Chair of ICE Wales Cymru, Ken Evans, road tested an electric vehicle for his company with the intention of changing to an all-electric fleet. This is what he found out.
When I was asked to review an electric vehicle (EV), a Mercedes EQA to be precise, and to provide my honest opinion, I knew reliability would be my priority.
As operations director for Centregreat in Wales, my job entails a lot of travelling so reliable transport is essential.
I was asked to review the EV with a view to introducing the model into the Centregreat fleet.
My current company car is a Mercedes A class which regularly achieves 60 mpg on my daily commute down the M4 to Newport. I know it well.
Ready, set, go
But off I went, picking up my EV with a full charge of a 260-mile range and the fleet manager telling me firmly: “If you run out of charge, it is a costly recovery process.”
My first impression was the quick acceleration, performance, and the quietness. After a few miles I settled in and found it calm and relaxing to drive.
When I arrived home, I noticed that the mileage range had dropped by 15 miles even though I had only travelled 11 miles!
I calculated my journeys for the next few days, ensuring I had enough miles in the range until recharge.
On one journey I was detoured adding 20 miles more than I accounted for… range anxiety kicked in.
Locating a charging point
Over the next few days, the shorter journeys ate into the miles, so I decided to top up the vehicle.
Having googled and downloaded an app to locate the nearest charging point to home, I was surprised to learn that there were only two available within an eight mile radius.
I opted for the nearest one located at a tourist destination.
The points weren’t immediately visible, tucked away in a far corner of the car park. This is a common issue, and so different from highly visible fuel stations.
Time to top up
Once the vehicle was connected to the charger, it become apparent that I had to download an app.
I had to cancel and download three times, each time £30 was deducted from my bank account.
I phoned the network provider only to hear an automated message saying their hours were 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, being a Saturday evening that was no use to me.
Having set it up, I waited for the car to charge. Thirty minutes in and only six miles had charged, costing 62p on a 7kw charger. I had no option other than to abort.
I used my work base charger for the remainder of the trial, plugging it in for 3-4 hours per day.
While I was very impressed with the driving performance, public charging was a big challenge. Most times, I had to download an app and set up an account.
With many network providers, you need several different apps with credit in your account.
Only a small number accept credit or debit cards, no provider accepts cash payment.
I had to plan journeys and build in contingency. The thought of running out of charge was stressful counteracting the driving enjoyment. Refueling is more convenient.
The lack of public charging points in Wales is an ongoing issue as the number of EVs increase.
Currently, Wales has one of the lowest numbers of EV charge points per head of population in the UK, with 33 per 100,000 people compared to London, which has 102 per 100,000.
The Welsh government's infrastructure strategy includes a commitment to install 4,000 rapid chargers across the country over the next decade, including the new charging hub at J47 M4 Swansea.
Electric vehicles are the future, however reliable and accessible infrastructure is critical if they are to be adopted as a real alternative.