First Public Charging or Have Nissan got it right?

Here we are again with another instalment of my “first times” experiences.

I am planning a trip to Wales and that will be another “first ” for a long trip experiences, so I thought I try the nearby Public charging points before exposing myself to any humiliation by ending up on a low loader because I run out of charge and could not get a Motorway services charging point to work.

Anyway I chose the Durham Services high capacity charging point along the A1/M. It was located almost right in front of the entrance to the shop and eateries.

Tesla are a bit like Apple, they have decided that the “industry standard” charging cables are not “intelligent” enough and do not fit with their  design purposes (small and neat), so they developed their own.This however means that you have to get an adapter for the industry standard charging points out there which of course costs extra and are quite expensive, because they got ” intelligence” ie a chip and software in them.Nissan however have gone a different way in their LEAF.They stuck to industry standard and have incorporated two sockets into the car design for the most used public charging points.One Socket for Fast Charging and one for normal at home charging.

We ( my father and I ) arrived at the Durham Services charging point and I unpacked the CHADEMO Adapter bought at the Tesla Manchester Service Centre, when we picked up the car for, the first time.

So here I am looking at the LCD screen of the public charging point and the the machine says: “Please select AC or DC charging.” Good question – what do we need?Well the engineers that decided on how to design a public charging point (not a charger as that is build into the car!) also decided that the plugs should look different for AC or DC charging.So I looked at my CHADEMO adapter and it was clear it meant we can only use DC charging. This was easy to what came next however.

The next thing the machine asked:”Please identify yourself and swipe your NFC card passed the black marked area”.So I got my ECOTRICITY NFC Card out of my wallet and swiped it passed the identified black marked area and success it said:” Please insert your charging cable to start charging”. Ah- not so fast! We had not connected the CHADEMO Tesla  adapter to the Public charging cable. So I gripped the CHADEMO Tesla Adapter with my right hand and the Public charging cable with the left and tried to fit them into each other.

Well both cables are about the thickness of a petrol station hose and have a similar Pistol Grip.At first glance they should have fitted together easily and like a glove.Well nothing fitted together and I had to let go of  both items and put them on the floor.

After inspecting both items separately I suddenly realised that these clever engineers had come up with another clever design to help the “stupid” public to make charging “idiot” proof.They inserted groves in one part of the plug with corresponding ridges on the other.So there was only one way to fit these two together ( probably in order to not disturb the polarity of the DC) .

   

The pistol grip now mad a clicking sound and the press button thingy on the top also clicked into a locked position and both items were firmly connected.Hurray we were ready to plug it all into the car. Oops – nothing was happening! At this point the charging port of the car should open to reveal the socket in the car.Well I got in the car and opened the charging socket manually ( mental note: open charge port on car before leaving car at public charging point).I insert the CHADEMO and public charging point contraption into the car and nothing was happening, again-this time I was expecting a light to come on to show that the car was ready to accept the plug and we started charging.Mental note: Activate charger only once you have put charging cable and adapter together. Yes, I had to identify myself at the LCD screen of the charging point again as it had TIMED out!

  
Finally I was ready to charge and we got juice into the car, so the LCD screen on the Charging point and in the car confirmed. PHEW!

  
Here is the same procedure with a Nissan Leaf: Open front flap on bonnet of car.Identify yourself at charging point.Take cable from charging point and plug it into the socket that fits.Wait for car to be full of charge for 1:30 or 2:00 hours.Unplug and continue journey.

  
Our next stop on this trial day was the Tesla owned Supercharger Station somewhere near Washington Services.I remembered that on my Satnav in the car there was a shortcut button for Tesla Superchargers.So precede it and the Washingtin Suoercharger Station came up as a destination and I chose it and if we went to experience that.

I can only say :What a difference! Just like at a Petrol station of old! Get out of car, Get Pistol grip and press button on Pistol grip to open charge port, connect to charge port and watch juice flowing into car on car’s LCD screen at 280 miles/hour of 45 minutes to full charge.

   
  I think enough capacity for some more TESLAs to join the fun. 
Just look at the difference in juice that is coming out of the TESLA supercharger point in comparison to the Public CHADEMO charging point.

EV Salesmen – or if you are new in a job do you let people know every 5 seconds?

What can I say about today? Do I name and shame or because it’s the Internet I keep things as anonymous as possible?

Well I think I better leave it anonymous as possible and name no first names or even last names.

My wife,my father (80 years old but very spritely and likes the entertainment!) and myself, we all went Electric Car shopping.Yes.I know we got the Tesla, but we thought we could afford a runabout for the wife and as a commuting tool.The requirements were that it had to be cheap and cheerful and small.

So I made an appointment last Monday and today is Thursday.This becomes important for the story! So we headed off to Durham and visited a well known french car dealership that were offering a good deal on an Electric Vehicle.

We were greeted by a nice young chap who straightaway proclaimed that he knew almost nothing about electric cars and was only in the job for 2 months.Groan! I made an appointment on Monday to purchase an Electric car on Thursday and I get a VIRGIN! Unfortunately it was not one of Richard Branson’s sons or employees.

After about 20 apologies or so again professing that he had not absorbed all the information about EVs (they sell one Modell) he organised a valuation of the trade-in vehicle and organised a Test drive with a trainee salesman(who also had no clue about the finer details of their EV offering).

The highlight of the day was definitely the test drive of the EV.The car was fully loaded with four adults and it pulled away nicely from the junction and the roundabout.It also kept speed nicely on the motorway.It had a good easy to understand screen with a digital display and not cluttered but nice and clear.It was very similar to the Nissan Leaf-just smaller.No wonder because it was basically the little brother of the Nissan Leaf-it was the Renault Zoe in Dynamique Nav spec.

To top everything I have ever been used to in the craft of salesmanship we were told after the test drive that we would not be given a definitive price and it trade-in figure as the “Manager” in charge of Electric car sales is not “in” today.Would we mind to come back on Saturday.Well after a good drule of the sales staff over our Tesla pictures we bid them farewell.

I decided as it was almost afternoon to make it a day of watching another salesman applying his craft-so we went to the other French marque that sells the bottom end of EVs.

But here we saw a master at work.The salesman was about 15 or 16 ( so it seemed) but he was excellent.He was there in a flash -literally growing out of the ground right before us while we were looking at a used C1 combustion engined car as an alternative. 

Within 5 minutes of talking to him he organised this car to be ready for a test drive AND organised a trade-in valuation while we had the test drive.Unfortunately the 3cylinder 1.0 l C1 was as gruff as the gruffalo on a bad day! So no go.But not only had our master salesman (Remember he was 15 or 16 by looks) got us a trade in price but also had got a list of used EV cars we might be interested in.To my delight he also stated that the trade-in value could be used towards any of their cars -higher value or lower value.No excuses ever crossed his lips He was well trained and supported by the people around him and I believe he was not that long in the job-just as much as his colleagues from the other French marque.

I think he won my wife over and she might go for his car-subject to test drive.This car is however a C ZERO and we’ll see how this story unfolds.Watch this space!The car is on its way to the Northeast so once we had a test drive next week you will be the first to know.

Unfortunately both salesman could not figure out what capacity battery either of these two cars have in order to calculate a realistic range.The brochures are actually really bad, but I will dig deep into the depths of the Interweb to find the answer.

   
 

December ’15 to January ’16 – The First Month with the Electric Car

Our Tesla is just amazing.I am glad we have not chosen one of the more powerful models.It is almost too fast for UK Roads.One can just not imagine the “off the line” surge of power that this car delivers if you just tickle the throttle.Other drivers on roundabouts are just baffled by the quick approach that the car can make to their position on the roundabout.AND I have to be really careful to take it slowly.Speed limits of the various commuting roads we take in the morning are very quickly exceeded.Luckily the car displays the current speed limit of the individual road on the screen of the dashboard.Nothing left to chance in this car.Also the cruise control with distance control keeps tabs on the car in front and adapts the speed to the car in front and a preset distance.That makes commuting in morning traffic on the A1 /M quite fun and easy as the car automatically slows the speed down via energy recovery braking gently to the speed of the car in front.

What are the lessons to learn after 4 weeks with the Tesla Model S.Well the car like all cars has it quirks.Entry and exit like a sports car, door frame a little low and a little tight but maybe that is just my frame.But my father with a smaller frame also finds it more like getting out of a sports car than getting out of a limo.However driving is fantastic.Feels like an S-class Mercedes.Car is similar size to a BMW 7 Series and an S class Mercedes.Quality of trim and seats fantastic.Everything electrically adjustable: seat cushions go up and down and even the lumbar controls are electric.Steering wheel adjustable electrically in all directions up,down and in and out.Finally I got my automatic and manual foldable mirrors back again (electric of course).Especially useful when the road gets a little tight with oncoming traffic on little bridges around the rat runs in Durham.Today my wife said that she really likes how the climate control keeps the temperature without creating a draft! 

I think there are more options on Radio stations than I can cope with: Spotify, DAB, FM, INTERNET Radio,AM, Bluetooth with my iPhone Music.Somtimes I like to just play Pop songs from the 80s or 70s or just country music, a mixture of German and English.All possible with this car at no extra cost to me.Yes I can listen to a whole arsenal of international music at not extra cost as long as 3G signal is available.

So far I did not need to use the “public” charging network but I am prepared.I got a Chademo adapter in the car and of course three of the most popular NFC charge cards (Ecotricity, CYC, Podpoint), so we’ll see how it goes when I have to use them.So far my charging has all been done at home but we got trips planned and I am getting to grips with the maps to find my chargers on the way.At the end of January I am planning a trip to Wales and that will be quite an adventure.Hopefully I will make it to the Supercharger 150 miles down the road and then into Wales and back again via that charger.I am hoping to make it via the A66 and M6 so we’ll see.A1 and M62 South and West look hopeless at the moment with all the road works.So we’ll see and I will post an update.

   
    
 

Why did we choose a Tesla Model S and not a Nissan Leaf?

Well what I have haven’t really talked about is why did we choose a Tesla Model S of all the electric cars around. In my opinion there is just no choice.None of the current cars are currently offering  what Tesla offers:

  • Tesla has a Europe wide free to use super charger network.From Artic Circle to South of France and Italy.On average every 100 miles a charger that charges your car to full in 1 hour.
  • Free installation of at home charging equipment (outside of UK Government incentives) called the “blue command socket” via Podpoint installer.This gives you 20 miles/hour charge.
  • Only fully electric powered car with over 200 mile range on one charge.
  • 8 year battery warranty and no leasing cost of battery
  • Free roadside assistance/recovery
  • Free loan cars
  • Chademo and home plug adapters available to plug into 3500 UK charger network.Mostly free of charge.
  • Free 3G Internet build into car for life
  • Free software updates to car for life   
  • 4 wheel drive option with electric motor between front wheels and back wheels
  • 7000 Batteries in the floor pan of the car.Car designed as fully electric.low point of gravity.excellent road handling.
  • Range of Models from 328BHP and 250 miles per charge to 750BHP and 350 miles per charge.
  • Insurance cost reasonable for a high value car.Fully comprehensive and Business use at £500 for a 50 year old living in North of England with 5 year no claims bonus.

One drawback of the,Tesla Model S is that you can’t tow a trailer/caravan with it, but in October 2015 Tesla have addressed this problem and have brought out a Tesla Model X which can tow up to 2,268 kg.

The Tesla has arrived-The electric revolution can begin!

Well after 5 months of waiting I got a telephone call from my very friendly Delivery Experience Lady at Tesla that my/our Tesla would arrive before the New Year and we probably could fix a day around the Middle of December.Wow-what a surprise as I had just arranged to pick up my father from Germany for a life in the UK.So I thought Friday the 18th December sounded good or was it? It was the last day of a weekend before Christmas.Usually a heavy day for traffic on the Motorways around Manchester.So maybe best avoided! So we settled on Wednesday 16th December for pickup.

How would I get there?By hire car, train or somebody drive in a car and drop us off? No too far to Manchester and back for one person to drive.So we settle tee on the train but actually there is a hire car place just up the road from the TESLA Service Centre.Anyway how are we gettting from the train station to the Setvice Centre.Well the Delivery experience Lady said.Leave that to us.We will pick you up from the train station!All part of the service.Wow again!

So train booked via “The Trainline” app and wow again what an experience.Touch Id from iPhone implemented on the Trainline app.Great user experience.I like it when things are integrated.£26/per person for a single not bad price to Manchester Airport railway station in comparison to £60 for a hire car plus petrol and hassle.

2 days to sleep and I needed to look at the videos on the Tesla Website to see how a car “without buttons” would drive.I had never driven on my own before and respect to my 80 year old father but his experience is the remote control of the 1970s Nordmende colour TV;Technology has stopped for him since then.

Anyway I watched all the Videos and I had an idea of how this car operates and what do do in customising it regarding mirrors and seats.Also I would have the guidance of a Delivery Experience Instructor at the Service Centre.

The day had come and Tom my son dropped us off at the train station.We collected our tickets from the machine and I must admit that I had not done this before myself and it was quite an experience in itself.I only saw numbers on the keypad,but I had actually an alphanumeric code to type in.The display changed once I inserted my correct credit card and I could type in my reservation code.Well great experience again!The train got extremely quickly to York but stopped outside York.Why?We only had 13minutes to change platforms in York.Well with 7 minutes to spare we actually arrived in York and luckily the Trainline app displayed the platform we had to get to.Wow again.

Well we arrived at Manchester Airport station and were guided to the exit and saw right in front of us a white Tesla.Me,Quick thinking thought that this was our ride and I opened the Door of the car excitedly.Yes it was our ride to the service centre and the driver was actually grateful for the excuse to drive a Tesla and pick somebody up from the Station.

After a tea and visit to the Toilet we were guided to our car. I was shrouded under a dust cover.I am not sure that I enjoyed the drama, but I think Laura the delivery experience Instructor was more excited than us.So we played along and she was aloud to give us her spiel.I am sorry but when I learn a new car I want to play with it myself! This is not a game with spectators.

Anyway she was very helpful but you could tell she used to be a primary teacher.Anyway 10/10 for her effort.

However this could not mask my disappointment that I found an item on the back seat I was not expecting: a middle console.Was this a gift from Tesla?After all this car was expensive.Unfortunately not-it was put there in error .First no Wow!

After we signed some papers we were free to go.Of course I paid no attention to Laura and thought: How do I turn the Satnav on again?Oops- reverse back into parking slot on try again.right Satnav is arrow button on top of the screen where all the apps are.But we wanted to go home via M6 so better to type in Kendall first and then HOME.The pitfall of this comes clearer later…..

Manchester to HOME would be about 120miles so I thought.Well it’s not its 149 miles.This is not dangerous in itself but I did not pay fully attention to Laura-did I?

The Tesla was not fully charged up was it?And we played around with it, and I gave it a few blasts of ludicrous acceleration, and we had no charge card (yet) and I just did not think, because I was toooo excited, and the way we were planning to go was NO Tesla supercharger to charge for free.Not good planning!

So off we went on our trip home via Kendall and Kirkby Stephen and Barnard Castle and …….

Well in Kirkby Stephen – after a forgetful break at the famous M6 Moto Service Station with the concrete indoor bridge over the motorway and the two broken chargers- I suddenly got Range Anxiety.A well known condition known to speed boat drivers (like myself) or electric car drivers(like myself).I suddenly realised we would make it only with a few miles to spare -home, if we were lucky and NO chargers of any sort to rescue us.

Well here the Satnav came into its own and also the Battery Range Projector/calculator.All spot on! Wow and Wow again.After this I could actually enjoy the ride and the bank up to Kirkby Stephen was a really a joy and pleasure to drive up in this powerful, sporty, sophisticated, extremely well engineered and put together car.

I have driven now in 35 years a Polo,Golf, Audi 100 Avant, several E-Class Mercs and MLs and even the Best one of all: a Merc CLK 350 CABRIO, but this car beats them all! There are surprises everywhere like no buttons on dashboard and the 17inch screen, but most of all is how this car makes you feel.Utter quality and sophistication everywhere!

We got home with 29 miles to spare (as predicted!) Of Course.My father was not so sure however.


  
  

How do I find a Charge point for my Electric powered car?

Or an Electric Filling station as some people say.

First of all we have to talk about charging points and their power output.As I understand it there are a few different power outputs for charging points and that means different charging times for your car.

  • 3KW charge points and they charge your car at 10 miles per hour
  • 7kw charge points they charge your car at 20 miles per hour
  • 11Kw charge points they charge your car at 40 miles per hour
  • 22kw chargers they charge your car at 80 miles per hour
  • 50kw charge points they charge your car at 150 miles per hour
  • 120Kw TESLA Supercharger points they charge your car at 170 miles per 1/2 hour.

So how do I find these charge points.There are different companies that offer Maps on the Internet and Apps for your phone or the Navigation systems build into your car.

  • ZAP MAP – Mainly an Internet Map on your computer or your Car Satnav
  • CYC – “Charge your Car” an app for Android and IOS made by a Northeast company.They also are an Interface between chargepoint owners and you as the user as their app also gives you live updates on the Status of each charge point.They also maintain a helpdesk to report problems with a charge point.You can also registered with them via the app and pay for your usage of charge points that levy a charge for the electricity used.You also get a smartcard which is compatible with most chargers.
  • ECOTRICITY – Nissan dealers seem to give out this smart card to their customers.Also they are a Electricity and Gas company that provides you with your power needs at home.According to their Website you will receive free access to charge points if you take out a contract with them for your gas and electricity at home.Most chargers are free anyway so not sure where the saving is.Maybe things change in 2016 but I dont know today in August 2015.
  • POD Point – Pod Point are installers of charge points at home and for companies.We received an Email to contact them from Tesla for installation of a home charging point.They also have a small number of charge points throughout the country.

I have installed CYC on my Iphone and it works great.I just checked again and it even shows live status if a charger is in use at the moment,but it it does not show all chargers.

So a bit of a mixed picture.It looks like you need more than one map to check before you give up on finding a charger in your nearest location!

What is wrong with a Hybrid car?

… Or why I would not buy one!

What is a hybrid car? Well a hybrid car is a car that has a gasoline or Diesel engine and some batteries AND an electric motor as well.Already that sounds like a lot of extra weight and therefore in a car not helping fuel consumption, road holding, practicality.You have to put it somewhere and just as with Gas (LPG) converted cars you need to put the tank and in this case the batteries and electric motor somewhere.So most cars are compromised on space.

So how does this Hybrid car work.Well as far as I understand it the electric motor propels the car only at certain speeds -usually below 40 miles an hour to the range of the batteries usually about 20-40 miles.When the car is in need of more power or higher speeds the Engine (diesel or petrol) kicks in.On motorways and country roads it has been found that the electric motor hardly ever works and in a famous Road test by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear he got only 30 miles/gallon, which is terrible if you think that Golf diesel cars get 50-70 miles per gallon.Are they environmentally friendly-no because the batteries and electric motor are made from toxic material and don’t last that long.(Tesla give 8 year warranty on their batteries! Ask your dealer for the warranty on your electric car you wish to purchase!)

So why are there so many Hybrid cars from Toyota for sale.I think Toyota is waiting and “testing” battery technology life on customers and wait for the hydrogen filling station network to expand in Europe and the world.Apparently they are ready to launch a hydrogen car, but there are no filling stations.