The reality about driving green in 2019
The time is right to drive electric. The environment and global warming is high on the agenda. From governments to activists like Greta Thunberg, power companies to your local family run business wanting to do the right thing, most people around the world understand that we now have the knowledge as well as the technology to live with the electric car.
So, what is actually stopping us moving from A to B in a way that positively contributes to a greener world?
As a professional driver, I wanted to find out the answer.
Testing the electric car in Spain
Like most people, time is of great importance. With tight schedules to keep whilst crossing a big country, I wanted to try an alternative to my normal combustion engine car. Courtesy of Tesla, Spain I was offered a full electric vehicle to conduct my test.
As a professional driver, the car is very important to me for day to day transport. I like travelling and being in my own comfy environment, which also gives me the opportunity to control my own journey times.
Currently I live and work in Spain, travelling everywhere by road to the many different race circuits located across this large country. Electric charging is cheaper than fossil fuel, but for a typical businessman living in Spain, I wondered if an electric car can replace my normal everyday diesel.
Living with an electric car
These are my first initial impressions about living with an electric car in Spain.
- Plan the journey – At the moment, you can’t really jump into an electric car without thinking about where your journey is going to take you. If your batteries are fully charged and you are only heading into town for a short shopping trip, then you might not need to remember which shopping centre has the best charging points. However, if you are on a longer journey then you will probably need to consider a pit stop to boost the batteries. This means putting some thought into where you are going to recharge and for how long. When we collected the Model 3 from Tesla Valencia it was fully charged, but we had a long journey that had no superchargers on route. So, it took a few minutes calculating the distance and driving style required to ensure we got home with little stress.
- Everything uses electric – Now it might sound stupid, but understanding that everything in an electric car consumes power, is important. What this means in reality is that the more items you use in the car, the more the battery power will be consumed. Consider the lights for example. I did the same journey at night as I had a few days earlier, but used substantially more power from the battery. Our area of south east Spain is the sunniest region in this beautiful country, so the air con was on…a lot. In a fossil fuel powered car, we aren’t kept informed as to how this affects capacity, but in the electric car you are constantly reminded that the status bar is slowly moving from the green zone through amber to red. Even using the windows to let in the fresh air will affect your ability to get to your final destination without another boost to the batteries.
- Understand how to use the tech – The Tesla has regenerative braking, which is fantastic, once you get the hang of it. Take your foot off the throttle and the car starts to noticeably slow down. It only takes a light touch and a few minutes to get used to, but when you do it will assist you to driver smoother, maintain the correct distances between vehicles and generally decelerating without necessarily using the footbrake. One thing we noticed during the test is that when the regenerative braking is active, the brake lights come on. This did give my wife following behind the Tesla a few nervous moments until we worked out that I wasn’t actually slamming on the brakes straight after every overtake, just lifting my foot off the throttle. Regenerative braking is great, but if you find the lurching feeling difficult to overcome, then it is a simple tapping on the huge display to change.
- Enjoying the ride – The Tesla is a pleasant environment to be in. The Model 3 we tested had a full length panoramic roof that showed the very few clouds in our stunning blue Spanish sky. Tesla are proud to claim that there are no animal products used in their vehicles, so despite the interior not being leather, the seats still looked and felt like they could be equally at home in any other medium luxury brand. Then there is the huuuuuuge display. Using google maps to view your route is so useful as well as visually appealing. Places of interest become visible in a way that they simply wouldn’t be on any other satellite navigation system. Tesla have taken the opportunity to use technology to give the driver what they actually need to enjoy the trip from A to B. Even younger passengers can be entertained using the Toybox that shares everything from a crackling fire to the very entertaining whoopee cushions. In June 2019, Elon Musk shared a Model 3 playing the racing game Beach Buggy Racing 2, which is clear proof that entertainment is high on Tesla’s agenda.
- An eyeful? – Now unless you have the Model X with the stop and stare gull wing doors, the Tesla range doesn’t stand out from the crowd. However, when you drive one down a Spanish Gran Via, the local Senor’s and Senorita’s do give the Tesla a double take. Whether it is the combination of just tyre noise on tarmac, or the rare sighting of the distinctive Tesla T, it is hard to tell what makes the Spanish take time out to look. In a country that lacks precious commodities like water and sits at number 5 globally in terms of wind energy capacity, there is a deep understanding for protecting the environment.
- Conversation starter – Despite Spain’s green credentials, electric cars are still a rare site outside the big cities. I visited all my usual coffee stops and was constantly quizzed about the pros and cons of driving electric. In the Spanish “Campo” the charging points are rare and the fossil fuel stations are a plenty. However, don’t think that those living in the country are blind to the benefits of driving electric. They fully understand how their lives will be enriched by cars like the Tesla, but every one of them knows that first the barriers to price and availability of charging points needs to be overcome. My friend who owns one of the most popular tapas bars in town, was clearly surprised by the family friendly environment that came with the Tesla. He mistakenly thought that there would be no room in the boot for his son’s push chair and was amazed, like so many others, that not having a fuel guzzling engine meant that there would be additional storage up front too. Over a long Spanish lunch with friends, everyone agreed though that the biggest barrier was infrastructure and the debate about what politicians should be doing, lasted long past the coffee and liquers!
- Fun to drive – Who remembers as a child the electric milk delivery vehicles that used to buzz outside your window at 5 in the morning? The modern electric car is certainly nothing like that. The lack of an engine, and all the engineering that goes along with that means the effect of putting the pedal to the metal is instantaneous. In the Tesla Model 3 Performance my right foot had access to over 470hp and a considerable amount of torque. Do not be fooled into thinking that electric cars are slow because they simply aren’t. I spend a lot of time on race circuits, so thanks to our friends at the Guadix Circuit in Andalusia I took the Tesla Model 3 for a few laps on track. Responsive and smooth handling, the Tesla was a reasonably fun car to drive on track. Yes, it doesn’t make all the eclectic sounds that a fuel powered engine will, and your charge levels will drop faster than a stone, but it does the job the same if not better than any other similar saloon. Unless you get into Formula E, you don’t buy an electric car to drive around a race track. However, there are plenty of electric cars that are capable of towing your combustion engined track car to the nearest circuit.
Living with the electric car is our future
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that electric cars will be a part of our future. The will of the people to do the right thing is there too. Cars now have the technology to deliver what the consumer requires, but what is stopping us using more electric vehicles to go about our everyday business?
For me, the current lack of available public charging points in my locality do not meet my needs and I found myself using time I had little of waiting to replenish the battery. As a business I have to achieve value for money and at the moment the electric car doesn’t do that for me. I have an amazing car to take on track, so owning an electric car would make perfect sense when the return on investment tips the scales in my favour.
The biggest challenge to living with an electric car
Here in Spain the biggest challenge is infrastructure. One of the biggest countries in Europe, the cost of implementing the technology required is a challenge. In my opinion, Tesla have done a lot to pull other manufacturers forward in terms of developing the vehicle technology to compete with Elon Musk’s vision of the future. However, governments in every country need to find the funds to implement the infrastructure and reduce the cost for people buying electric.
The cars have the technology.
The people are ready to buy.
The infrastructure is just not there yet.
We are ready to drive electric, but need it to be easier for people to buy the cars and keep them running on the open road. Driving electric is possible for many people, but not yet for most. However, it will be and I for one will always welcome the chance to drive electric.