A charged affair: my brief fling with an electric car

It starts out so well, as I zip around the city for a fraction of the cost of a regular car. But once on the motorway, things start to go downhill

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

‘This is its worst crime yet.” The crime in question is making us miss the start of one of Liverpool’s crucial Premier League games. The perpetrator is an electric car that has required charging twice on the way home from Wexford. A 90-minute journey has become two hours, then three. My husband, a diehard Liverpool fan, is in the passenger seat trying to watch the start of the match on his phone. He is less than impressed.

It started out so well. The idea of an electric car is seductive. Imagine: no more being at the mercy of petrol stations and oil prices. You charge at home overnight, and are ready to go first thing in the morning at a fraction of the price. And if your battery dwindles on the road, you can stop and charge at one of the thousands of recharging points the ESB has put in around the country. At the moment, they’re free.

It seems like a no-brainer, so I decide to give one a go, on loan from ESB.

The first day, things are great. I zip around Dublin marvelling at how quickly I have got used to driving an automatic, a bit freaked out by how silent it is – so are the pedestrians – and pleased with how quickly it seems to respond as I drive.

Plugging the car in at a local charging point draws a crowd; some want to know about the car, others nudge each other at the sight of the odd woman struggling with the equivalent of a giant phone charger.

Keep laughing, I think smugly, as they pull away in their petrol cars: my fuel bills for the next few weeks will be a fraction of what you are paying to run that environmental hazard you call an SUV.

Most of the drivers of electric vehicles I come across are enthusiastic; and why wouldn’t they be, having invested several thousands of euro? They strike up conversations at charging points. You’re part of a community, with its own language. “Range anxiety” is when you’re worried your car will run out of battery before you make it to a charging point. Someone blocking the charge point with a regular car? You’ve been Iced (that’s internal combustion engined to you and me).


A short trip

On day two, the decision is taken to put the car to the test on a weekend trip. Ireland, we are told by State officials, has the perfect climate and geographic footprint for electric vehicles. So a trip two counties over should be nothing, right?

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