Driving An Electric Car - #WhyNot Give It A Try?

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We were recently given the opportunity to drive an Ultra Low Emissions Electric Vehicle and share our experience with you all. Our vehicle of choice was the super stylish Audi e-tron which was kindly provided by Lookers for the weekend. If you're interested in what it's really like driving an electric vehicle, read on. I'm sharing the ups and downs and lessons learned in this post. #WhyNot try an electric vehicle yourself? I'm almost certain you'll be pleasantly surprised.



Why an electric car? 


Electric cars are intriguing, aren't they? We care about the future of our planet and although we don't always get it right and are guilty of choosing convenience over the environment sometimes, where we can, we do like to do our bit. The main draw of electric cars for us, is that they are much more environmentally friendly and have ultra low/zero emissions. The second biggest factor is that they're usually a lot cheaper to run and maintain meaning that we'd have more money in our pocket to spend on days out and holidays (which as you know is where I like to spend all of our money). I don't think we're ready to make the switch to a fully electric vehicle just yet, but in 3-4 years time we're hopefully going to buy a second family car (we car share at the moment). Our second car would be used for school runs/Steve commuting to work/local days out/food shopping and after test driving an electric vehicle over the weekend, I really think an electric car would be the perfect choice for our second car.


Huge thanks to Lookers and Go Ultra Low North East 


A big thanks to Lookers and Go Ultra North East for arranging a test drive for us. It really was an eye-opening experience and we learned a lot about the practicalities of owning an electric vehicle over the weekend. All of the staff at Lookers Audi at Silverlink were so friendly and it was refreshing that they were honest about the limitations of electric vehicles too. Plus there was plenty of customer parking which I appreciated as I always struggle to find a parking space whenever I visit a garage which always stresses me out!


We love, love, loved the Audi e-tron 


I kind of wish I didn't ask Lookers how much an Audi e-tron cost as it is a car that is way out of our price range (they start at £71.5k) but actually, I'm really grateful we had the chance to drive a car like this and put it through its paces as it allowed us to see what a 5* electric car experience was like and just how good they can be. The Audi e-tron was spacious, high-performing and comes with lots of gadgets including individual climate control,  touch screen computers (even in the back which the kids loved), customisable virtual cockpit and all of the space we needed. It felt luxurious, comfortable and has a cracking sound system.








I've reviewed and driven lots of different cars over the years and I've never felt so sad about handing the keys back as I did with the Audi e-tron. I thought I'd feel nervous about driving an electric car for the first time, especially with ours being so expensive but it was so intuitive and easy that I was immediately put at ease. If I had a spare £71k knocking around, I'd buy an Audi e-tron immediately. I loved it so much. You can find out more about the Audi e-tron here. If your budget doesn't quite stretch that far, Lookers stock a wide range of used, new and nearly new electric vehicles for all budgets. You can check out their current range of electric and hybrid vehicles here.


What it's like driving an electric car


I'm going to explain this as a complete beginner so please bear with me. I've never driven an automatic vehicle but Steve informs me that an electric car is very similar, only smoother. There are only two peddles - accelerate and brake. I made the mistake of trying to drive with two feet at first which just doesn't work. You just need to use your right foot and rest your left foot on the floor. With the Audi e-tron there were three 'gears' to choose from - drive, reverse or park. Simply select a 'gear' and then you're on your way. Electric cars are so smooth to drive and pretty much silent too. The best thing I can compare it to is the monorail at Alton Towers. It all feels very futuristic too. In my opinion, an electric car is SO much easier to drive than a regular manual vehicle. There's no worrying about gears or the clutch, no having to find 'the bite' and the car is much easier to control as there's no rolling back etc....


A few people have mentioned to me that they expect electric cars to be unresponsive and not very powerful. I myself had the same pre-conceptions and if you have these ideas, I'd urge you to go and test drive an electric vehicle yourself. Our car felt very powerful and because the power is there immediately as soon as you press the pedal, acceleration and speed is super quick too. I felt like I had so much more time to pull out of junctions or roundabouts and overtake. The e-tron is SO nippy and from what I've read, this is the same across the board when it comes to electric cars.



The biggest shock for me was driving uphill. If you've driven across the North Yorkshire Moors, you'll know what a nightmare some of the steep inclines can be. I swear in my very first car (which was a 1.2 litre Ford Ka), I sometimes needed to switch down to first gear to get up them! The steepest incline we tried in our electric car was 27% and it was such a breeze. It was just like the car was driving along a flat road and absolutely no extra effort was required. I honestly couldn't believe the difference and it shows you just how powerful an electric vehicle is.



I've already said this earlier but the Audi e-tron is hands down the best car I've ever driven. Comfortable, smart, powerful, nippy, so quiet and smooth to drive and packed with gadgets. It was an absolute dream!

Our electric car adventure 


I always take my blog work seriously and wanted to really put the car through its paces. I forced ourselves into a situation where we'd need to recharge the vehicle as I wanted to see what this was like in a real situation. We clocked up over 250 miles and travelled from Cramlington to Falling Foss Tea Gardens near Whitby, Saltburn by the Sea, Seaton Carew, Kynren in the evening and then to our local pub the following afternoon. We travelled down single track country lanes, up and down steep inclines, on motorways, in our local neighbourhood, around supermarket carparks, through little villages and along the coast. With the money we saved on fuel, we were able to treat the kids to a few little extras throughout the day including a couple of pounds to play on the amusements, fish and chips from the Almighty Cod and ice creams and nachos at the Tea Garden. Throughout our adventures, we were all super comfortable and I LOVED the heated seats on the way back from Kynren (which didn't seem to take up any significant energy from our battery). We really had a brilliant couple of days.










You can select several driving modes with the e-tron including economical and there's a constant countdown on your dashboard letting you know how many miles you have left before you need to recharge. I did ask what would happen if you ran out of battery and at the moment, you need to be recovered and towed to a charging point or there are a couple of businesses popping up who will bring out a mobile charger to you now. I don't think this is ideal and it is way less convenient than asking your friend to bring a can of petrol but the mileage didn't suddenly shoot down and I think if you were sensible, running out of battery just wouldn't happen as there is plenty of warning. You can also search for nearby rapid charging points from the car's SatNav.


Getting to grips with charging on the go 


If you watched my Instagram stories from the weekend that we had the car, you'll know we struggled with this at first. We were absolute beginners though and a lot of our problems were to do with this. I'd heard about the Zap app, downloaded it and realised there was a charging point in Whitby Aldi. After our trip to Falling Foss Tea Gardens, we programmed the SatNav to take us there. However on arrival, we couldn't figure out which connector to use (your connectors are in the bonnet of your car where the engine is). I just assumed there was one connector type and they were all attached to the pump and you just plugged the car in but I was wrong. There are 3/4 different types depending on the type of charger you are using. We kind of panicked at this point as we didn't have enough miles on our car to get us home (we realised the next day when we charged our car at home that we did actually have the right connector and now feel a bit silly).



So it was back to the Zap app and I discovered there was another charging point in Whitby but it was joined onto a Farmhouse B&B and the app mentioned you had to knock on the owners and pay them in cash to use their charging point. I just didn't fancy this at all! There was another point at Dalby Forest but I knew there was a £12 parking charge which I also wasn't keen on so we decided for the next option of Asda Skelton which was 22 miles away.

We got to Asda and realised the charging point was part of the Polar Network (more on this below) and you need to be a member and have a key to use it. At this point I was so stressed and didn't think we'd ever manage to get charged. Another search of the app and I found another charging point in Guisborough at a service station 5 miles away.



We turned up at the service station and another car was using the charging point. Now this is where I have another problem with electric car charging points on the go - you don't know if they're in use or not so as well as a 40 minute - 2 hour charging time, you may have to wait for a charger to become available too. Luckily, we didn't have too long to wait and after 5 minutes, we found a charging point that worked. This was a Genie charging point which is PAYG. It is a little more expensive than some of the other options but after 30 minutes, we had enough charge to get us home and survive the weekend. Phew!! We paid through the Genie app once we had downloaded and followed the instructions. It was only a few £.



The moral of the story here is that I really should have done more research before setting off. I just assumed all charging points were PAYG and had their own connectors attached! I think if you were using an electric car every day, you wouldn't have these issues as you'd know which brand of charging point to look for and/or you'd join up to their schemes in advance. It definitely was a learning curve!

I think we'd join the Polar Network 


Our weekend with an electric vehicle really allowed us to see some of the practicalities involved with owning an electric car and forced us to seriously think about whether we could practically buy one as a second car. After looking into it, I think we'd join the Polar Network. The benefits of the Polar Network are as follows:
  • Over 7000 charging stations around the UK 
  • They are the UK's largest charging network
  • They have their own app so you can easily find a station 
  • You pay just £7.95 per month for unlimited charges (there are a few paid premium charging stations which are just 9p per KW - the stations near us are all free though)
  • You are sent a key fob to access and charging stations have their own attachments 


Can you imagine spending just £7.95 per month on fuel? This kind of blows my mind! We have three Polar charging points just a short walk from our house (at the Brockwell Centre in Cramlington) and Steve has them installed in his car park at work so in practical terms, I imagine Steve would simply keep our electric vehicle topped up via his workplace and we would use the Brockwell Centre which is within walking distance of our house if I needed a top up. There are Polar Charging points along the coast and at Northumberlandia too, in fact, there are lots of Polar Charging points in the North East. You can take a peek here or get an idea by looking at the map above. I still can't get over the fact that it would only cost £7.95 a month to run our car if we opted for this method!


Charging at home 


I was always under the impression that you needed to install an electric charging point at home if you're buying an electric car, but after looking into just how many points there are near us, I honestly don't think we'd need do this. We don't have an attached garage or drive and our garage is not supplied with electricity so I always thought this excluded us but it doesn't as you don't necessarily need to be able to charge at home.



Also, I was shocked to discover that the Audi e-tron actually comes with a three-point plug that you can plug into a normal socket at home. Who knew? We tested this function out and it does take a lot longer to charge your car this way rather than at a proper car charging point (it was going to be 35 hours for us) BUT it doesn't cost much (I think it's around £4 for a full charge) and it's nice to know that there is that option too.

Advantages of an electric car


The advantages of an electric car are clear to me:
  • Zero or Ultra Low emissions 
  • Very smooth and easy to drive
  • Powerful/quick acceleration 
  • No road tax and lower maintenance costs
  • Super low fuel/running costs
  • You can join networks such as the Polar Network and pay a low fixed monthly cost which would make budgeting for days out etc... a lot easier 

Conclusion - is an electric car for us? 


I will be honest, we could not replace our main family car with an electric car just yet. We plan to take lots of road trips abroad in our own car abroad over the next few years and I just don't think I'd feel confident enough to do this in an electric vehicle. The worry of not being able to find a charging point in another country is too much. We're also a family who take so many longer road trips (eg our trip to Cornwall in February and we're heading to LEGOLAND and the Scottish Highlands in the Summer). I'm just not ready to make a lifestyle change and spend 45 minutes - 2 hours continuously charging our car throughout the week when taking longer trips like this. The other thing which puts me off is the purchase price, our current car was only £13,000 new and electric vehicles tend to start at around £25,000. I know the maintenance and running costs would offset this a bit but £25,000 is almost double the cost of our petrol car.


However, as mentioned in this post, we're looking to buy a second family car in 3-4 years time and an electric car will 100% be at the top of our list. For just driving around the North East, I think they are perfect for us and the advantages clearly speak for themselves. I really think we could make it work for us but I'd like to test drive a few more electric vehicles before I commit just to be sure.

If you'd like to read more about the practicalities of driving an electric car and future investment planned, check out the Go Ultra Low website here and if you're interested in taking an electric vehicle for a test drive yourself, or finding out more about purchasing, you can contact Lookers here. To find out more about the Audi e-tron, contact Lookers Audi at Silverlink.

#WhyNot try an electric vehicle for yourself? Let me know if you fancy trying it and I hope you found our experience useful. 




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4 comments

  1. Brill review! we looked at the nissan leaf when we bought our current car (nissan note)but were put off by some of the same concerns as you. great to know about the polar network & the fact you don't need a point at home. The note we have is zero road tax too and we spend probably only £40-50 a month on fuel as it's very economic.

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  2. Such an interesting read and I love how much you've detailed you've gone into - you really did give the car a good test! I'd love to drive one one day just to see what it's like, but i think the reality for us would be that we'd stress about being able to find charging points, knowing us we'd get well and truly stuck in the middle of nowhere! I'm sure you must get used to it and know where the points are but I think for the first few months it must be quite an experience!

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    1. Yes it certainly takes some getting used to. I truly believe you learn quickly though. After just one weekend I felt confident enough to say we'd buy one.

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