar flavour. Major towns and cities usually have a few high-speed charging options and many of the smaller towns and villages have slow speed destination chargers. A couple of journeys into rural Ayrshire and north of Glasgow have proven to be as hassle-free as the trip to Sussex.

There’s obviously room for further improvement and I’m sure there will be points in the general electrification of transport where the supply of charging infrastructure struggles to match the demand of EV ownership (although the recent slowdown in sales indicates this may be a great time to buy an EV both in terms of purchase price and in terms of abundance of charging options). But what felt like a commitment to the ideals of EV ownership in 2022 now feels like just another journey in 2024.