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To EV or not to EV? That is the question…

By / 3 years ago / Features / No Comments

How realistic is electric vehicle ownership? That’s a question that Bart Vanham of TCO Plus set out to answer.

Would I drive an electric vehicle? That was the question that kept me busy for a number of months. Me being Bart Vanham, entrepreneur in the automotive and fleet market. I am actually a tax consultant (nobody is perfect), specialising in car taxation in the EU and beyond.

These car taxes, linked in over 20 countries to CO2 emissions, and tax incentives for hybrid and electric vehicles, are important when measuring the effects of CO2 improvement programs, or even when comparing cars and comparing different power trains. Being involved in some projects where for OEMs it was important to show customers the real cost of use, instead of looking at purchase prices, I soon discovered that indeed driving electric vehicles was not as expensive as it first appeared.

So I did some test drives and, hallelujah, driving electric was fun… A Toyota Prius Plug-in opened the world of driving silently, enjoying pure music, or nothing. A Nissan LEAF made me want for more with its instant torque and fun driving. A Tesla Roadster blew my socks off and a Tesla Model S made me dream of a car again from long ago. Could driving pleasure, good economics and environmental benefits work together again?

Before answering that question, I needed to tackle the issue of range anxiety, as it is commonly used by those opposed to change. Did I dare to take the risk?

Some research and lots of little movies on YouTube of people actually driving EVs made me realise that I also made mistakes in looking at range. Yes indeed I needed the car to go skiing and for summer holidays, with each a one-way trip of at least 600 to 900 miles, and yes, I drive to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and the like for meetings, trips of over 200 miles average one way. But, being totally honest with myself, for skiing or summer holiday, I could take my wife’s car, or my father’s car, or even rent one, or take the plane. And the meetings in Amsterdam and other long-distance drives usually involve an overnight stay; so I have time to recharge.

Business trips and weekend trips within Belgium are maximum 150 miles, sorry, 80 miles up and 80 miles back, again a mistake: range is only a one way trip, charging and back. Oops, next research… was public charging already an option to take into account? Well in Belgium, yes and no: yes indeed if you are willing to plan your trip carefully with the closest available charging station and yes if you have the guts to ask your client or family if you could plug in the car, a question which, by the way, is a super conversation starter…. And no because there are not that many charging stations yet in Belgium, they are not all accessible using the same card, and they are not all fast charging.

The range issue research taught me that I could indeed drive electric, but that the range should be at least 300 to 350km. I would have to be prepared to plan the trips I took more carefully. I would have to bother people and hotels for sockets and occasionally I would have to be very kind to my wife or father (as I always am) and use their cars.

Using the Tesla Roadster, with a range of 177 miles on 80% of the battery, but more like 143 miles with the addition of normal driving for the challenging trip of 147 mile to Amsterdam, convinced me. When booking the hotel the receptionist kindly confirmed that it was no problem to charge the car, she would even reserve the parking place next to the socket. Charging: check! What about range? I saw on one of the movies on YouTube that to save on energy, surfing was the way forward. So I drove quite some kilometres behind big SUVs taking the wind from my car. When I arrived in Amsterdam, I still had 102km of range left, plugged it in and the next morning I was ready to leave fully loaded. After the meeting with a client, I drove back home paying attention to the range but the anxiety was completely gone…. EV vs BART: 1-0!!!

Unfortunately they are really expensive, aren’t they? Next time, I will throw a light on that part of my odyssey…

Julian Kirk

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