After many months if not years of prevarication, my wife and I have joined the Electric Vehicle, EV experience. This part of my web site I’ll use to chronicle our experiences, good and bad. I’ll also try to cover the other considerations that go into making such an investment. Yes, including money and technical details. I’ll be adding dedicated pages for The Car, Charging, Solar and Batteries.
For those who can recall or are interested, my book To The Survivors has quite a bit on renewable energy although EVs don’t feature that includes, solar, wind and traditional generators. The book came out before most burst onto the scene. I have to plug it somewhere, unlike EVs which can only be plugged in a charger.
First some background. We’ve had solar panels on our south facing roof for ten years plus. They were installed by Paarl Energy. The company is still going strong despite the endless cold calls from tele-sales masquerading as maintenance companies, trying to get us to get our system fixed and warning us that our supplier has gone bust. Thankfully, with another change our landline has now gone. (Thanks to now having an FTTP Internet connection from Trooli with significantly more bandwidth.
Not the solar system i.e. around the sun but the solar panels etc. Anyway, I digress. We have 14 x 250 Watt Panasonic panels generating 3.5kw/h. These are fed into our mains distribution box via an inverter. We also have an immersion spur which heats the hot water tank with excess power. We ordered our system long enough ago to benefit from the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) system of payments which pays us for excess energy generated. It’s calculated on a fixed scale and fixed rate of 50% of generation (metered) at 15.4p per kw/h. We thought on purchase that we would get a return on investment (ROI) in 8-10 years for the cost of the panels. In fact, we had a ROI in about 6 if not less. Cost of the system was approx. £6,000.
ROI was faster because we also saved on energy use all year round as well as getting FIT payments from EDF, although they are not our electricity supplier. They are currently Utility Warehouse (UW) with a bundled deal which currently shows £0.27p per kw/h fixed rate but discounted due to UW’s bundles. All of these bits and pieces add context to costs which is why I’m adding them in. The solar system reduces consumption (as does changing habits learnt in Economy 7 days). We also use appliances like washing machines, dishwashers etc during the day, not the old E7 night, when solar is generating.
Despite the energy cost increases we have all faced, we have managed to keep bills lower. We also pay attention to lifestyle choices in terms of checking power use on new appliances and replacing all our bulbs with LED lamps.
Batteries and Home Chargers
I’ll briefly cover solar batteries now, as we decided initially we would not have one. We have continually returned to the decision as some costs have come down. The ROI has been the problem. We are looking again now the vehicle decision is complete and the new car is sitting on the drive. More later on that. We keep looking at batteries because solar has several well documented issues like darkness and poor weather. A charger only became a decision once we had made the Electric Vehicle (EV) decision. Even then they are not completely necessary as we could and have trickle charge from a standard mains socket.
Chargers vary in capability. We do not have 3-Phase power (cost to get would >£20k) therefore our practical limit with a dedicated charger is 7.2 kw/h on a dedicated 30 amp circuit with what is called a Type 2 connector. A regular 13 amp circuit using a plug cable can achieve 1.5-2.5 kw/h. The choice is charging times. More detail later alongside other vehicle and supporting infrastructure elements.
Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) or Electric (EV)
Lots of reading, test drives and prevaricating. My wife’s car is/was a Toyota Yaris hybrid. I have owned or driven (company cars) a variety of diesel and petrol vehicles. Most recently an Audi Q5 Petrol. We have coped with one car since my retirement (still authoring self-employed – relevant later). I missed the larger car size (as did visiting now son-in-law who is 6’6’”) and the Yaris is now over 6 years old. It can get nearly 400 miles on a tank, more likely is 350 and at slow speed it does go all electric. It’s been a very good car. We pay no car tax (due to scheme when purchased).
First decision, on car was what type of propulsion. To be fair we never really looked at another pure petrol and certainly not a diesel. We were swayed backwards and forwards by news reports and fear mongering about EV charging. At one point we had decided on a PHEV but didn’t see one we liked despite the advertisements. For green credentials we wanted to go all electric. We wanted long range which ruled out many cars at lower prices. I wanted all-wheel-drive as I missed that from the Q5.
EV Experience – Car Choice
I ruled out on cost grounds, even if I lusted after them, a whole variety of cars. The Jaguar iPace, Audi ETRON, Mercs, BMWs etc. Missing at the other end were major manufacturers like Ford, Vauxhall, Renault as their vehicles lacked range. I wanted close to 300 miles and (time between charges), and all-wheel-drive (AWD). We actively looked at others.
- Hyundai Ioniq 5
- Kia EV6
- Volvo XC40 Recharge
- Kia Sportage PHEV
- Toyota BZ4X
- Nissan Ariya
Details of the actual car purchased and the experience can be found on the car page
The first EV I actually test drove was the Kia EV6. Very good car. Felt like an estate more than a cross-SUV when sitting in it. Very quick was my impression. Excellent moulded dashboard. We went to see it twice. Watched it self-park in a visit before the test drive earlier this year. Time for a new one was more than 9 months when we first looked. We kept an eye on web sites for ex-demos – still looking at £55k. New costs were near £60k for AWD and long range variant. Was number one for months as we dithered.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
Sharing many similarities and components with the Kia the Ionic 5 has different feel and look. More square looking. Nice dashboard and the console-less centre area is nice. Was very close to EV6. Again, we monitored ex-demo. Slightly cheaper than the Kia but same timeline for new and similar costs for AWD and long range. Was number 2.
Took a look at the Toyota BZ4X as soon as it came out. Our dealings with our local dealership in Basingstoke have not always been good. We now go to Camberley for servicing the Yaris. Another long story. It looks bigger than the RAV 4 SUV, but cockpit nowhere near as nice as Kia. Didn’t test drive.
Kia Sportage PHEV
Changing our minds again, I went to see the Kia Sportage PHEV. There was an ex-demo at our local dealership. It was nice, but my eye kept going back to the EV6. I knew I would always regret not getting it. More affordable than the EV6 but did not turn my head.
Volvo XC40 Recharge
My wife found the XC40 Recharge. We have had a Volvo estate, a big V70 diesel, years ago. She books a test drive for before the Nissan. Despite web-site accepting booking we get a call saying we can’t test drive. We say we will look in anyway. One is supposed to be in the showroom. When we get to the showroom there is no Recharge on display. No help and standard petrol XC40 feels cramped. It’s suffering in comparison.
The day before we had stopped in, in Basingstoke, to see the Nissan Ariya. Liked it. No time for test drive but was up there with EV6 on first impressions. Arranged for a test drive for the model we wanted in Reading the following day. (It was not available in Basingstoke). They had AWD and long range version as demo for sale or new in stock. Good news. Test drove it. Demo- not prepared and accompanied by sales on test drive unlike Tesla and EV6. Drove nice but felt claustrophobic despite size. Everything in comparison to Tesla and EV6. Heads-up display was annoyingly flashing speed limits. Probably a setting but spoilt view.
EV Experience – Car Decision – Tesla Model Y
Saturday morning pouring with rain before Volvo and Nissan. Check web site in passing for Tesla cars. We can have a test drive that morning before Nissan. Booked on web site and confirmed with email. It’s a Model Y Long-Range. We check and see they are in stock depending on which colour we want and which model. Rush to get out of the house. Drive to Reading. Brilliant service from Reading and excellent test drive despite the rain. Thought I wouldn’t like the lack of dashboard and the big centre screen but got used to it really quickly. Reactive breaking, allowing single pedal driving was also odd. New Number One. It has an 87kw/h battery and an alleged max range of over 320 miles.
Back home after two test drives and a failed viewing. Already know prices and what is available or in stock. Tesla have blue Y Long-Range AWD with black interior available in Brent Cross. Nothing closer immediately available. Already had discussion about white interior. Wife thinks it’s too white. It is, and there is no cream version just black. Tesla is what we want. We press the on-line button paying £200 reservation by credit card. Another odd experience compared to all other car purchases in showroom arguing with sales… Cost – was on-line so not hiding it £54,300 for new. Minus £200 reservation. £54,100 to finance.
Yes this is a lot of money. We know.
Get email confirmations. Download and use Tesla App – car is logged. Finance showing as pending.
Fiasco of an EV Experience
Up to now everything about the Tesla experience has been brilliant. Now it all changes…
First off, I we wanted to purchase on PCP leaving savings in place apart from deposit. We weren’t trading in, we might sell Yaris later. Fill in forms, submit with calculations on £10k deposit 8,000 miles per year. >£700 per month. Wait. Interest >7.4% but if I keep savings net interest is <2%.
Monday morning (order pressed Saturday Afternoon) get email from Black Horse Finance (on behalf of Tesla) turning me down. No explanation, they state not down to Credit Score (it isn’t according to Equifax). Now what? Can only think it’s my retirement employment status.
Decide to look at loans – no go, due to amount. First quotes have interest rates of >10% but only for £10k. It will have to be savings. Car process won’t continue until payment agreed.
Pull out savings cash. Wait. Finally comes through on the Wednesday. 2 days, not bad but electronically it’s been keeping bankers in bonuses whilst the transaction is in the ether.
Next issue payments from banks. One to watch out for. Tesla do not accept credit cards for payment so bank wire transfer or on-line. Problem, most accounts limit payment per day and total payments per day. Talk to bank via app secure message chat. Have to do it in 3 lots. First test of further £100. Goes through and shows in Tesla account on app and web site. Send £27k (there is a £30k limit per transaction) using bank app. Won’t let me send second. Have to go on web site log-in and then send from there. More security questions but finally goes. Shows as fully paid £200, £100, £27k and £27k listed. Breathe sigh of relief.
EV Experience Delivery and App
App and web sites show I will be contacted with delivery slot in Brent Cross. Actual word delivery means not to me but to centre. Perhaps a complaint to ASA is in order. Wait all following w/e nothing shown. I’d hoped to have the car that w/e, no such luck. The car was advertised as ready for delivery and Tesla had the money. Monday, morning getting annoyed now. I call Brent Cross as no other method of contact.
Helpful lady, says I can have it Wednesday 16th but I can’t due to own appointments. So, I book 12:30 in Brent Cross for following day – will need to travel up by train (Not on strike for once) and want to avoid rush hour (1hr to Waterloo then 30 minutes on Northern Line – walk to Brent Cross Shopping Centre 20 mins)
Web site, Tesla app and message show pick up location in Brent Cross Shopping Centre. I get a registration (yippee can order insurance) I fail to note incorrect year. App shows appointment and nothing else.
Quick aside. It’s an expensive car. Quotes when I state retired as occupation are £200 more expensive than self-employed author. So, I’m no longer retired. I do earn money from book sales, therefore its true, I am a self-employed author. Tesla Insurance is £500 more expensive than other quotes… Insure car elsewhere, from pick up day 17th August 2023.
Get text on 16th telling me registration is wrong. Have to redo insurance on 16th. Nothing in app. Extra £28 for car value not changing the policy. I should have noticed 72 plate not 23. So should Tesla.
Pick-Up i.e. Not Delivery
I head off to Tesla Brent Cross. Journey is fine even tube. Walk to Brent Cross Shopping, go in centre. Centre Map directs me to middle of centre. As has Apple Maps on address and Tesla web site. Find Volvo there. Re-check map – am I on wrong floor? No, centre map shows Tesla but I’m looking at XC40 Recharge and staff in t-shirts and badges. Ask them where is Tesla? It’s moved. Polite directions with smile. Thank you Volvo please have a word with Reading on Customer or potential customer service.
I walk further few minutes past John Lewis car park and spy Tesla sign. Approach barred gate. Ask workers through gate how to get in. Gate is open duh… go to showroom which is decorated port-a-cabin surrounded by hundreds of new Tesla cars, mostly Model 3s. Several people waiting or asking.
EV Experience Check-in.
Told to go and check-car (no assistance, whist they process) Car is open and shiny in sunshine. Do checks I’d downloaded from another web site. There’s nothing in app. Start setting personal profiles. Adjust mirrors etc. Go back to sales, he says he’ll bring RFID cards (there is no key) over. I’ve paired phone to car. Nothing in app. Car is at 40% charge. No chargers on site, I can use. Nearest superchargers are back in Brent Cross car park. I can get home easily on 40%. I will do that and charge up there. (See chargers). Ask about mud flaps and getting my pre-purchased from Tesla locking wheel nuts fixed. They can’t do that. Need to book a service at service centre. Annoyed as I’ve carried wheel nuts to London.
Send picture of new car to family. Get happy response.
Go back to car, fiddle around and wait. Nothing, go back to check-in – salesman has disappeared. Ask another sales person – there is a problem with my car or the system or the weather. Who knows and they are not telling just looking at screens and not telling me. It needs to go back to servicing which is not in Brent Cross. Now what? They are trying to find another same specification car. Otherwise, its wait for this one to be fixed (Several days or weeks) or it will be September. No manager, no apology, they are trying to find a car. I’m planning return rail, fuming and thinking of how I will get money back. Point out to sales I was cash buyer and how would I get home? Ask me to wait. I quietly fume.
Lots of messages to family. Trying not to lose temper…
They have another car. They are preparing it.
Ask about insurance, VIN etc. They will sort it. They will transfer registration to replacement vehicle.
Car appears. It has additional feature of removable tail hook which they will let me have for free. App bursts into life with notification. Do I want to pick up? Have I arrived? Have I checked car? None of this happened with original car but how was I supposed to know? I go and do the check again with Sales. He’s doing his best. Car has only 20% charge, and when I enter home address it won’t get there or might. I express annoyance. Shrugs shoulders and says about shopping centre two chargers, or Park Royal – several miles away but has 16 Superchargers.
I accept car. App adds more info. Connected to car. Reprogram mirrors. Have RFID cards which I check. Registration plate is correct for insurance. Emails and messages from Tesla showing new VIN and replacement status. Manage to thank salesperson and leave at 16:15.
The EV Experience First Impression and First Chargers/Charging
Drive car out of centre with navigation set for nearest chargers. Round back of Brent Cross Shopping into multi-storey find chargers. In use, both of them. Lots of other non-Tesla ones but I don’t have app for them or know how to use them. All tether free and my cables are in bags in Frunk or Trunk. Decide to drive to Park Royal.
Traffic, wait. Traffic wait.
Get to Park Royal Tesla. Hot bothered and fed up. They have 16 chargers with only six in use. Okay, so how do I do this? The plug in Supercharger nozzle has two plug points and goes into both car plug points. Wondering how to start and pay when light by filler goes green and app tells me I am charging. Wonderful.
Go and sit in show room whilst catching up on messages. Get to see a Model X with the gull wings as well as several others. There’s a Powerwall on their wall.
Just over fifteen minutes later, I have gone from <20% to >65% and range is above 200 miles. I head home through more traffic. Finally arrive after 18:00 and manage to smile at waiting wife. Find out the supercharge cost me £4 and is linked in app to credit card, I registered for first payment.
More emails await. No survey on service though…
EV Experience Service
Tesla and Tesla Brent Cross in particular must do better. Compared to other car pick ups (Volvo, Jaguar, Audi, even Toyota and Vauxhall) the customer service is rubbish. For a car this price I would expect much, much, better. It’s not about keeping costs down its about people doing the job they are paid to do and the systems working. Just a little bit of communication would help
Car 9/10 so far
Service not even a one. You are doing a disservice to your brand and I’m not the only one dissatisfied.
One thing to watch out for – House Keys! You have no car key unless you but a fob as an extra. Not cheap. You get 2x RFID cards as keys but mostly it’s your phone. So, if like me, you are used to grabbing keys including house and car keys on way out, there is no key to grab for the Tesla. The chance of leaving with no house key is higher. I came home from pick up with no keys as I forgot to take one with me. Luckily Mrs H. was home waiting otherwise I would have been!
EV Experience and Home Chargers
Think we have looked at web sites and reviews for every home charger on the market and had quotes for installation for a dozen, including, multiple quotes for our choice. Watch out for variations on with and without tethered nozzle or coupler. You’ll need your own or a connector if its not compatible. Type 2 in our case and most new EVs. See What Car or Solar sites for reviews also We Buy Any Car for simple list. But check out EV car owners groups or solar panel owners groups for other reviews. Don’t necessarily trust others to much advertising revenue in some reviews. Also don’t forget wiring distance, spare ports on fuse boxes and you need a 100 Amp supply to get 30 Amp charging i.e., 7.62kw/h without going to 3 -phase.
- Pod Point
The Tesla wall charger would seem a logical choice for a Tesla car. It’s priced similar to others from approx. £1100. It’s neat, obviously compatible with the car, and solar but lacks some of the smarts of others. It seems to need the Powerwall to be fully effective. It supplies 7.2kw/h. The Supercharger i used cad do 120kw/h as a comparison with even faster planned to 220kw/h
The Pod Point charger is fairly common as they seem to come with many company cars. Okay but not as clever as others. It won What Car Best in 2023 and comes in 3.6, 7.2 and 22 kw/h versions. The 22kw.h as with others only with 3 phase mains. Solar compatibility is not high on feature list although the app can handle different rates.
Zappi PV2 seems to have the best reviews and is compatible with multiple tariffs and solar generation as well as future batteries. So, we ordered a black one via Octopus. We are not with Octopus yet. We may switch but need to assess moving to variable rates. Octopus Flux might work. Anyway, Zappi has lots of charging features to use with or without solar and can deliver 7.2kw/h on single phase. It also handles solar including immersion heating in settings.
Like the home charges we have looked at lots and had quotes for many. Costs vary but so do capacities and capabilities. Despite costs, we favour the Tesla because of capacity 13.2kw/h per unit and its whole house back up capability. It’s compatible with the Zapi too. We wanted house back up as well as use for car. This limits choice with some only offering a standalone plug. Not much use when the house is dark.
I could list them all like the chargers but we haven’t decided yet although Tesla are in number one at the moment. Costs approx. £11000 so ROI will be while. To get equivalent modular up to same capacity is roughly same amount especially if you want back up to. Not as neat solutions although there is a relatively new one that looks very similar to Powerwall from GivEnergy All-In-One. It advertise 13.6kw/h.
On checking our average (across a year) daily consumption would be around 15 kw/h
EV Experience and Solar
As for the EV Experience, its only just starting. I’ll post updates as and when. We also have a long distance journey planned, so that will be interesting. Our solar experience has been very positive, so hopes are high for the EV too and batteries.