Together in Electric Dreams…
It seems like nowadays the media & the public are slowly waking up to the fact that We desperately need to embrace electric vehicles to compensate for the huge energy dificentcy that faces our planet within the next 50 years as well as clean up the air pollution created in our cities through the use of fossil fuels and the combustion engine. I remember how we collectively used to scoff at the very first versions of electric cars that began scurrying around central London. Now electric vehicles are mainstream news and gaining traction amongst commercial as well as daily commuters.
However, a few years back I remember having a over a drink and a chat in the basement of Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes with my good friend Chloe. At one point I was bitching about my delivery costs through various methods (Van/car rentals, Pay-as-you-go,etc)..We had a hearty laugh over a mad idea I had at the time to buy and convert one of those old electric milk floats into a delivery vehicle for my upholstered furniture ( I’d call it the “dairyaire”, (get it?).
Many a true word can be hidden in jest. I’ve always thought that London and probably all the major cities of this world need to have Electric vans and the appropriate infrastructure supporting them if mankind was to make any true meaningful, lasting and here comes that phrase, sustainable, switches to “greener” energy sources or at the very least, slow down on the use of fossil fuels,
which are the foundation of our so-called civilisation.
I say “so-called ” because I believe as long as we need police and armies, calling ourselves “civilised ” is a stretch, and yes I can dream of a future where these things ,as well as other unquestioned aspects of our society are no longer needed, how ever we are a fair long way from that reality so I won’t go into all that here.
I was lucky enough in April this year to be given the chance to test drive the new all-electric Nissan e-NV200.
The model I got to drive was the most basic of the 5 grades in the range : The Acenta. It had 2 sliding doors , 60:40 split french-styled back doors
and an 80KW AC electric single gear automatic motor.
This model came with central locking, immobiliser, ABS/VDC , a drivers airbag and traction control.
Arriving at the Nissan Showroom feeling all excited like a Captain Kirk trying out his latest Starship, I was shown around the vehicle by Nissan Showroom rep James White.
(I wanted to absorb as much info as I could about this machine)
First, James showed me the charging points on the vehicle and how to use the charging stations..
At first glance my thoughts were, now there’s your infrastructure!. I don’t know how many lampposts there are in central london but all it would take is an organisation with the resources and the will, to “retrofit” London’s current system of streetlights and signage (incorporating some solar panels into the re-engineered lamp housing shrouds,as well as suitable roadsigns) and voila! A large part of infrastructure built straight into London’s network of street lights!
I used to argue that you needed the infrastructure first then the electric vehicle. Now I think, when the car was first developed, how many petrol stations were around?
Naturally, being an upholsterer who likes to look under the covers of things I wanted to see what was going on underneath the bonnet…
“Blimey!….Where’s the engine??” I said disingenuously … (of course, there isn’t one, its an electric motor, duh!) without all the additional parts that a traditional diesel or petrol engine needs to run I was taken a back by all the space left over . It was clear to me standing there that maybe it was easier and cheaper to fit the electric motor into Nissans existing NV200 chassis and bodywork then retooling their factory to create a power unit that could occupy smaller space (and maybe provide extra space that could have been used to store more battery power perhaps, or more cabin or cargo capacity).
Looking around the vehicle I noticed the diesel flap/filler cap position was redundant. If I had designed the van I would have maybe fitted an additional charging point there which could possibly make the van more versatile in its charging position ( access to charging the van comes through a flap at the nose of the vehicle.)
Even though this was the basic model the 2-speaker CD/FM audio system with MP3/iPod compatibility , electric windows, full steel partition with window) felt lightyears ahead of my trusty CombiVan.
The build quality felt fine and the sound quality of the speakers was great. Good crisp and Clear with “adequate” Bass (I love my Bass-heavy tunes!) though it took a little while for me to get used to the telephone bluetooth integration into the steering wheel as I had never really used one before. Once I did It felt great!
Starting it up felt strange (Push button/ brake pedal ignition) but that wasn’t nearly as strange as moving off!
One of the first things you notice is how quiet the vehicle is in motion. You do hear a (sort of futuristic)”whine” as the motor revs up. If I was ready at that moment to embrace a new era of Electric mobility, the same cannot be said for the few pedestrians who obviously couldn’t hear me (but at least could see me) approaching when they crossed the road outside of pedestrian crossings. I don’t know how Electric vehicle manufacturers can tackle this; perhaps by introducing some sort of artificial ” engine noise”? (I’ve seen some Hi-performance sports cars have their engine noise “altered” on Top Gear). Or maybe I should simply use the horn more.
I can see how no engine noise can be a bonus for deliveries: Sometimes customers like to have their furniture delivered to them early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes the delivery location (Ie: a Large Stadium or You do hear the sound of the tyres rolling on the various road surfaces. After an hour or so of driving your mind becomes accustomed to these subtle differences and I noticed my driving style adjust ever so slightly.
Arriving at my studio I felt I had at least ticked off one great experience off my own life’s bucket list. And I felt a great sense of pride (if only for a fleeting moment) of having to charge the electric vehicle Van while finishing an overdue Chesterfield and a long bench, which I would use the van to deliver to a wonderful customer later that day in West London.
The electric van, picking up my finished upholstery , comfortably fitting a 2-seater Chesterfield sofa with a little room to spare (for smaller items )from a recycled and repurposed shipping container studio.
For 2 Days I felt Like I was living the (electric) dream!
The biggest issue I wanted to test out was of course the charging system.
Now unfortunately for the test drive Nissan couldn’t provide me with the special card needed to use the 4 charging stations I found in my immediate local area ( 3 on Chrisp Street, only 1 at the large Tesco in Bromley-By-Bow) So I couldn’t tell you what It was like to use them , However I was given by James an armour-plated cable (which makes sense after all you wouldn’t want your dog or cat to chew through that)which plugged directly into a standard wall socket from a socket under a bonnet flap behind the front Nissan logo.
There are 3 Lights on the top of the dash board viewable from inside & outside of the vehicle which indicate the charging levels. I could be 100% fully charged from 0% in around 8-10 hours. I could also be 80% charged within 3-4 hours
I couldn’t charge it from my flat, as it’s on a second floor, though facing the street, spaces outside my flat were filled. So my only option was to charge it overnight at my studio. Which I was lucky enough to do Securely through leaving ajar the custom made patio-style sliding door while padlocking the metal doors without affecting the cable.
Nissan claims the vehicle can go over 100 miles on a single charge. When I added up all the mileage I had done over the 2 days driving in “ECO-MODE” alone it came to around 96.
Driving in Eco Mode adjusts acceleration response and the air conditioning to reduce energy consumption. Along with factors like regenerative braking , When I added up all the mileage I had done over the 2 Days driving in “ECO-MODE” it came to around 96.. not bad at all , considering I entered the congestion charging zone twice (no charge) and my own driving style. With the right charging infrastructure and availablity
and minimal servicing costs (a standard service interval on the e-NV200 is 18,000 miles a year). I can see that over time the money could save is a no brainer.
All I would need is the deposit. I’m working things out with Nissan to look at financing options with my hope to deliver all my customers pieces this way.