Fear not, PistonHeads. The Ferrari 812 is still my favourite car on sale, the Porsche Carrera GT remains my favourite car ever and just last week I squealed like a happy little piglet when a BMW 1 M went the other way. I still love petrol cars, basically, I love manual gearboxes and I love driving for the sake of driving. But I've had a revelation. Later than many others have had it, true, but a revelation nonetheless: combustion engines in cities make no sense at all. The Honda e has proven that.
This is purely from the perspective of driving, too, and not the environmental standpoint - however valid that undoubtedly remains in our congested cities. There simply isn't a more entertaining way around a city centre (on four wheels) than in a small electric car; I had to use the e for a trudge across London and back, a miserable near three-hour round trip that covered all of 40 miles, and never has a drive in the capital been more fun. Apart from that 5am start in a Caterham. But you get the point: as the world urbanises and coronavirus rebounds, more driving will inevitably be done in cities and it will cause despair. An electric vehicle simply improves the ordeal.
Now, clearly, the e has its own advantages. It's small enough to nip through width restrictors, cute enough to be let out of junctions and blessed with a snazzy interior you don't mind being sat stationary with. Never underestimate the joy that comes with driving a car people like, either, the smiles, waves and stares an unexpected boon to scooting around in one of the cooler EVs.
What makes the Honda e so good, however, are traits largely shared with the rest of the electric clan. Namely the ease of use - obviously there are no endless gear changes in town, and just buttons for gears - and the immediacy; but also the fun. It zips away from lights, charges around roundabouts and makes the whole adventure feel more akin to a Mario Kart game. When moving, that is.
Silence means the stereo can be heard more clearly, conversations eavesdropped on and your whole world calmed down a notch or two. There's no cumbersome stop-start, tedious idle or clumsy gearchange - you just go. Even cars that weigh hundreds of kilos less than the e look like they're pulling away with boots full of cement. Perhaps the novelty might wear off in time, but doing an equivalent journey in a car with an engine soon after felt like swapping Concorde for a 747; once the new way has been experienced, the old method just feels redundant.
So everyone in a big town or city should get an EV right now? That I'm less sure on. Because the cars are perfect right now (truth told, they were very, very good once the BMW i3 arrived) but finding a charging station can still make the search for the Holy Grail look like a breeze by comparison. I live in a flat in London's Zone 2 and given what the surrounding property apparently costs, there should be plenty of neighbours who are prime customers for an e. But my road and all those around doesn't have any off-street parking, and it's rare that you'll get a spot outside your house. So that's domestic charging - via or a wallbox or a plug - out, which is obviously the case for many other town-dwellers, too.
Ah, but there must be public chargers - right? Well, there are, including a couple on the next street along, though they are in a permitted parking zone, only provide 5.3kW of charge and have a 'best value' connection plan of £68 a month (pay as you go is also available). So I went to a Source London charger that was a 15-minute walk from the house, promised 7kw fast charging and dedicated EV parking - perfect. Only it required prior registration, a membership card with the numberplate and a joining fee. I then got soaked retrieving the car one evening, and even a fast charge only adds 80 miles to the e's range in four and a half hours.
It just doesn't seem practical. I know that the way a journalist uses a car is different to the general public - and I'd love to hear from anyone running an EV without a domestic charge point - but it still seems that the electric vehicle buyer is having to deal with a lot of hassle just to use their car. Because even if you only charged up once a week, why should that take up a huge chunk of a day? Having paid £30k for a supermini, I'd feel a little hard done by.
Imagine it for filling stations. Having to register with BP, Shell and Esso, using a different card or app at each one, each taking different amounts of time to fill up your car - it would be a nightmare. How all chargers don't just use one contactless payment, and include any additional fees in the charge cost, is beyond me. Driving an electric car is simplicity itself, and running a petrol or diesel car is relatively easy as well. It's just there's a significant usability gap when it comes to charging an EV in a city, on this experience at least. And while charging from home would alleviate some of these problems, it limits the pool of buyers to a lucky few in London.
What's the solution? Cities need rapid chargers, and they need them, um, quickly. The amount of BEVs on our roads will only increase in the coming months and years, and with it the need for charge - leaving a car plugged in for hours on end will be problematic. The workplace charging plan was a good idea, though nobody will be dashing back to their office anytime soon if they can avoid it. There needs to be a rollout, surely, of 50kW chargers so that cars can be juiced substantially on a lunch break, or while sat there on a conference call, or left while you run around the park. Of course, there will be a cost involved - when isn't there? - but surely this could be incorporated into charge tariffs, or council tax if local authorities were involved. Because something needs to change in the immediate future; driving an electric car in the city might be revelation, but having to find electricity for it still feels like unwelcome palaver.
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