Guest Post: How Electric Cars Can Make Everyone Feel Special

One of the more weird things about driving the iMiEV that many of you are probably aware of already is the way that it converts you from being an ordinary person into being a minor, perhaps as high as C-list, celebrity. Well, not you as such, but you as the driver of the car.

Kate and the iMiev

Kate Walton-Elliott and her family’s i-Miev

About ten years ago Nikki and I made a pilot for Channel 4 television in the UK. We stood around feigning replacing, I think, the wing of my Morris Minor and talking about how classic cars were the future of transport. All this to say that before the show was made we sat down with a TV executive and were asked how we’d feel about being celebrities. How we’d feel about people stopping us when we were out in public, asking us questions and wanting photographs.

As it happened, Nikki went on to continue down that path, I on the other hand slid quietly into the peaceful obscurity of emergency medicine. On my occasional trips to places with Nikki and her various EVs I noticed a certain interest people seemed to have in the car, but had been inured to it as initially she’d driven things like the CityEl, a bright yellow banana of a tricycle, the sort of thing designed to grab interest. That and Nikki is the kind of person who could befriend a rock and have it chatting about the problems of moss growth. Having driven the Morris Minor for years I was also used to the experience of having people’s life-history’s cheerfully explained as they commented on how utterly brilliant the car was.

Driving a lefty minor had perhaps increased that insulation from the abnormality of it all. Most people when they leave a car park don’t expect a departure party, but got fairly used to it all. In the Minor. But all that would disappear as we pootled around in our Volvo. The odd comment perhaps, usually ‘oh my dad had one of them’. Driving the EV has changed that. We don’t even have to actually have it with us, the slightest mention of an EV to anyone and we are cheerfully questioned.

Smart ForTwo ED

Regardless of the car, EVs often earn you some special treatment.

We recently booked a holiday at an Eco-Camping / Glamping location (a holiday in a tent in November, obviously) and having had a quick glance at a map realised that we should be able to do that journey in our beloved iMiEV. Despite it’s puny 60 mile real world range, it turns out a lot of things can be achieved with rapid charging and some careful planning. Lord alone knows where we’d go if we had a real, useable, 100 mile range. The only slight problem was where would we charge when we got there? One quick e-mail later and we were politely informed that there was a 13A socket in the car-park (ideal for our first generation iMiEV) and we could certainly use it. In fact he’d be positively delighted if we would. Oh, and the owner would leave us an extension lead just in case we couldn’t get close enough. Oh, and he might have some questions for us, because they’ve been considering getting one. Oh, and would we mind having it featured in the newsletter about the site?

In much the same way as when I first trecked across the South East in my mum’s fatally wounded G-Wiz, nearly everyone we meet is fascinated, interested and happy to help with charging. When we answer the questions, comment on how much we’ve saved and how practical it’s been (oh, and how you can at the moment charge for free in lots of car-parks and on the motorway) they’re often excited and start commenting on how they might well move to electric for their next car purchase.

Mainstream media in the UK may be struggling with the concept of electric cars, but most of the public I meet in my newly elected role of unofficial EV ambassador? They’re enthusiastic and ready move on.

Kate Walton-Elliott is a self-confessed geek, classic car nut and emergency room nurse. She’s also a regular on Transport Evolved, practices the long-lost art of fixing and modifying rather than throwing away and needlessly buying new, and happens to have one of the most eclectic record collections of anyone we know.  She’s also really good at embarrassing her close friend, Nikki. 


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