Electric cars - UK.

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The usual. As I have two large solar PV systems here, and my lab assistant just put one in, and others are interested in things like this, here's where that stuff goes. This is mostly for things that work now, not "gee someday a fusor will do this" -- we know that, but it's not someday yet.
The hope is to save anyone embarking on this sort of thing a lot of wasted time and money, as at least I have been off the grid since 1980 and have had a lot of practice (and made mistakes you won't have to).

Electric cars - UK.

Postby chrismb » Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:57 am

OK, so my ageing cars are still ageing. Reliable and economical as they have been, I was mulling over whether a 'new' car purchase could make sense for my on-going 10k miles pa commuting. The following is a bit of a ramble in 'thinking through' of the options.

[Cf: My current regular car is a 2000 model Vauxhall (Opel/GM) Vectra (the Saturn L-series was based on the Vectra, if that gives you an idea of the car in the US). It does 50-60mpg, and has cost peanuts to fix on the very rare occasions it has gone wrong (fwiw - no breakdowns, only an air-con condenser radiator, a rear spring, rusted brake lines, an exhaust, and front roll-bar bushes). So that's ~£500 cash repairs (£1=~$1.5) in the last 6 years of ownership, 80,000 miles and two sets of tyres. Basically, 'it's cheaper than shoe-leather!']

Well, anyhow, I can't expect that to last forever and was thinking a nearly new diesel car of the latest efficiency levels might become a timely, or necessary, purchase in the near future.

I guess if I was put up to the task today, I'd buy a car called the Skoda Fabia, which is available with the latest VAG 1.2 3-cyl diesel engine in an estate (wagon) body for a bit extra space in the back. I can pick up a nearly new one of these for some £10k here, and they are homologated at 94mpg (1 proper ;) gallon = 1.2 US gallon) on the highway. I would expect to better this by 10 to 20% with my driving style, so I'd expect it to be giving me some 110mpg. That translates to ~5 p/mile (8cents) in fuel here.

Whilst looking up these latest super-efficient diesel cars, I also happened to note that 'electric' has now appeared as a fuel type in the 'autotrader' website that is one of the main car-selling sites here in UK. I thought I'd take a peek!

So, apparently, the Chevy Volt is sold here in the UK not only as 'the Chevy Volt' (in RHD form) but also as 'the Ampera'. I think we knew the latter, but wasn't expecting the former.

Here are a couple of adds. Not sure if the links work outside UK, so I can add some screen shots later too;
http://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/ ... code=ucnnp
Nice looking 'nearly-new' 2012 model Chevy Volt, 4,000 miles on it, at £29k.


Here is an example of the Vauxhall Ampera;
http://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/ ... code=ucnnp
What a pig-ugly bling car! What the he11 have they done to it!? Yours for £30k.


OK, so I've gotten a little interested in the pure electric cars, the obvious ones being the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi MiEV. The former can be found as 2nd hand car form already, for around the £17k mark;
http://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/ ... ?logcode=p
That seems too expensive to me, but the thing is it is a 5 seat car, and these other ones are 4 seaters. That makes quite a significant difference when you have a 5-strong family!!

The MiEV is also available here in Europe as the Peugeot iOn, or Citroen C-zero. Here's an example;
http://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/ ... code=ucnnp

The thing about a pure EV for me is that we still have other cars in the household for domestic chores, so there is probably not much issue with just a 'commuter range' in one of the cars, because the longer distances can be covered by the 'dinosaur fuel' cars.

What is making my thinking-cap work is what the market here in UK is likely to do to the residuals on these cars. Take the Citroen C-zero - this was introduced last April for some £24k (ridiculous) or £435 pm lease. Crazy numbers. I noticed a few months ago that the lease cost was reduced to £250pm. Now it is £175pm for 4 year contract. hmm... now that is beginning to make some sense. With no road tax (~£20pm) and knocking off my £80pm fuel, ok, so it is still a wedge more than my current motoring but, not forgetting, this is a new warrantied car and not a clunker running on 'borrowed time'. I'm actually tempted by that deal.

It seems to me that pure EV here in UK is, currently, failing as a commercial venture. There are two outcomes to that, either the current EVs that have been sold into the market are going to have really bad residuals (great for 2nd hand buy) or they are going to get more expensive than the current heavy-cutting that seems to have crept in already, e.g. the C-zero, once they have begun to gain 'market acceptance'. Given that it is all a government sponsored venture, it is difficult to see how EVs will be allowed to 'fail' commercially, so I'm only expecting such heavy discounts to be dropped once there is a wider take-up and acceptance. Dunno if that is true or not, but full EVs certainly look like a fully loss-making venture for the car manufacturers just at the moment. The question, then, is whether 'early adopters' in the UK market are on to a 'good thing'.

In either case, I'm quite warm to the idea of getting one of these C-zero leased cars as a substitute commuter. The only actual question I'm debating at the moment with myself is whether to park up the Vectra and get a £175pm deal on one now (in case the price goes up again), or hang on and see if the market for pure EV here in UK dies a death and some relative 'bargains' will be coming up?
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby Starfire » Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:31 pm

Chris, The trick is to buy an old Volvo - you can get them with only 60,000 miles on the clock for 300 stirling and run it on Hydrogen. You will get 400 miles for 20 quid - just dont tell the Tax man. ;)
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby chrismb » Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:50 pm

I was, rather, after a new[er] car, else there is no point me moving on from the Vectra. The question is if I were to do that then what new car to get, given the technology available. What is 'good driving' and/or 'good value'? I like the idea of having an EV, if truth be known it is as much about having instant heat in a cold cab and having a silent ride. I also get 'wasted fuel' anxiety in stop-start traffic these days too, given how much stop start traffic there is!!!
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby Doug Coulter » Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:56 pm

I'm laughing, as most Americans like the looks of the Ampera (from a distance, obviously ;) ) better than the Volt. Reports I here, including this one, tell me GM really aren't that interested yet in selling Volt's overseas - prices are much higher than here at this point, and they're not cheap here. But they *are* good, especially in my case, where I don't have to drive that much, and the motive power is 90+% solar from my array, rest gasoline if I have to drive a long way, or couldn't charge (those doggone cloudy days).

Even should I pay the power co to charge it, it's the equal of 40 mpg but gasoline costing under a buck a gallon - not super, but not bad either compared to our normal 3-$5 range for petrol. And it's relatively speaking, a luxury car. And they handle well. Here it is piling into a 15 mph rated hairpin at around 55 mph - then slamming the throttle at the apex (and I had a GM guy holding the camera - shortly before hitting the loo for TP after that ride). This thing rivals "real" sports cars in fun to drive quotient.



Leaf's have some issues you wouldn't be harmed by - they don't like our deserts. It's the only electric without active battery temperature and window management, and Nissan hasn't been real good to people who burn out their batteries early on. It's a fairly ugly, noisy, lousy handling econo car. If that's your taste, fine.

Prius is interesting in some regards, but not at the mileages you're quoting for modern EU diesels, and at least, you've got the good fuel at the good price for that, we don't, so there are no decent American examples. A friend with a Prius is showing 54 mpg pretty regularly, but he's a very conservative driver (and that figure includes mostly city driving). They are also noisy, but if you're acclimated to diesel, you'd think them quiet most likely.

Most of this list can cram an awful lot into the back. The Volt back seats fold down and it's a hatchback, so you can really pack that thing. Ditto the Prius, I don't know about the Leaf, as there are none in the wild around here. I've put two fully assembled full size bicycles into the back of the Volt without touching the sides and ends.

Edit: OF course, don't try this at home - as Chris pointed out, you need to save some (I actually did, it's just not obvious) when driving around a blind corner. I was surely playing the odds, having driven that road every day for about the last 20 years, and never having had a tree, a deer, or some idiot in the road there - which is NOT true of every other hairpin on that road. Note the rare guardrail on one side? This spot is cut like a notch into the side of a cliff that even deer avoid - and trees don't really grow on the upside. I feel like it's safest of all to know where the limits are, else how can you "save some" for emergencies if you don't know what "all" is? In this case, the selective application of brakes to individual wheels by the computer "saved some" already, and had I had to slam on brakes, I'd still have had some stopping power.

On the other hand, just about 3-4 miles from there, the other day, I whacked a deer with the Volt. It dislocated the front fascia, but this turned out to be very simple to fix right at the side of the road by pushing some tabs back into some slots. No damage, other than my left headlight now has an "eyebrow" of fur scraped off the deer I've not yet figured out how to remove - it really got jammed into that slot. While only a few mph collision (man, those brakes are just fantastic, and it was my bad I wasn't alert enough to completely miss the guy) - it killed that deer dead as a box o rocks. As luck would have it, the guy in the house across the street came running out when he heard it, and asked for the dead deer (we're just polite around here, mostly) since he didn't have enough to feed his family - things are really getting bad for some.
So, I ended up doing a "good deed" (deer season is over) for someone along the way, which doesn't hurt my feelings one bit.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby chrismb » Mon Dec 17, 2012 3:37 pm

I think my main umm-and-arr is over questions on pure electric cars, rather than plug-ins.

Bottom line for my particular driving patterns here in UK is that the family has to have a big car and so in the bigger scheme of things one car with commuting capability and one with dinosaur-fuel range is fine. However good a combination of the two might be in one car, it'd still be one car too few whichever way you do the maths!!

Yes, of all the reviews I have seen, the Leaf seems to get a bit of a ribbing. Considering the price, that's quite damning.

The Mitsubishi MiEV on the other hand seems to be quite a well-polished piece of engineering, if the reviews are anything to go on. It's just a shame about the styling and general layout of the car (4 seats). Looks to me that Mitsubishi put more research into the mechanicals than the 'car' side of things, so to speak, whereas Nissan did the opposite. Range-wise, I am lead to believe it has much the same battery capacity as the Volt (18kWh) [but goes 3 times as far because it isn't pulling along an extra engine (and, of course, is a smaller car for it - different objectives and different outcomes, not like-for-like of course)].

I'm warming up to the idea of the new Renault range of EVs. see http://www.renault-ze.com (again, let me know if the link doesn't work outside UK).

There is a new car, the 'Zoe', a small 5 seater with the same 22kWh battery as the others in the range. As it is such a small car with a big battery, the outcome is not so surprising - it now has [/will have] the longest range of any commercially sold EV, some 130 miles. This is not out yet. Due next summer. In the meantime there are 3 other vehicles in the current Renault ZE range, a little quadricycle for urban only use. There is a 'full-size' saloon which is a touch bigger than the Volt. And then (my current favourite) a van which is also available in a long wheel base 5 seater version (apparently you can get one full pallet in the back - with the seats up!). I have watched a youtube video of a guy giving one a test run in Ireland and he got over 100km on some half a charge with his.

I initially baulked at Renault's planned route into EV's - you buy the car and lease the battery. Taking the fluence as equivalent to my Vectra, the battery lease is some £80 pm. That's more than my current diesel bill!?! And that's before buying the car! However, thinking further on it that's not such a bad model and someone else takes the risk of the battery going bad, plus the option to say 'take your battery out' at the end of the lease and go get the latest technology - and who can say what that would be?

In this regard, the van becomes yet more appealing because the Government is currently giving a bigger rebate for EV 'vans' than 'cars', and Renault's battery rental is lower too!! I can't yet see the bad part of getting the 5 seater EV van! I suppose it is an image-thing ... well, if I cared much about that I'd not be driving around in a 12 year old car!!!

Oh - the other thing to mention is that a network of recharge points are being put in at motorway services here. Free recharging too! (Obviously, just for now - until the idea catches on and the subsidies stop!) The 'fast' 32A HV DC chargers give 80% charge in 30 mins. If I took, for example, a run down to my mother's house which is 180 miles away at the end of the country, I'd have 3 recharge points along the way to get recharged at. In any of the vehicles I've mentioned here, it could be just about the one stop, with some gentle driving to eek out the last few miles. We usually stop on the way anyway. Possibly a second quick 'top-up' (we usually have a second 'post-coffee/drinks' stop too, for obvious reasons!).

I think pure EVs could actually work out here in the UK if the take-up reaches a 'critical-mass'. And that's the opinion from a bit of a 'luddite' diesel-head!!
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby Starfire » Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:06 pm

Opps - There was me thinking it was about economy and saving money not to mention the green aspect as the exhaust is only water. Dont be fooled EV's cost a lot to run. Still you will be one up on the Jone's :lol:
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby Doug Coulter » Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:07 pm

I think that if you can't afford a Tesla - the time for all-battery cars is not yet, but maybe soon (5 yrs). The Volt's ICE isn't much negative effect on the battery range - one person can lift that (nearly) all Al engine (even the camshafts are hollow!) - it's less-less than 10% of the car's weight, and really not the issue with range. What is - GM only gives you 10kwh out of that 16+kwh battery, to keep it living a long time. I'd figure a scheme like that, and temperature management, very highly in any decision.
What's the point of 50% more range if the battery lives only 1/3 as long? Cheaper cars like the Leaf don't have it to save money and weight - which is why they suck (well, one of the reasons). Given that even with a manufacturer's subsidy, that battery isn't cheap (GM will sell you a replacement for $3k - but only with the old one back, so I can't get one for my solar system) - I'd be looking very hard at the life issue.

You'd be surprised on how annoying a 30 min stop can be when you just wanted to use the restroom. It seems like forever, something I completely avoid in the Volt. 100% of the manuf's I know of recommend NOT fast charging, or not often, re getting a good battery life.

Not sure how much of a van you'd need or want. I can put two full size bicycles in my Volt (folding down the back seats) with quite a bit of room to spare, say camping gear for two for a decent trip too. I've even pulled home some 12' long lumber (hanging out the back), but 8' stuff fits inside if you are slightly tricky. With no fumes to come in the back hatch - you can get away with that better. Yeah, I have a truck too - use it about twice a year for lumber, but mostly for trash runs, or picking up manure, stuff I don't want in my nice car, has little to do with capacity. Looks like the tires are going to dry rot before I wear them out. Had I not inherited it, I'd be better off just renting one once in awhile, or using my tractor for the manure pickups (half a mile, not so bad even at 8 mph).

As a sporty-car kind of guy, I'd have a Tesla myself if...you didn't have to put down a huge deposit and wait maybe a year to get your car, if they stay in business long enough.
I'd wait...and did. Not to mention...it has some serious limits by comparison, being battery-only and not having a cavernous hatch. The US is BIG and in most places very less dense than most of the EU, so we don't have the charging facilities you can count on here in most all places.

We here hear various things about Mitsubishi. Remember, they were a big supplier to Chrysler, who did really go out of business due to very low quality parts. Maybe they've changed their spots, maybe not.

Although there's no question a Volt is expensive off the bat - if you compare to any other car at the same price range - you go home in the Volt, or at least that's what happened to me. While the Camaro was a little less expensive, it was a strictly one-use type of car by comparison and a heck of a lot more expensive to drive. The equivalent Buick...not as quiet, not as powerful, more expensive to drive, and won't hold as much. And so forth. Now, I DID get a decent tax subsidy with the Volt, and that dropped my out of pocket price to about 35k for a loaded one.

As far as the other contenders, I think there's just not enough experience on the road yet. The Leaf, after all, looked real good till they started dropping like flies in the desert areas, and Nisson told the owners to go do something to themselves where the sun don't shine. I mean, hey, just look at the real owner satisfaction numbers. GM wins worldwide 2 years in a row with this car, quite a new thing for them. It was a "bet the company" car. That doesn't come around that often.

Ford is coming up with some interesting stuff now as well. They have a way to go to get there, but they should in fairly short order - they have a really great CEO, I have more faith than usual in them at this point (I've never been a Ford guy).

For now, though, I'd say a battery-only car is a significant risk of tears for the owner. They'll get there, but I'm unconvinced that time is now.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby Doug Coulter » Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:16 pm

Note to starfire - my EV IS substantially cheaper to run than any other car I've ever owned (which includes a number of tiny 4 bangers). I'm a cash kind of guy, usually would get X dollars out every week to buy gas, munchies etc. Once I got the Volt, I noticed my wallet was getting very hard to sit on. In only a few months, $1k that I hadn't spent on gas had built up in there in small bills. It was a pretty wow moment - you don't realize how much you spend on fuel till you quit.

Now, I don't pay a power company - instead I invested in solar panels (not cheap, but less than you might think at $1.43/watt), but even if - at our highest max rate, 13c/kwh, this thing is like having gasoline cost $1/gallon in an economy car. And I got a tax rebate. And I get a rebate from my insurance company due to new cars being wrecked less - but also due to the fact that OnStar can tell them about my driving habits if I let them. It all adds up. The side benefit of the extra PV panels is that fairly often, I've already charged the car, now I have all this extra power to do other things with...Or, I can use the car to back up my solar home, going the other way, with the inverter hack I added to it, and it's darned efficient even compared to the new generation inverter-generators out there. So it fits into my lifestyle better than perhaps it would for everyone. I get a place to put extra solar power when I have it, and a way to back up my house cheaply in the dark months out of it, as well as transport.

And if you've ever tried to get a backup generator going in a sleet storm after it hasn't been run for a few months, the way a car just starts - meant to be out in the weather - is kind of a revelation in luxury.

Though not well adapted for really cold weather, the Volt is super popular in Canada, since they pay only about a nickel a kwh in prime time there - it's all hydro power. That's like gasoline under 50c a gallon...
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby chrismb » Mon Dec 17, 2012 5:52 pm

Doug Coulter wrote:What's the point of 50% more range if the battery lives only 1/3 as long? Cheaper cars like the Leaf don't have it to save money and weight - which is why they suck (well, one of the reasons). Given that even with a manufacturer's subsidy, that battery isn't cheap (GM will sell you a replacement for $3k - but only with the old one back, so I can't get one for my solar system) - I'd be looking very hard at the life issue.

It's partly why I've come around to Renault's way of charging out the car - buy the car and lease the battery... it's someone else's problem, and after the 36 month lease, hopefully the tech will either be proven good [keep], proven bad [hand-back], or improving [trade up].

You'd be surprised on how annoying a 30 min stop can be when you just wanted to use the restroom. It seems like forever, something I completely avoid in the Volt. 100% of the manuf's I know of recommend NOT fast charging, or not often, re getting a good battery life.
Tell me about it - I've got young kids and have not driven more than 100 miles in one go any time in the last 10 years (except for myself on business... :)), always stopping for some baby feeding or 'whatever'. A long journey takes a long time when you keep stopping, for sure!! But it's just about planning that in, isn't it? Driving a pure EV is always going to be about planning how to get the journey done on a finite charge - don't tell me you don't think through when the best time to get charge and when to set off, etc..!? I used to run around in big American cars, here in UK, when I was young (20 years ago - there used to be plenty of old American stuff here on account of all the US air bases near by to where I used to live). Some of those only did 250-odd miles on a tank of gas! My Vectra does 800. I fill the tank once a month. Anything less involves some degree of planning the route and fuelling up, one way or the other. No-one's saying using EVs will be the same as regular autos.

My biggest concern in recharging en-route isn't about where the recharging points are, it's about whether the recharge points will already have an EV on them when I get there! There is an imminent danger of EVs being the 'victim of their own success' in this regard. This doesn't seem to have been thought through yet - I've already written to the guys here who are setting the network up asking them to think this through already, seeing as it actually has a direct influence on what my next move wrt EVs is.

Not sure how much of a van you'd need or want.
Big space; Need.

I can put two full size bicycles in my Volt (folding down the back seats) with quite a bit of room to spare... With no fumes to come in the back hatch - you can get away with that better.
enough space for 3 kids hanging out the boot, then! :lol:

As far as the other contenders, I think there's just not enough experience on the road yet. The Leaf, after all, looked real good till they started dropping like flies in the desert areas, and Nisson told the owners to go do something to themselves where the sun don't shine. I mean, hey, just look at the real owner satisfaction numbers. GM wins worldwide 2 years in a row with this car, quite a new thing for them. It was a "bet the company" car. That doesn't come around that often.
Yup. It's why I'd look to lease the car and the battery - if the tech is too immature then at least there is a 'hand-back' date to get rid.

Ford is coming up with some interesting stuff now as well. They have a way to go to get there, but they should in fairly short order


Not sure I have even heard of any Ford announcements for EVs here in UK yet. In fact, quite the opposite; "Ford's chief financial officer has warned predictions of a surge in electric car sales are "very ambitious", as next generation vehicles dominate the Geneva Motor Show." - "EV's are only for the rich" ... http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/news ... -rich.html

For now, though, I'd say a battery-only car is a significant risk of tears for the owner. They'll get there, but I'm unconvinced that time is now.
I think that is clear in the US, given your distances/pop densities. Not so much here where everything within 200 mile radius of me is what you would refer to as a continuous urban sprawl! My only real concern is meeting lease fees - salaries have been kept low for 10 years and cost of living has kept going up. Problem with running old cars is what happens if they die in some generally terminal way, and need another car quick. The Renault leasing deal seems pretty solid - they are taking the risk. They even provide vehicle recovery under the battery lease scheme if you run out of juice (even through your own stupid mis-planning). It'd be interesting to see how many times they'd do that for the same customer, though!!....
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Re: Electric cars - UK.

Postby chrismb » Mon Dec 17, 2012 5:59 pm

Just wanted to add one more point - at the moment, given the incentives and subsidies, free charging points, &c., &c..., it feels a little like one of those fake auctions where in the first few lots the auctioneers flog off stuff well under price, then the crowd sees it and gets the urge to bid and ends up with cr@p. I wouldn't say that's exactly what's happening here at the moment, but it doesn't feel far off. I get the feeling the take up will spike over the next few years, then the real costs will start kicking in, and then it'll become a 'fringe' thing.

This happened a few years ago here with LPG. It started to take off and for a while most of the main manufacturers were supplying factory-fitted LPG systems. Now you can't get them any more. Why not? Well, LPG costs a half of petrol, but you lose around 20-25% in lower thermal efficiency, then you have to have the system maintained once a year (system dried, etc.) then you have some other mechanical issues (have to run petrol below a certain temp) then all of that can still go wrong and cost more whilst your valves are no longer being lubricated as well and you get valve regression meaning your engine only lasts 100k tops. Will EV go the same way? I think it might, so I have a feeling to 'make-hay' while the sun shines - and on that topic I've been looking at viability of solar on my own house too, which I'll post on separately.
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