Why one couple bought an electric car and how it has gone so far

Graham Corner with his Nissan Leaf.  (Courtesy of Graham Corner)

Graham Corner with his Nissan Leaf. (Courtesy of Graham Corner)

Graham Corner says that he and his wife Julie have long wanted to buy an electric car to reduce their environmental footprint.

After inheriting some money, the couple managed to buy two new vehicles – a used electric Nissan Leaf and a plug-in hybrid Cupra Formentor.

The Corners are among a growing number of UK residents turning to electric vehicles. Earlier this month it was revealed that the British car industry suffered its worst June for new car sales since 1996the one bright spot was electric vehicles with more electric cars than ever on the road.

Mr Corner, a 65-year-old retired lecturer, spoke The independent about the motivation to switch, the costs and how the cars fit into their lives in the Somerset town of Yeovil.

A desire to cut emissions

Mr Corner says he and Mrs Corner, a 65-year-old retired nurse, would consider themselves quite environmentally conscious and have long wanted to reduce the environmental impact of their vehicles.

“It doesn’t feel good to jump in a car to go downtown and then pump out a load of carbon dioxide and some other dirt, so we wanted to get away from that,” he said The independent over the phone. “But they’re expensive, that’s one negative, and the other is range.”

Mr Corner says without the inheritance the couple might not have been able to afford both cars and if they had to choose they would probably have gone for just the plug-in hybrid because it is more useful for longer journeys.

His mother-in-law, who is in her nineties, lives in Cumbria, over 300 miles from their home in South Somerset, and he had calculated that he would struggle to get up there in most electric vehicles without recharging.

As for charging on the go, he said he didn’t feel confident he would find the right charger available at the right place, at the right time. So if it wasn’t for the inheritance, the couple wouldn’t have chosen an electric vehicle.

“It wouldn’t be practical,” he said. “The general point about electrified vehicles is that you have to have cash available or it has to be through your employer.”

For most people, they’re just not affordable, he added.

How they feel on the roads

Electric cars connected to a charging station (Getty/iStockphoto)

Electric cars connected to a charging station (Getty/iStockphoto)

The Corners bought the electric Nissan Leaf in December used.

“We’ve deliberately bought used because unlike fossil fuel vehicles, we thought that with few moving parts there was a good chance it wasn’t really going to wear out the way fossil fuel vehicles are,” he said. “For example, there is no clutch and no gearbox.”

The Nissan Leaf Mr Corner owns has a range of around 16o miles, but in practice Mr Corner says he thinks he gets about two-thirds or up to three-quarters of that – around 120 miles in this case. For Corners, it makes about 90 percent of trips, which means their default vehicle is the electric car.

He said he ordered the plug-in hybrid in November, but it took about six months to arrive, so he’d had it for about a month when he spoke to The independent at the beginning of July.

He said it wasn’t particularly fuel efficient on longer trips, getting about 40 miles to the gallon, but on shorter trips it used the electric motor which is as clean as the Nissan Leaf, he said.

Plug-in hybrids use batteries to power an electric motor and gasoline or diesel to fuel an internal combustion engine. They usually run on electric power until the battery runs out when the car switches over the internal combustion engine.

“My most important piece of advice to anyone considering buying an electric vehicle or a hybrid, or whatever, is to really think about the journeys you’re making,” he said.

For the couple, it makes sense to have an electric vehicle because the vast majority of journeys they do are within about 10 miles, Mr Corner said, for which they can use the car without having to charge it up and walk.

The couple bought the Nissan Leaf with the smallest battery size because it was cheaper, but some have more range.

Practical – charging infrastructure

Germany Electric Cars (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Germany Electric Cars (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mr Corner said the couple had to have a home charger installed, which with a new fuse box cost about £1,500.

He said you also need a place to park the car where it can be charged, which really needs to be a driveway so you don’t risk tripping someone with the cable.

Mr Corner said he had so far only charged the site at home, but planned to do a test run in Bristol where there are more compatible charging points than rural Somerset.

Charging out of the home is complicated, he said, because there are many different charging networks across the UK. For most, you need to download their individual apps, or go to their websites or have a pre-registered RFID card, according to Which.

Only a minority of charging points in the UK allow customers to pay directly by credit or debit card.

“It’s a real pain,” Mr Corner said.

How they feel to drive

“They’re fantastic to drive,” he said. “I like the fact that they accelerate like a rocket – my wife is less impressed with that,” he said.

Mrs Corner likes the fact that taking your foot off the accelerator boosts the battery, so if you’re going down a long hill in the eclectic car with your foot off the accelerator, you’ll have more miles on the range indicator at the bottom than you did the top, he said.

“It’s very comfortable, very relaxing, very quiet, it’s very nice,” he said.

The one minor concern about it being quiet is that you have to be careful because pedestrians often don’t hear the car, he added.

Conclusions

Overall, Mr Corner said he was happy with his purchases but was only able to do so because money was not an issue.

“I think for most people that will be the huge barrier at the start,” he said. “But if you don’t have that problem, then I don’t know why anyone would want to drive a fossil fuel vehicle, especially if you live in a town or a city.”

“It’s not good to jump in a car and feel guilty all the time,” he added.

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