Our clandestine correspondent - The Secret Sparkhead - gives you an in depth look at what it's like to own and drive an electric vehile (EV) in Jersey. As someone known locally as a 'petrolhead' with a taste for fast cars, we have agreed to maintain their anonymity!
This month The Secret Sparkhead is on the charge...
THE PLEASURE OF DRIVING PAST EVERY PETROL STATION
In my “other” car life, I’m a good mate of the guys at the nearest petrol station. The car that my i3 replaced as my daily driver was quite large and heavy, with a powerful and thirsty petrol engine. I was spending £70 a month on petrol, and most of the time the car was either on the drive or in a town car park while I was at work.
Since I started commuting in the i3, my petrol station friendships are suffering.
The i3’s nominal range is 76 miles. My normal daily commute is 7.5 miles in each direction. In addition, I use the car for some evening family journeys and some random weekend stuff. A total of about 125 miles a week in the eight weeks I’ve owned it, and I’ve spent not one penny on fuel. But I have obviously been plugging it in.
So what’s the best way to charge it?
I’ve been researching and experimenting to work out what’s best for the way I’m living with the car.
The i3 is supplied with a standard charging cable that plugs into a normal 240V domestic wall socket.
It’s intended for slow charging, which means that it will fully charge the car’s battery overnight (assuming that “overnight" is a good twelve hours in your life.) As this was my only option when I bought the car, I started with this method.
I was only plugging in at night, and I did so every night. It was a bit of a faff, because I don’t have the luxury of putting the car in the garage overnight (it’s occupied by a less virtuous beast) so I have to trail the cable from a wall socket and under the closed garage door to the i3, making sure that the transformer box in the cable remains dry inside. The location of the socket and the overall length of BMW’s supplied cable means that I have to park the car so close to the garage door that it opens just inches from the back of the parked i3. All a bit fiddly.
After a couple of weeks, I realised that my weekday routine was coming nowhere near draining the battery every day. Starting the day on a full charge, it would normally be showing about 65 miles at the end of the day. (More info about how to optimise power consumption in a later post…) Starting the next day with 65 miles on the counter soon seemed perfectly fine. Before long, I found myself only plugging in every third night, and the lowest remaining range I’ve ever seen indicated is 29 miles. I reckon this was costing just a few pounds a week.
But the fiddly faffy nonsense with the supplied BMW charging cable and the garage door was getting annoying, so I decided to explore the other charging options.
One of those is having a dedicated fast charger installed at home by Jersey Electricity. It can be wall-mounted indoors or outdoors, but I was interested in the possibility of having one on the outside wall of the garage, right behind where I park the car. No more negotiating the garage door. I asked Jersey Electricity to give me a quotation for supplying and installing. A nice man called Adrian came to the house and had a look at the site. The good news was that cabling from our three-phase power supply to the installation site was going to be simple. A few days later, the quotation arrived in the mail. At just over £1000, most of which is the product itself, it was a little more than I’d expected, and certainly at a level where it needed careful consideration.
One of my aims with the i3 is to reduce running costs to a minimum. Driving past every petrol station is great, but not if the capital cost of being in that position is painful. Plugging into a standard domestic socket at a few quid a week would be ideal if it was a bit easier in the case of my garage. £1000 plus the same few quid a week felt like too much for an easy-to-use fast charger.
But there is a third way.
Once I’d established that I only need to charge every few days, I started thinking about charging at public charge stations instead. I park almost every day in a town multi-story (for half price, another EV perk) where there are two charging spaces, and I’d been paying attention to their availability, which seemed pretty reliable. So I decided to sign up to Jersey Electricity’s Evolve Club for EV owners. They have options for owners who want to be able to fast charge both at home and using public charge stations, but I only wanted the public facility. So for £10 per month I can now plug in to any available public charger, and that includes the power I consume. I had to buy a different BMW charging cable (£160), but that was the only capital cost.
So now my main source of power is the public charging spaces in my nearest multi-story, with the home set-up as a backup when I need it.
In the real world, therefore, keeping the i3 powered up is costing me a little over £10 per month. Sorry, petrol station guys.