Considering how often they seem to be in the news, and the stealthy creep of low-emission zones, very few motorists own an electric car. Only about 2-3pc of drivers use one. “Range anxiety” and other concerns mean they are often relegated to trips around town, with a petrol or diesel car kept in the garage for longer trips.
All in all, the number of people who are fully committed to electric vehicles is tiny. Some, like the broadcaster Iain Dale, begin with the zeal of a convert but do not stay the course.
But the “smart pioneers”, as one driver refers to them, insist they are not looking back. If not enthusiastic about everything electric, they still believe we are on the cusp of a wholesale shift in the way we drive.
Consultant Graeme Cooper believes that the issues with the range of electric vehicles have been overstated. His Mercedes EQC can reach around 197 miles on a full charge, which more or less matches up with his “bladder range”.
“As a middle-aged man I know my bladder range is about three hours: I like a coffee break and I like a comfort break,” he elaborates. By mapping out charging stops before a long journey, he finds the 20-minute-or-so waits to top up the Mercedes’ battery fits well into his driving routine.
Cooper began driving an electric vehicle relatively early on, won over by a Tesla Model S in 2017 that he owned for four years and still misses. The Mercedes – a heavier car with a smaller boot – is like steering a “dining table”, he says.
A former petrolhead, he is still hanging on to his Land Rover Defender and Lotus Elise, which are both a couple of decades old. “No one’s taking them away from me,” he says. But “99pc” of his driving is done in the electric Mercedes, he says. Last summer, he took his family on a 1,600 mile round-trip from their home in Berkshire to the south of France.
Barring a broken charger at their Paris hotel, the journey proved plain sailing. “It meant us stopping every two hours,” Cooper says. “Of course, that’s perfect to let the dogs out for a break and a bowl of water, and give my stroppy teenagers an opportunity to do whatever stroppy teenagers do.”
Saint Paul underwent his conversion on the road to Damascus, while electric car convert Karl Westwood’s took place on a road somewhere around Tunbridge Wells. He was behind the wheel of a Skoda Enyaq at the time, taking it out on a whim after spotting the “aggressive, muscular” car in a dealership.
Although he had walked in with no particular desire to go electric, two things surprised the car enthusiast when he took the Skoda out on a test drive. “It was so smooth and quiet it was shocking,” he remembers. “And then you put your foot down and it knocks your teeth out – my God, the acceleration was just instant. You just get addicted.”
That addiction now looks like it will be life-long. Swapping to an electric vehicle has not been without the occasional hiccup, though. The surge in energy prices has dashed his hopes of considerable cost savings, while the estimated range of 170 miles can make longer journeys stressful.
“Any long drive is going to be tricky in an electric car,” Westwood admits. “We’ve already had the range anxiety: you think you’ve got enough to get to the station, but they’re all full, two are broken. That’s about as bad as it gets.” This situation is rare, though, and he makes regular trips beyond the car’s limited range to drop off his daughters at university.
Russell Green, who runs a financial brokerage, also swears by the Enyaq, but is less enthused by the car’s presence and raw power. For him it is a functional item: a relatively cheap way of getting his family from one spot to another.
“We use it to get the kids to school and to sports games. If we’re going on journeys, we’ll take it out to see friends,” Green says. “We use it around 50pc around town, probably 40pc on the motorway and 10pc on those longer journeys.” And on those longer journeys, the 585-litre boot is ample room for the family of five’s luggage.
Like Cooper, he enjoys pulling up at a charging bay and having time to kill, and – “touch wood”, he laughs – has not encountered any issues with busy or faulty chargers. That said, their longest journey has been from Cheshire to Essex, roughly a three-and-a-half hour run.
Could Green ever envisage returning to a petrol or diesel car? “There’s no reason to,” he answers. “We’ve saved an absolute fortune in terms of running costs this year. I can only see positive growth in terms of where batteries will go and where the infrastructure will go.
“We’ve made the choice earlier than most would, if I’m honest. But I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Have you become evangelical about electric cars – to your surprise? Or will you never make the switch from petrol or diesel? Let us know in the comments below