We’re often told by readers that while they’d like to own a plug-in hybrid or all-electric car, they’re unable to because they don’t have a driveway, a garage, or a regular parking spot where they can charge up. And on the face of it, we’d have to agree: owning an electric car if you’ve not got anywhere to charge is kinda hard.
But for one family in London, England, owning an electric car is still possible, even though they don’t have anywhere to plug in at home. Thanks to a bit of forward planning and exemption from London’s congestion charging zone for all plug-in cars, Esti Sidley and her family are able to drive an EV every day, don’t have to spend lots of money on London’s expensive Tube network, and avoid spending their hard-earned cash on gasoline.
We spoke with Esti earlier on this year, and asked her just how her family manage to do what most people would fear: own an electric car yet not have anywhere to charge at home. Here’s our six questions, along with her answers.
TE: Why did you buy an electric car?
ES: “I work in central London, and was tempted by how cheap it is to run an electric car compared to the ludicrous cost of a monthly travel pass (£140 a month for 2012/13 divided up from the cost of an annual pass.) My husband and I work only 15 minutes walk from each other, so considering the combined cost of our tube travel, our Citroen C-Zero works out cheaper. The fact it is congestion charge exempt, free to park in Westminster (where I work) and there are charging points a few minutes walk from my office was a big incentive in itself.”
TE: Were you putt off buying an electric car because you didn’t have anywhere to park and charge at home?
ES: “I was a bit put off getting an electric car based on the fact that there aren’t many charging points close to where we live. We live in a block of flats so have to park the car in a communal car park where there are no allocated bays, so we knew home charging wasn’t an option. At the moment, we mostly charge at family nearby, but we are hoping they will be getting a charge point installed soon. However, the one big incentive is that provided we have miles on the car, we never have to worry about budging for petrol costs, which really is a big bonus.”
TE: You don’t have charging at home, but did you ever try to get it installed?
ES: “At the moment we’re renting and it simply isn’t physically possible to home charge. We are hoping to buy our own place within the next two years, and charging availability will play a big factor in choosing the right home as we’re not planning to buy a petrol car any time soon. However, we have family nearby who let us charge the car, albeit with a cable running through the front window. Luckily for us, they’re about to get a brand new charge point installed for us to use in the new year, which will be free thanks to a current UK government incentive on charging stations.”
TE: Describe your typical day with your car. How far do you travel, where do you charge? And how many times a week do you plug in?
ES: “At the moment, it’s hard to say what a typical day is right now as I’m on maternity leave and no two days are the same! Having a car is great though as before I would have to get the baby on public transport which is very difficult. Occasionally, I drive up to my sister in law in Waltham Abbey [ed: north side of London] and I know there is a DC rapid charging point only two miles from her. I only need to add half an hour on my planned journey time if I go there for charging. The other nearest DC rapid charging point is my local IKEA, although I need to find someone to speak to about the continuous blocking of the charging bays by gasoline cars. When I return to work, I’m hoping to charge there, although the last time I popped in I was semi-pleased to see all the charging bays already being used! That might be a bit of a pain in the future, but I couldn’t help but feel happy to see I’m not the only one plugging in!”
TE: How does your electric car compare to your previous car?
ES: “This is my first car, unless you count the fact that I’ve been insured to drive my parents’ fifteen year old Renault Clio hatchback for the past seven years! I’m amazed at how smooth my electric car is in comparison, but it also feels no different in terms of comfort to any of the other new rental cars I’ve driven on my last few holidays. It is a lot smoother, though. I recently had to drive my parents’ old Clio and it really felt difficult and ancient to drive.”
TE: You’re obviously managing to own an electric car really easily without a place to charge at home. What tips do you want to give other people considering the same thing?
ES: “If you know you have charging points near you — rather than at home — it’s relatively easy to plan. Because we can’t home charge we do need to make sure to charge our car whenever possible, and we also never let it run down low in case we can’t charge for some reason. We find checking for new charging stations on the various charging databases really helps as new points come along all the time, and you never know if a new one is just around the corner! Similarly, we always charge when we see a charging point because we never know when the next charge will be possible. Knowing that new charging points are being installed all the time does boost your confidence in the car and the technology, however. This might sound complicated, but we are on the outskirts of London and so far we’ve never been ‘caught short’ as we plan our trips carefully. Even when we discovered a faulty charging station and couldn’t charge, we called up the charging provider and were directed to a nearby charging station. They even tested it to make sure it was working before we left so we didn’t waste our precious remaining miles!”
We’re pretty sure Esti isn’t the only person who has an EV but no home-based charging capabilities. If you’re in a similar situation, we’d love to hear from you. How do you cope without having a place to charge every night? Is it easy to own an EV and charge just in public locations or away from home? And what tips do you have for others wanting to do the same thing and dump the pump for good?
Leave your tips and stories — good and bad — in the Comments below.
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