Thanks to the proliferation of both rapid and fast chargers, there are very few journeys in England that you cannot make in even a short range EV. But there are some journeys that just won’t be pleasant, or won’t be achieved in a reasonable amount of time in cars like the iMiEV and iON. To those who’ve been early adopters or those who’ve got an early electric vehicle, you’ll probably be familiar with that heart-sink moment when you realise that your EV won’t make the journey that you want to do.
This happened twice to us recently. As readers of these occasional posts are no doubt aware, myself and my partner are no strangers to long journeys in our iMiEV; a car with a realistic range of around 60 miles in the summer. In the winter, the heater of the iMiEV saps power in a way that is quite painful to watch. The real usable range in poor weather of the sort where you need the heater, lights and wipers on; at least in our pre-production iMiEV; is a measly 30-40 miles. If it’s a case of being a bit close, but not a massively long journey, we’re not averse to dumping a fan-heater in the car before we start (no preheating the iMiEV) and setting out nicely wrapped up. But for longer journeys it’s not practical.
We’d booked a holiday in Harrogate. Granted only around 40 miles further than our first journey in our iMiEV (Liverpool to Bristol), but the weather looked inclement, and that first journey was conducted without need of any extra electricals, and without the extra wind/water resistance of wet roads and dismal weather. My first thought was that perhaps we could rent a Leaf. Unfortunately, as regular Transport Evolved readers are no doubt aware, you can’t actually rent a Nissan Leaf in the UK, at least not from any of the major car hire companies.
And so the duty fell to our much loved, but dinosaur burning, Morris 1000. When she was restored I spent an inordinate amount of money on extra soundproofing. The roof, floor, doors, bulkhead, under the seats, the bonnet, it all benefited from a coat of soundproofing gunk or a layer of rubber matting. She sports an exhaust with double the number of silencers that the Minor normally has. The engine is a more modern variant of the Minor’s standard ICE. She is, in short, built to be as quiet as she can possibly be.
That moment when you hit the motorway and go “wow, the engine’s loud”, that’s the moment you realise that you’re never going to like petrol cars again. At rest, the minor chats to you like an old friend. The engine clatters gently, the fuel pump taps away a quiet medley. I actually find it quite musical and kind of soothing. It has, after all, been the background to my driving career since before I even had a driving career. At speed, however, you know she’s working. Now I know that modern cars are quieter. I know because a couple of years ago I drove a brand new VW Golf around Slovenia and Italy for a week. However, they’re still dreadfully noisy compared to an EV.
And as you sit in the queue of traffic, waiting for them to move on and hearing the engine quietly chattering away to itself, dumping countless NOx, MOx and other unpleasant emissions into the atmosphere you feel guilt.
But the question some of you are wondering is what was it like? To slip from the modern quiet air conditioned comfort of the EV and back into a fossil fuel burner? Well, it’s not particularly nice. We’ve become used to having the radio barely on and it still being a comfortable volume. As we trundled up the motorway we found ourselves tweaking the volume up, and up, and up on the Minor’s radio and muttering ‘What was that?’ at each other because odd words would get lost to the rumble of the engine and exhaust.
Whilst the stops were less frequent, they were also less clean and enjoyable. In the iMiEV we stop, wave a card, plug in and wander in for a nice cup of coffee. Instead of these relaxed breaks in our drive where we actually reach the end refreshed, we rush through the petrol station, pausing only to stand, feet in a dirty pool of petrol-contaminated water, waiting as the pump slowly fills the car, dirty water occasionally dripping off the roof and down your neck. As a classic driver, there’s also the special treat of petrol spraying out of the nozzle; the modern filler doesn’t fit the Minor’s straight filler neck properly. But that’s a special bonus for classic car drivers!
Then you run through the accompanying shop, perhaps grabbing some snack food, and a machine-made, poor-quality coffee, before throwing yourself back into the car for the next 200 mile stretch.
The hotel we were staying in has two entrances, the grand front entrance faces out onto the garden, and sports beautiful frescos, original wooden revolving doors, and is clearly stating this is a fine establishment. The entrance we arrived at, instead, was originally designed for travel-stained and weary Victorians who’d just endured the train, and then probably carriage or early car journey to the hotel and who did not wish to be seen in their travelling clothes. It seemed terribly appropriate as we pulled up tired and weary to slip in through this back entrance.
Whilst we certainly made it there quicker than we would have in the iMiEV, taking only around 4 hours instead of the 7 or so that it might have taken, we got there more tired, more worn down, and very very ready to stop being in the car. All the journey truly did was settle more and more in our minds our desire to be an entirely EV household.
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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