A week with an EV
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Electric cars have been growing in popularity in recent years, with more and more people looking to go green.
But with so many out there to choose from, deciding on one that is right for you can prove difficult.
Back in January, Steve Smith, of Wales Online, took a Volvo C40 electric car on a Top Gear-style challenge to see how easy it would be and what it would cost.
After getting a much bigger reaction than he expected he decided to do it again, but this time with a Kia EV6 – here is how he got on:
He wrote: “After my first challenge, there was plenty of feedback – mostly constructive – which to be honest is quite unusual these days.
“I even had a few praising emails about it which, in a job where people only generally take the time to get in touch to shout at you about something they don’t like, is incredibly rare, believe me.
“There was also some criticism in terms of car choice – I was driving a fairly high-end, powerful, luxury SUV after all – and my own naïveté when it came to the best way to charge it when doing a long motorway drive.
“So, in short, I learned a lot, both during the experience and afterwards.
“No doubt that’s probably a feeling that new EV owners have too, because it’s not the same as just buying a new petrol or diesel car.
“A few of those who got in touch told me ‘you should try it in this car, or that car’. So I was certainly keen to do it again.
“Kia helped make that happen and arranged for an EV6 for me for a week.
“This time I was looking to give the car a more varied use, local driving through the week followed by repeating the same long weekend journey between Cornwall and Bristol that I’d done a couple of months before.”
“The vehicle this time was, as mentioned, a Kia EV6.
“This is Kia’s first dedicated electric vehicle, i.e. not a car that’s also available with a petrol engine.
“You can have either a rear-wheel-drive 226bhp single-motor version, or a 321bhp dual-motor one with all-wheel-drive. Mine was the latter.
“It’s laden with kit, including very nice digital dashboard screens, safety tech such as all-around parking sensors, lane-keep assist and a collision alert system, as well as a premium sound system, wireless phone charging and plenty else besides.
“It’s a lovely car to drive, very light and easy.
“It feels quick even in Eco mode, while in Sport it packs some real punch, with instant and almost brutal acceleration, the likes of which I wasn’t expecting.
“Indeed, the GT Line version I drove can hit 62mph in a mere 5.2 seconds.
“The interior is a thing of beauty, it’s as futuristic inside as it is outside, with loads of space, especially up front – where a lack of gearbox and transmission tunnel pays dividends – and the centre console is like something from a spaceship.
“All cars get a 77 kilowatt (kW) battery and Kia claims the rear-wheel-drive EV6 will give you as much as 328 miles of range, while the all-wheel-drive offers 314.
“It can be charged from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in just 18 minutes if you find a 350kW ultra-fast charger, while charging from 10 per cent to 100 per cent on a home EV wall charger at 7kW takes around seven hours 20 minutes, meaning it can be easily topped-up overnight or while parked during the day.
“Prices start at £42,245. Kia’s cheapest EV, meanwhile, is the Soul at £33,440.
Keeping it local
“After it arrived on the Monday, I had a few days with the car to use it in a way that many of us would do during the week – local driving.
“I had learned a lot from last time, particularly in terms of charging.
“The cheapest way to keep topped up is at home.
“Most EV owners will get a wall charger installed when they buy the car, allowing charging at 7kWh, which is about three times faster than a standard three-pin plug.
“While no good if you need to charge quickly to get somewhere, it’s fine for an overnight top-up, for example.
“What it costs you will depend on your energy tariff.
“Some people, like me, have lower overnight rates, for example. Energy companies are now also offering tariffs aimed at EV owners that have cheap rates at certain times of day, as low as 10p per kWh hour, maybe even less, which compares favourably to the current energy price cap rate of 34p per kWh.
“There is also hope that energy prices have peaked and will start to fall in the coming months.
“When I had the Volvo back in January I was somewhat naïve when it came to public chargers.
“They can cost as much as 79p per kWh, sometimes even more, making it really rather expensive, although you are paying for speed and convenience.
“However, many car manufacturers, Kia included, offer schemes that get you significantly discounted rates at public chargers, bringing them much closer to home charging costs.
“One of Kia’s deals offers discounted rates at a host of major public chargers.
“You pay an £11.25 per month fee and that reduces the rate from around 70p per kWh to 25p – so the monthly fee would be covered in probably just one charge.
“That makes a huge difference if you’re stopping at public chargers on long journeys – more on that later.
“I also learned the first time around that range is key.
“Previously ‘range anxiety’ was a thing that related to being able to find a charger when you needed one.
“That’s much less of an issue now because the infrastructure is decent, but perhaps the anxiety now comes in terms of costs.
“As with traditional fuels, the further you can go between fill-ups, the less it’ll cost you.
“Local driving is a piece of cake, I did runs to the supermarket, the vet, the dog groomer and various other errands and with 200+ miles of range showing on the Kia there were no worries at all.
“Just keep it topped up at home and this makes for very cheap driving, particularly against petrol or diesel cars that tend to be less efficient around town than they are on a longer drive – and you’re also helping to make your town or city less polluted with no fumes coming out of the back of the car.
“So, then, for everyday driving it’s a no-brainer. But we knew that already. Again, the real challenge was the long drive.
“During my few days of pottering I did plug in at a charger at Tesco, but these were only 7kw, so were slow – in a location where slow charging is a bit useless because you’re not going to be parked at a supermarket for more than an hour or two, although some of these chargers are faster than my local Tesco.
“This was a “might as well” scenario. I added about 25 miles in an hour at a cost of £2.32.
“These chargers actually used to be free, but are now 28p per kWh, which is cheap in terms of public chargers at least – and some places do still offer free charging.
“It’s also a bit of a faff, as you have to preload an account with money and use an app to activate the charger, rather than just tapping your payment card.
“After using a bit of range over the few days, I charged at home on the Thursday and Friday to make sure the Kia was full before Saturday’s long journey.
“It was very slow for me on a three-pin plug, but it was a must-do to reduce cost and this would be quicker with an aforementioned wall charger, of course.
The long drive, take two
“If you read the Volvo piece, you’ll know that I regularly drive between Cornwall and Bristol.
“At 175 miles each way, it’s a really good drive for testing cars.
“I was comparing how it went with my own car, a 17-year-old BMW 3 Series diesel.
“At current prices and getting about 55mpg, the return journey costs me around £50.
“Back in January, I was doing it in an EV for the first time and I was a bit green.
“I was apprehensive and I found it a little stressful at times.
“I was also, as mentioned, pretty naïve as to how to do these journeys without breaking the bank.
“This time around I felt far less anxious.
“Like anything, once you’ve done something once the second time is a lot easier.
“And I’m sure this would be the feeling if you’d made the switch to an EV after a lifetime of driving petrol or diesel cars.
“You get to know not just the car, but how to best use it.
“From last time I knew Exeter was a good place to stop, as the chargers are fast and it’s roughly halfway.
“However on this occasion, with some more research, I thought I’d aim for Cullompton, as it’s right next to the M5 motorway (Exeter is a bit of faff involving roundabouts and traffic lights) is only another 10 miles further on the outward journey and it also has quick chargers.
“The aim this time – although not necessarily an easy one as it would depend on accurate range forecasts from the car – having left home fully charged, would be to put in enough for what I needed from public chargers, but no more, in order to keep costs down.
“Setting out with a better range than last time was a good start.
“I was showing 260 miles (the Volvo had 180 when I tested it), not too far off the on-paper claim of 314.
“The weather was mildish – cold temperatures can reduce EV range as the batteries suffer.
“Indeed, a new study has found that ranges can drop by up to a third in winter.
“As mentioned, there are various schemes available to make on-the-road charging either easier, simpler, or both.
“The Kia one, as well as reducing the cost, also offers an app that allows you to charge at a variety of stations, regardless of provider, meaning you don’t need an app for each one.
“A similar idea is the likes of the cinchCharge card and app.
“This has been launched by the online car retailer cinch for people who buy EVs from its site.
“It offers an app that means you can charge at thousands of stations across the country, regardless of who operates them, using either the app itself or a cinchCharge contactless card.
“You top up your account and pay via either method.
“Again, it means you only need one app instead of, potentially, one for each provider.
“It works with 20 different networks, covering 20,000 chargers, and a map within the app shows where chargers are, how fast they are and whether they’re available.
“I was offered a card to try, and, while it doesn’t reduce cost, it does make things super-easy when you make a pit stop on a journey like mine.
“Having used the app to check on charger locations, it was a case of plug in, tap the card and charge.
“If you like to keep track of your spending this is a good way to do it, as it keeps your EV charging costs in one place – and the app logs all of your charging sessions.
“So, as mentioned, I was fully charged on departure, showing 260 miles of range.
“On my energy tariff this costs around £16, although it would have been £11 at my overnight rate and could be as little as £6 on an EV tariff.
“At the current energy price cap, I worked it out to be around £26.
“All of these are cheaper than my diesel BMW, which would use about £36 to do 260 miles, assuming 55mpg and 168.9p per litre, which is what it is where I live at the time of writing.
“After a nice smooth drive I arrived at the services, with range showing at 94 miles, having driven 110 miles, the battery now at 41 per cent.
“So I’d ‘lost’, as such, 56 miles against what was showing when I’d departed.
“This is one thing that makes planning longer journeys a bit tricky – you’re probably not going to get as far as the car promises you when you set off.
“It is worth noting that this is often true of petrol or diesel cars as well.
“No matter, I plugged in, needing 120 miles to get on to Bristol and back here again in the evening.
“With the range indicator not as reliable as I’d hoped, I had to play it safe.
“I charged for 30 minutes, which was as much as I had time for, returning the battery to 87 per cent and 217 miles of range.
“It cost £28.69, with the charging priced at 69p per kWh.
“I arrived in Bristol with 140 miles showing, 60 per cent battery, so again had ‘lost’ about 15 miles. But it was all very comfortable.
“I departed in the evening, showing 137 miles after a small amount of driving while there. By the time I got back to the services I was down to 42 miles, 23 per cent battery, so another 30 or so miles ‘lost’ against what the car was telling me at the start of the return journey.
“I needed something to eat and wasn’t in a rush, so I ended up charging for 40 minutes, returning the car to 94 per cent and 215 miles of range at a cost of £41.54.
“That made for a total cost, including the home charging before departure, of £86 in total, with the remaining miles on my return to be deducted from that to give me the true journey cost.
“I arrived back home with 62 miles of range, 32 per cent battery.
“Again, I’d ‘lost’ about 40 miles. But that didn’t give me any anxiety because the Kia’s decent overall range was plenty for this journey.
“However, every mile promised in range that isn’t delivered costs you money.”
“Deducting the miles left in the battery, I reckoned the journey had cost me a total of £69, more than in my diesel BMW, but not a huge amount more.
“However, knowing what I now did about cheaper ways to charge, I knew that wasn’t the whole story and that would be factored into my conclusions.
“The day had gone smoothly, I’d never had any worries about not making it to a charger.
“The charging itself was quick and easy, although it had still added time to the usual journey, during which sometimes I don’t stop at all, in both directions.
“I had a really good week with an excellent car that looks lovely inside and out, is packed with tech and drives very nicely.
“Day-to-day driving is a no-brainer in cost terms, it’s significantly cheaper than petrol or diesel.
“Long journeys require planning and a little patience, but they can – and do – work.
“But they’re not as a convenient as petrol or diesel, where you can fill up and drive 400, 500, maybe 600 miles before you need to think about refuelling.
“In most current EVs on the market you’re going to have to recharge every 200 miles or so.
“I was too hasty in my judgement first time around, but that’s what comes with doing things more and more – you work out the best ways to do them.
“I could have done this return journey for £35 using home charging and Kia’s subscription tariff, £15 cheaper than my BMW – and charging overnight or using an EV tariff would have reduced that further, to less than half what I paid on the day.
“You can see the full actual and possible costs below.
“Where I’ve come to, then, taking into account my drives in both the Kia and the Volvo, is that the switch to an EV demands a recalibration of our driving habits, especially if you’ve driven a petrol or diesel car for years.
“Long journeys remain more convenient in a petrol, diesel, or hybrid car.
“But, as ranges continue to get better, EVs will get there and, in the meantime, it’s emission-free and it can be light on your wallet too.
“It just needs that rethink of your habits and thinking to achieve the right results.
“Perhaps, right now, if you do a lot of long drives then a hybrid could be the happy medium.
“Maybe that’s an idea for next time.”
My actual costs for the Cornwall to Bristol return journey:
- Fully charge at home before departure: approx £16
- Top-up at services on outward journey: £28.69
- Top-up at services on return journey: £41.54 (£17 then deducted to allow for charge remaining on arrival at home)
- Diesel cost for same journey: assuming 55mpg and 168.9p per litre, £48.92
- Petrol cost for same journey: assuming 45mpg and 148.9p per litre, £52.70
Example possible costs using cheaper methods detailed earlier in the article:
- Fully charge at home before departure: £7.70 (using a 10p per kWh EV tariff)
- Top-up at services on outward journey: £10.50 (using Kia’s discounted 25p per kWh subscription rate, which costs £11.25 per month)
- Top-up at services on return journey: £15 (£6.16 then deducted to allow for miles remaining on arrival at home)
Example total: £27.04 (plus monthly £11.25 subscription fee)
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