iMiev Sunset

Guest Opinion: EV Silence is Golden, Addictive

When I first rode in an EV, the first thing that struck me was the quiet. It wasn’t the subtlety of speed, the way you can whisper along at 60 or 70 and feel like you’re only doing 30; no. It was the way that you can listen to the radio, or talk to your compadre as though you’re sat on the sofa at home…

So when faced with a journey of a couple of hours, we had a choice: take my 1969 Morris Minor, an ICE vehicle which, at over 40 years old even with piles of modern soundproofing is still incredibly loud, or a 3 year old, but new-to-us EV.

2010 iMiEV and a 1969 Morris Minor

Noisy or quiet? Frankly, the EV option is the one we prefer.

But, say Top Gear — along with them other news outlets who still print on dead trees and should know better — it can’t be done. The former couldn’t make a long distance journey of barely 60 miles in a Nissan Leaf, a car with a much bigger battery pack and a much higher milage rating. The latter are often found in their myriad of articles struggling, at the side of the road, to find a place to charge.

Surely doing a 180 mile round trip in a day in the Mitsubishi iMiEV to visit my Sister is folly beyond words.

But the appeal of the quiet was too much. We had to try.

We sat down and looked at Ecotricity’s Electric Highway, a quickly-expanding network of motorway-based rapid charging stations for EVs. Because our iMiev has a CHAdeMO quick charge port we quickly determined it should, with a rapid charge on the way, a slow charge at my sister’s house, and a rapid charge on the way back, be doable. Not, certainly, in the middle of winter when the battery pack is at its least effective, and we’ll want to wind the heater up to hot. But at this time of year, in the autumn, nary a problem.

And so it proved. The only worry was elevation. Our first quick charge was at the top of a hill. A quick look at the elevation profile of our route (obtained from this great little tool) warned me that the last section before the services would be a bit of a stretch, as we ran up against the car’s 60ish mile actual range and what I’d call a ‘dirty great hill’. As the predicted range — which we and other EV drivers have taken to calling a ‘guessometer’ — dropped into single figures, my partner was a little concerned and reached for the map, but at that same moment we passed the services signpost.

That momentary ‘hrm, this may be a bit tight’ turned into ‘oh, that’s easy then’.

Certainly, in the family of city EVs of which our iMiEV is definitely one, this journey is way outside it’s design parameters. It’s very much not the intention of the designers to stick the iMiEV on a hilly motorway and cruise 180 miles in a day.

But as we relaxed, supped our coffee and munched on a muffin whilst sat in the sun, both we and our car charged up before heading on to our destination. And the experience just made us want more.

iMiEV rapid charging on an ecotricity electric highway charger

I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for new technology. When the Acorn Archimedes came out I would rave to anyone about Risc technology and how it would change the world (it did, but not the way I thought).

When the Internet appeared and I ran gopher searches, I would tell anyone who’d listen that this thing was awesome and that being able to get information from anywhere in the world would be transformative. At the same time, however, I’ve clung to the old. Under our amplifier in the lounge is not merely a selection of physical media, there are both vinyl and shellac disks vying for space. A valve amplifier lurks in my office, and a bakelite dial telephone is our only landline, and a BBC Master lurks under my office desk.

Not so this time.

Driving an ICE doesn’t feel like a pleasure. As I climb into a ‘traditional’ car, I’m simply struck by how noisy and unrefined it feels. And I don’t just mean the Minor. A modern car…it’s just not…nice. Buying an EV has turned me from an interested party into a total advocate. No, they are not suitable for everyone. And no, they’re not perfect. But they’re pretty damn good and the technology is getting better every day. So much so that I preface a lot of what people ask me about the iMiEV with ‘bear in mind, newer ones are much better’n this’ – before telling them how awesome what we have is.

As technology improves, ranges expand and rapid charger infrastructure develops, all of this will become passe. As discussed before, 500 miles in a day in a Leaf on the ecotricity electric highway has been done. But until then we’ll continue to push our EV to the limit, and surely some time we’ll fail, we’ll misjudge distance, or as yesterday, we’ll find an unexpected diversion which ramps up the mileage. And at some point we’ll run out of charge. But unlike the times I ran out on the motorbike, I can just plug in. And nary have I pulled up at the end of an 80 mile journey and felt so fresh and happy.



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