Meetup Chapter 4 – The Ampere Strikes Back

On the 20th January 2019 we met up for the 4th time. This event was held at the Withdean Sports Complex in Brighton. It is a large car park with an onsite CYC rapid charger and a pair of 7kW posts on the road outside. There is also a pub which sells coffee and food.

The weather held up pretty well and stayed dry for the duration of the event. The sun was out but it was a little on the chilly side. In spite of the cold, we had a record attendance of 50 cars plus a scooter, hover board and a tiny Tesla.

There were some great conversations with great people. I personally met many characters for the first time. Shout out to the very “vibrant” Betty Swollocks for letting me ride your scooter and hover board.

We had some special guests in attendance for this event. Craig Tonge (@RenaultZoeClub) and James Coates (@KateFantom) both came down from Coventry/Leicester. David Dewson (@EVSmiles) came from Worcester, Colin (@The_Plugseeker) from Surrey and Charlotte (@EV_TQs) came all the way from Solihull. Massive thanks for supporting the group. Also a big thank you to Oli from Brighton Jaguar Landrover for bringing along the i-Pace.

A massive thank you to everyone who attended. The group is the people that make it. This group is a pleasure to run because of you all.

Details for the next meetup will be posted in due course.

 

Meetup #3 Report

On Sunday 25th November we held the third Sussex EVs meetup. It was held at the Billingshurst Library car park again. the second time we had used this car park as a venue. Initially I was expecting around fifteen cars to turn up which would have been around double the last time. I was absolutely blown away when around thirty two EVs descended on the car park. It was completely full, we couldn’t have fitted another car on site at one point.  

The selection of cars was quite incredible. We had Multiple gen 1 Leafs, BMW i3’s, Hyundai Kona’s, Hyundai Ioniq’s, Smart EQ, Renault Zoe’s, Tesla Model S, X and even a gen 1 Roadster. One type of car notable by it’s absence was the 2018  Leaf. We even had an electric scooter and a drone joining us. 

At one point we all descended on the local cafe for some great coffee, cake and conversation. After that we headed back out, where Wayne performed the Model X dance routine which even caught the attention of some bemused locals.  

Special thanks should be given to a bunch of people who came from out of county to join us. Specifically @TheEVSide, @The_Plugseeker, @EVSmiles and @stovold404040 from Twitter and YouTube. @EVSmiles wins the award for longest journey at a staggering 289 miles return. @TheEVSide made the following video of his trip. Lot’s of thanks Simon. 

I am always overwhelmed by the sheer enthusiasm of the electric car community. It brings together such a disparate selection of people of all ages. All of which talk together with excitement about their shared interest. 

To hear all the latest news and get involved in the conversation, please join us in the Facebook group or Twitter. Future events will be posted on this website, Facebook and on Twitter. I, for one, am really excited about where this journey into electric transport takes us. I hope you will all join me in the journey. 

Creating an Eco house

One of our members, Warren has gone all out in creating an eco house. This is a video which shows how he has upgraded his house to make it almost entirely self sustainable. 

One family’s story on how they live clean and green for their daughters future.They tell how they chose their property, covered it in solar panels and then stored all their self-generated renewable energy using their Tesla Powerwall. One of the first domestic-installed Powerwalls, the battery charges their electric car whilst their smart energy system helps them manage their home energy needs. This inspiring family shows how simple and efficient it is to live clean and green, not only saving on carbon emissions but slashing their home energy bills at the same time.This property featured as one of the homes open on the Worthing Eco Open Houses trail in 2018, organised by Transition Town Worthing.

Sussex EVs second meet-up

On Sunday 14th October 2018, we held our second meet-up in the Billingshurst Library Car Park. Given it was only the second gathering for the group, it was a great turnout.

In attendance were two Tesla Model S’, two gen 1 Leafs, a BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq and a Renault Zoe with a rather amusing sounding pedestrian warning mode. The weather was a bit drizzly but that didn’t dampen enthusiasm. 

The i3 driver was our special guest all the way from Hitchin, v-logger TheEVSide. Thanks very much for coming along. It was great to chat to you. You can follow TheEVSide YouTube channel here

dav

During the worst of the rain, we all congregated in the local cafe for coffee and cake. A few different methods of calculating road fund licence in the new EV world were discussed. Such as enabling charger to send information back to the DVLA, a tax on distance travelled through odometer readings at MOTs. One of the other topics discussed was home battery storage and the possible emergence of vehicle to grid. Today’s home battery storage options are very expensive per KWh compared even to brand new replacement car batteries and if we could make use of VTG technologies within the next few years, it could be a much more cost effective way of powering your home too. 

sdr

I intend to run one more meet-up before Christmas. This will probably be at the end of November or beginning of December. Then there will be another at the end of January. 

Billingshurst Library car park was a good location with plenty of facilities. It was well received by the attendees. I may just use this location again or am open to ideas so if you would like to attend, please feel free to share any ideas for a meet-up location.

sdr

Please keep an eye out for information about future events. These will be posted on this website, in the Events page, on Twitter at @EvSussex and on the Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/211615729644631/

The problem of iceing

When doing a journey of any reasonable distance in an EV, the biggest stress vector is worrying about whether you will be able to recharge. On the whole, driving an electric car is a much more relaxing experience than driving a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle. I am unsure if this is down to the sound, the smoothness or that when doing long distances, the tendency is to drive a bit more serenely and carefully. Whatever it is, it can sometimes be offset by the general worry, that you will get to a charge point only to find it unavailable for a number of reasons.

Reason 1, Another electric car is plugged in. This is the least stressful of the various options and can often lead to some great conversations about electric transport. Normally you find that you only need to wait fifteen to twenty minutes and it really isn’t a problem for most people. Adding more motorway charging points would of course solve this. I am looking at you Ecotricity.

Reason 2, The charger is broken. If you check services like Plugshare or ZapMap before you leave you can normally anticipate this one and make allowances for it. It is also somewhat sensible to give yourself a fifteen to twenty mile buffer to go somewhere else.  If you however get a location with very little charge remaining, you might be out of luck. Flatbed of shame for you. Charging companies seriously need to get their charger maintenance sorted as a priority. Polar tends to have very good reliability ratings, often around 98% country wide. Ecotricity tends to be around the 90% mark which is not really good enough to be fair.

Reason 3, A non-electric car is parked in the charging bay. This one gets a lot of press in the electric car community and it is egregious. What can you do, honestly, if you get to a charger and there is no way you can reach it because someone has been an inconsiderate a-hole and parked a petrol or diesel car in the bay? Imagine the flip side and if an electric car driver parked up at the petrol pump at Tesco and then went shopping. I suspect the car would be towed away fairly promptly. The same does not happen with iceing (iceing is where an Internal Combustion Engine car is parked in a charging bay). There are sometimes car parks that will ticket a car that is parked at a charger inappropriately but these seem rare.  It seems to help if the bays are properly marked and painted an obviously different colour. It can help if traffic cones are put in the bays. Most EV drivers will be quite happy to move a cone to get to a charger. In some cases, I suspect that even these methods will fail to deter the icer….. Why is this? Possibly they are just being a bit obnoxious and think it’s funny. Perhaps they feel they have a genuine grievance against the rise of electric cars. I think in some cases they just feel entitled because the bay happens to be nearer the front of the car park. I am honestly not sure and would need to have a chat with someone who regularly does this to find out. Please leave a comment if you have any other ideas.

Then we have the worst possible situation, an electric car that is parked in a bay and not plugged in. This is truly bad, rude behaviour and as a community we should try to educate others about not doing this. DON’T BE THIS PERSON…

What are the solutions?

Having dedicated forecourts for charging would go a long way to mitigate this. No one thinks that the petrol station is a car park, so making charging bays look like them could certainly help. The new charging hubs in Dundee are a great example of a multi-rapid charging area that looks rather a lot like a petrol station but makes use of previously derelict land. You are unlikely to get people iceing these chargers because it probably just isn’t a particularly convenient place to park.

You could ensure that there are more than one charger in a location. I like the Polar rapids rather a lot but they do tend to be single units which sometimes require informing a hotel reception or you get a fine. This puts me off because I am worried I will get there and not be able to plug in. Some Ecotricity sites also only have a single rapid, such as Rownham services West. Have a set of 7KW fast chargers in the same location as the rapid. That way, if there is a queue you can at least put a bit in while you are waiting.

Another thing that we can do as drivers, is use something like the Spark+Volt window cards which give your number in case someone else needs the charger. Or the timer discs that are used in Scotland. Also checking into a service like Plugshare, through which other drivers can contact you without giving away any of your personal details. Of course these would need to be used by most drivers before it would ever become useful, most drivers probably wouldn’t.

I am really interested to hear any other ideas about how to improve this for the whole EV community. What are good ways to make this better?

Is the public perception of insufficient EV chargers correct?

The number of chargers in the country is rapidly approaching the number of petrol stations, so you could be forgiven for thinking that the problem of long distance travel in an ev have been solved.


for a lot of motorway journeys, you are well covered with the sometimes-reliable Ecotricity or the Polar Network rapids. In some parts of the country such as Milton Keynes and Dundee, you are awash with charging options. Other places however like Yorkshire, Sussex and Norfolk, you are in for a bit more pain.


Driving a 24KWh Nissan Leaf like I do, you are acutely aware that your return journey range of roughly 80 miles in summer or 70 in Winter, is the realistic maximum you can achieve. You may be lucky and be going somewhere which has a 7KW post or if you’re really lucky, a rapid. Certainly around Sussex, those locations are very limited.


From Billingshurst, I occasionally travel to Uckfield. The only charger which is even close to useable on that route is the Pease Pottage rapid. That requires a not insignificant diversion. Let’s just say that there were a dozen or so 7KW post’s in Uckfield. That would help to a point, but I may still be left with a long walk from there to my destination.


Could lamp post charging be a solution? Perhaps, Companies like Ubitricity have made great progress with developing the technology. At the moment however you still need a dedicated cable to use them. Those can be expensive. These would be ideal if they could just use a standard cable. But then who pays?


With BP and Shell getting involved in the charging market, we can hopefully expect to see forecourt charging options improve. Potentially they will be more expensive than others but at least it gives us more options.


Is this even needed?


For an 80 mile range Nissan leaf, the usable distance around Sussex you could travel is around 35 – 40 miles. With the current crop of cars hitting the market, a minimum range of around 140 miles is common. So is 70 miles each way, reasonable? Probably. That is the distance from Billingshurst to Rye. How about when we start seeing more 300 mile range cars such as the Kona 64KWh or Niro? A 150 mile each way range would get you to Leicester. How important at that point are chargers on every street?
For people without home charging, it is a problem. However, assuming that the average commute is less than 30 miles in the UK, a 300 mile range car would only need to be charged once every ten days theoretically. Public charging at forecourts becomes practical.


So is there an actual lack of chargers? Yes and no. For todays and yesterdays cars, travelling any serious distance can become a bit of a mission depending on where you live. That isn’t to say it is impossible, just harder than it aught to be. With the new generations of cars however, most of these problems disapear. We are all used to travelling somewhere other than our homes to put fuel in cars. That won’t change for a good proportion of drivers. For the ones lucky enough to have home charging, they will very rarely even need to visit a forecourt. That means in a practical sense, the forecourts will be at least 50% less busy than today. If charging up to 80% can happen in less than 15 minutes with a 200KW – 350KW charger, the time spent at the station is not dissimilar to today either.


The naysayers will probably be disappointed.

Our first meetup

We had our first meetup on the evening of Saturday 4th August at the Hazelgrove carpark in Haywards Heath. 

For an initial event, it went well. Six people attended and brought a Hyundai Ioniq, Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf. We chatted a lot about how we are finding our cars and how we are getting on with the charging infrastructure around Sussex. The reason I picked the Hazelgrove Carpark was the presence of a Polar Network charging post. The post itself was only 3KW but beggars can’t be choosers. Haywards Heath is also central in the County. 

We discussed all the different technologies vying for a place in the future of this country’s transport infrastructure. Questions like, can lamp posts really supply enough current to charge a car? Companies are doing it now but will future lamp posts be less powerful because they will no longer need to power an incandescent bulb? 

How about councils installing solar panels as canopies over existing car parks? Then provide chargers for cars, making use of all the generated energy. Any excess can just be exported to the grid. 

Sussex is sadly rather woeful for chargers at the moment but I definitely expect that to improve over the next couple of years. Horsham District Council have said that they are intending to install more rapid and destination chargers at various places around the district. West Sussex County Council have recently rolled out Renault Zoe pool cars. Outside of the various councils, we also have BP and Shell in a bit of a charger war at the moment which hopefully will play out with good value super fast rapids in most petrol station forecourts in the next couple of years. We can always hope.

With the two main concerns that people have about moving to electric cars being “lack of chargers” and “range” the next two to three years could easily be the start of the cascade. That is the tipping point where we start seeing rapid growth in low carbon transport. The end of noisy smelly town centres and a massive reduction in the pollution we are putting into the atmosphere. 

We can all hope.