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Going somewhere new in your Electric Car?

How a lack of planning can become a charging point nightmare!

By Mary Dopson-Taylor, Customer Services Director, Grosvenor Leasing

This is a short blog about the pitfalls of poor journey planning in an electric vehicle, and I hope it will serve as an important lesson to all electric vehicle drivers.

It’s also an admission that we’re all human and everyone can get it wrong if they don’t follow their own advice!

I’ll begin by saying that at Grosvenor Leasing we’d proudly say that we’ve got extensive expertise in electric vehicles. 

In fact, having won multiple awards for 0Zone, our ‘green’ solution, you’d assume that we have all the skills, knowledge and know-how required to enjoy driving our own electric cars without a care in the world.

However…

Myself and two of my co-directors had a meeting scheduled roughly 90 miles away. Considering we’d been existing on Teams and Zoom for the last 18 months this was quite a big deal. A real meeting, seeing real people! What a novelty!

Of course, we took one of our electric company cars, and because we had three EV experts on board this was a bit like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson heading out together in a home-made rocket! No-one could dispute that we knew our stuff! 

But, needless to say that in the last 18 months most of our driving has been very local due to lockdown, and so we were a bit out of practice when it came to longer trips!

Making good time we arrived with 30 minutes to spare, but were somewhat surprised that the 90 miles covered actually consumed around 120 miles of charge. But the highbrow conversation of 3 notable industry experts led us to quickly agree that with the air-conditioning blasting on this very hot day, and three bodies in the car this was to be expected. 

Nevertheless, we needed some charge and agreed we’d give our EV a boost while we grabbed a very quick pre-meeting coffee.

“So, where did you schedule your charging stop for?”, we asked our colleague whose car it was, who to avoid too much embarrassment we will not ‘name’ but instead call ‘EV expert number 1’.

“Well, I’m driving,” was his reply, “so I assumed one of you two would have planned where the chargers were.” 

I won’t bore you with the conversation that then took place but by the end of it we all had to accept that none of us had planned the charging while out at this meeting.

I think the phrase, ‘Like a solicitor without a Will’ came to mind because we have done vast amounts of excellent work over the years helping customers map out charging points, advising them of the different charging solutions, assisting with grants for home charging – and so the list goes on. 

All three of us had also very successfully been driving EVs for some time. Yet on this occasion we had to admit we’d got it wrong.

So, what was the consequence of this lack of planning? 

Well, this is why I have decided to write this blog to help others – as it would have been far less embarrassing to just keep this story private, but we all felt that by sharing it we could bring attention to why the issue of journey planning in an EV is so vitally important.

Here’s what happened, simply because we didn’t take 5 minutes to plan our day before setting off.

We found a Lidl with an electric charging point, but with only 10 minutes before our meeting started that didn’t give us enough time. Also, we needed to download the App and by the time we’d done this we’d have needed to go.

After a successful meeting, we then decided ‘not’ to head back to Lidl (big mistake!) but to head home. We still had 40 miles of charge and we’d just use one of our Apps to locate something en route that wasn’t too far out of our way.

20 minutes later and the mood in the car was dipping quickly. Conversation was replaced by silence as myself and my fellow passenger searched our phones while we all watched the car’s battery levels dropping.

“At least we can now talk with real authority about what range anxiety actually feels like,” quipped one us, trying to lift the atmosphere.

Then bingo! Like an oasis in a desert, the miracle of a small Londis services appeared before our very eyes – and the celebrations began as we could see it had a charging point.

But then once again the mood dropped as we pulled up!

“OK”, said one of us, “looks like there’s a white diesel van parked in the charging bay and no sign of a driver!”

We waited. And we waited…..

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, the driver appeared offering an apologetic wave.

Whilst tempted to vent some anger, he was clearly a lot bigger than all of us – so we all waved back as if it was us that were at fault for selfishly wishing to park our electric car in a bay designated for charging electric cars, and then we were in!

But then sadly our joy began to subside. 

Although this was a BP Service Station, and we had the BP Pulse App with credit, it transpired that this was in fact a different brand of charger. So we downloaded their App, added £20 credit (as this was the minimum) but it then didn’t work. We asked inside the shop only to find that no one was able to help, so we had to give up.

Luckily, one of us had continued to search online and having Googled, ‘electric charging stations near me’ an Instavolt charge point popped up within a mile; located within an Outdoor Camping Centre.

What a relief! With no App and a simple credit card transaction, within minutes of getting there our car was charging and we were sitting in a supermarket café across the road lamenting a lesson learned the hard way.

So what did we learn that day?

A: We’re all human and mistakes happen – but we will never make that mistake again (as we were all home 1 ½ hours later than planned). 

B: You may read the constant advice from EV experts about the importance of journey planning and think it’s a lot of fuss. It’s not! Never before has journey planning been so important – especially while the charging infrastructure isn’t as strong in some areas (we were in Wiltshire and not near a major town when we began struggling).

C: Electric cars are the future but we need to treat them as something new and all be willing to learn how to adapt.

D: We cannot go out on our journeys in our EV with the same mindset as we would with a petrol or diesel engine. 

E: The vast majority of charge points are 7kW chargers and these were of no use to us because it would take several hours to get sufficient range. Trying to decipher the charge points on the Apps can be quite time consuming, especially if you’re in a rural area with limited internet. It can also become stressful when you’re under the pressure with range anxiety and want to get to your destination! 

F: Listen to advice from the experts to help make the smooth transition to EVs for your drivers – or in our case, pay attention to your own advice! 

Finally, I hope you find this open and honest blog useful, educational and perhaps humorous. We decided to share this story, rather than bury it, as we felt it served as an important lesson as we all embrace this new world of electric vehicle technology!

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