So, I bought an electric car.  Yes, I know I’m building one and have an electric motorcycle but the powers-that-be at work have decided to move my office just out of range of the bike and have also stopped me from charging it there too, at a daily cost of 15p.  So that’ll make a huge difference to their budget, won’t it?!

Here it is...

Had I done the return, direct, 225 mile trip in one go, it would have taken about 8 hours - 7 if all the chargers had worked.  As it was, one at Bridgewater and another at Sedgemoor were not working.  I nearly had to queue at Sedgemoor (for a Nissan Leaf).  The UK government has made it pretty clear it intends to leave it to the private sector to come up with a national charging infrastructure.  PM Cameron is going to have to do something to bolster Ecotricity's valiant fast-charge network efforts if he is serious about EVs.  Ecotricity are about the only major player thus far in all this - and they don't charge for their EVSE use - yet.  This state of affairs is utterly ludicrous. At a bare minimum EVERY ONE of the 110 existing MSAs plus another 90 or so (to service the non-motorway parts of the country), needs at least 2 ChaDeMo/Level 3 Mennekes/CCS chargers per direction - more as EVs become more common.  This would cost barely £4m initially for the chargers - more, obviously, to install them.  But not much considering the £500m pot the UK government has already provided for help in buying new EVs in the UK - up to £5k per new EV.  Ecotricity have quite a good map of their chargers here… http://www.ecotricity.co.uk/for-the-road/our-electric-highway 

(Edit... Perhaps Mr Clegg’s recently (30Jan2014) announcement of a £9m spend on ‘supporting EVs’ will help?)


Meanwhile, in doing any sort of trip that is out of the ordinary, you have to plan, quite carefully, your route, checking up to 4 or more web sites for latest charger status, location etc.  If we knew that all the motorway service areas had at least 2 fast chargers, you would not need to plan ahead other than to check the next MSA is within range.  Being able to pre-book a charger is a possible angle too.  That way, additional charger installations - and their associated costs - could be minimised.  EVers turning up at chargers to find a queue or no charger at all is simply NOT going to work.


Of course, given that ChaDeMo chargers are supposed to be phased out of the EU in 2019, what is going to replace them?  No sign of the EU version of the CCS (combined charging system) yet.  I don't think they have even decided a standard.


As for the Ion, generally, I am very pleased with the car.  It is nicely equipped for such an unprepossessing little thing, comfortable in a basic sort of way, quite nippy and wonderfully smooth to drive.  The Ion (and Citroen C-Zero) version has only P, R, N and D, as opposed to more flexible regen-optimised 'gear' selector options on the i-Miev, but they have managed to get the Ion's regen to work very well, with the accelerator and brake pedal - almost seamless.  Very easy to pop into N at the lights so you can take your foot off the brake, too.


Good lights - the main beams appear to be projector halogens - with equally effective good front and rear fog lights, front running lights and an auto light switch position to bring on side and dipped main beams automatically according to ambient external light.  Front (13W) running lights come on with the ignition and are under the same lens as the front fog lights.  The rear side and brake lights are LED.  It has a high level brake light, again LED.


Max acceleration is really quite acceptable.  I haven't done my own 0-60 test yet but I gather it can be done in just under 10 seconds with just the driver on board.

Charging options are ChaDeMo one one side and J1772 1/2 on the other.

24Jan 2014

So, 2 weeks after collecting the Ion from Taunton, just south of Bridgwater, I got the chance to buy £10k worth of top spec EV drive train parts (for the kit car) for £2100 and (rashly, as it turned out) decided to take the Ion back down to... Bridgwater!... to collect them.

Having left here at 0930 Friday morning, I stopped for my first chademo ‘fast’ charge at the Nissan UK HQ in Maple Cross and charged normally. W/bound on the M4, I got to Reading Services at about 1100 and had to get round to the E/b side as I knew the W/b Chademo was u/s, got the manager out (by prior arrangement) to kindly open the access barrier, connected as usual to ecotricity's Chademo and got a ground fault error. Tried again, same thing. 5 miles range remaining. What to do? Managed to get thru to ecotricity's help line who suggested going to Nissan in Reading but the post code (correct) takes you to the wrong place and twice round a busy dual carriageway before finding it - 0 miles remaining!

They were helpful and let me charge BUT despite it starting up ok, it kicked me out with a 'can receiving error'. Tried the button to resume and it did but gave the same error after 10-30 seconds of charging. Thinking I'm well stuck now with no miles at all, I spoke to the management again who said it was working fine for their Leaf, that morning. So tried ringing Peugeot who could only offer the AA. Went back to the charger and tried again and it charged for about one minute and then gave same error. Noticed that each time I did this the car was charging a percent or two. By the time AA turned up (saying they thought it was a flat ICE battery and therefore no help at all - but very nice!) I was at 50% having been at Nissan for an hour.

Then, after another few resets it continued without error. I believe this is due to the much lower current now being drawn (50A compared with 120A when I started empty). So AA cleared off, I continued charging normally to 80% and then again to 85%, then drove on to Membury Services. Charged perfectly normally on the Chademo there. By now raining significantly. Off to Leigh Delamere services. Guess what, again after initially starting to charge, the ecotricity chademo kicked me out again with a ground fault error. By now it was raining quite hard. Ecotricity help line not answering anymore. Gave up trying to get where I was going, another 60 miles, and decided to divert to sister - 15 miles away but only 10 miles range!

Managed to get to other side of LD services (nightmare) and, would you Adam and Eve it, Chademo works perfectly normally. Quick 10 mins fast charging and off to sisters in time for dinner.

I spoke to the ecotricity helpline finally the next day and they confirmed both Reading chargers were 'off-line'. Er...!

So I left my Ion with my sister Saturday morning and borrowed her car to collect the bits (about 160kg in all) and transferred them to the Ion anticipating a nightmare home trip - via Oxford (2 Chademo chargers 10 miles apart just to see if they both worked - they did) and the M40/M25 to South Mimms where there's another Chademo.  Should have charged at Nissan HQ again because I had to queue at S Mimms for 30 minutes but at least all the chargers worked flawlessly.  Got home at 2030.

So lesson is, don't go EVing long distance in the pouring rain (I'm convinced all the errors are wet related - none of them have any cover,  for heavens sake! - 360V @ 120A...!) and check the chargers are working with ecotricity before relying on them for a charge.  I've already emailed my MP about my last trip I might add this to his in tray too.

It’s called an Ion (Peugeot's incarnation of the i-Miev - ‘eye meeve’ - and much easier to type) last Friday from Howard's Peugeot in Taunton.  I paid £9k5 (still too much) for a July 2011 one with 3k4 miles.  They retail new in the UK for £28k.  They have more apparently, if anyone is interested.  I suspect they would take less than what I paid for the remaining cars.  I am not a very good haggler.  Contact is Martin Joseph - 01823 321321 - 1 Priorswood Rd, TA2 8DN.  Nice chap and very efficient.

It has about a 60 mile range at 60mph and costs about £1.30 to fully charge. So, a little over 2p/mile.  At 30 mph it’ll do about 90 miles... you do the math.  It is cheap to run.  Its next service is due in 35 thousand miles.  And all that consists of is checking the battery connector for security, replacing the air con pollen filter and topping up the motor/controller coolant.  Did I say it is cheap to run?

I then drove it to my Brother's in Dorset Friday night (charged) then back home 240 miles up the M5, stayed overnight Saturday at my Sister's (charged again), then on Sunday, via M4, North Circular and A10.  In the end I used 6 Ecotricity ChaDeMo chargers located at motorway service areas (MSAs) at Bridgewater, Sedgemoor, Aust (by the new Severn Bridge), Membury, Burghfield and Heston.  The longest distance travelled was between Heston and home (47 miles) and I had about 3 miles on the range dial remaining - though I gather there's a good 10 miles in 'reserve'.

Taken from outside looking through small window with dash end panel removed