Eco Warrior

There are some moments in life that I dread, but nothing comes close to the experience of having to ditch an old car and finance a new one. The luxury of not having car payments to make is wonderful, but when you rely on vehicular transport in order to conduct your business, and journey in excess of 600 miles a week relentlessly, the need to replace the thing every three or four years becomes a big headache. Where I live, the predominant, indigenous population of comfortable retired folk all seem to have fifty grand cars that do a few thousand miles a year, get cleaned religiously every Sunday (never any other day), and they therefore never have the awful hassle that comes with working seven days a week, and needing to put their vehicle in for repair repeatedly because it's wearing down quickly.  

My old diesel Nissan Note -  a "hand-me-down" that I had to assume reluctant responsibility for because my missus bought it without checking that it was suitable for her dog business, had covered over 100K miles in four years, and inevitably started to display symptoms of old age. It often wouldn't shift into 3rd gear - even after the problem was "fixed" at some expense, the auto stop/start mechanism didn't work, and a fuel injection issue would sometimes result in the car jolting when travelling at 60-70 mph. The thought of conking out in the middle of the A1 roadworks during the winter was too much to bear, so I had to make the decision to sell the old girl, and look for something to last another 4 years. There were various choices:

Buy a used diesel car with relatively low mileage. 

Buy a brand new car on some sort of PCP finance.

Lease a car.

After a lot of consideration, discombobulation, and many other "ation's, I plumped for the leasing option. My broker of choice is the extremely efficient, helpful, but mental Ling's Cars - based in Gateshead, and owned by a crazy Chinese woman who rose to fame on the stupid Dragon's Den show some years ago. The website is simply nuts in terms of appearance, but below the fluorescent surface is a rich seam of pretty good leasing deals. I'd done some research into electric cars in terms of pros and cons, and to cut a long story short, I took the plunge, became an eco-warrior, and took temporary ownership of "Sparky".

Here she is - parked at The Royal Quays in North Shields. A revelation in terms of driving experience, and most definitely the future. She's a Kia Soul-EV with a 64kwH battery powering a 200bhp motor connected to the front wheels. In practical terms, it's a comfortable car that can travel for about 280 miles on a full charge, and goes like the proverbial shite off a stick without making you look a tosser in one of those Audi's.

Obviously my need for fuel is no more, and the monthly payments are about the same as the amount I was spending on diesel. there's obviously the cost of electricity, plus the installation of a wall-charging point at home, but once everything is taken into account, I've only upped my monthly motoring expenditure by about £100 over the term of the lease, and have a brand new car with a top-end spec which makes my journeys way more comfortable. We took it on a recent clamping holiday in Scotland, and only needed a couple of top-up charges to keep myself from getting worried. 

Charging is mostly done at home using the wall-mounted EO-Mini charger which costs about £600 with the government grant obtained. The public charging network is pretty dire at the moment - with about twenty different operators all providing various levels of service, and incredibly, all requiring different apps and payment cards to facilitate charging. I've got a wallet full of RFID cards which, when stacked together, cause the anti-theft alarms in shops to go off. It took me ages to discover what was causing my bizarre, and highly embarrassing predicament. I've had some awful experiences with chargers at motorway service stations, car parks, and shopping centres, and it's clear that some joined-up thinking is required to sort out the effectiveness of the current de-regulated system that will completely buckle under the pressure of demand as EV ownership soars. I suspect that the government will ignore the issue until it's too late, and try to react to the queues once they begin. Scotland has a coordinated system that allows for the various operators to suply services under the auspices of Chargepoint Scotland, but for England to follow suit would cause the ego-boy Tory wankers to lose face, and that would never be allowed to happen.

Two months in, and 4000 miles later, my experience is one that I'm totally happy with. My driving is much safer, as there's no clunky gear changes to negotiate, and my hands are on the steering wheel at all times. The top-end music system dishes out crystal clear audio via Apple Car-Play during my near-silent journeys, and the brakes have hardly been used due to the regenerative-braking system which slows the car down and pumps power back into the batteries when the throttle pedal is released. I've got Sparky for four years, but in the long-term, I think I'm converted to electric vehicles as long as I'm still allowed to drive. 

Brian Young (that's me) shoots all aspects of the built environment for a range of clients throughout Northern England and the Borders.


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