Fitting Image AV Sales Ltd. wants to go carbon-free, and our MD, Liam, is quite literally leading the charge. Here’s a bit of his experience living the “electric driving dream”, driving an electric car.
I was driving really well and had finally made to the front of this newly reformulated Formula E GP (Hamilton was a bitch to pass). There I was, monitoring all of the gauges on my shiny new car, amazed at the high-tech sponsorship logos powered by bright LED on the side of the car: ESB, Peugeot and Bank of Ireland all proudly displayed on this battery-powered machine.
Then it happened: the gauges started to decrease, the LED advertising faded to black, and I was passed by Hamilton, Le Clerc, Peter Petrolhead, and Deirdre Diesel. I was left rolling towards the pits. The Pits—where are they on this never-ending track?
Well, okay, maybe it did not happen quite like that, but I had thought I was living the ‘Electric Driving Dream’. Having committed to buying my Peugeot e2008 electric car last January, I joined the waiting game, and it finally arrived in October. As I had decided to do my bit to help the planet, we also installed EV panels and a battery system at home. As we now live 50 km from the Fitting Image Dublin office, I have a charger both at home and at the office.
All good so far, I just marvelled at the remaining range indicator, which clearly tries too hard to imagine how you are driving and when you might get to the destination. On a full charge at home, I get about 320 km if you set the driving style to ECO and B for added regenerative breaking. Not that you will have learned anything of this from the online manual, which is worse than useless. I imagine it has all of the information you would want, if only you knew how to ask for it. Flicking through the manual is not one of the options, and asking the Peugeot garage where you bought the vehicle is similarly unrewarding.
Being a responsible electric car owner, I had done a little research and invested in an ESB Charge Point card but had yet to use it. So, there I was happily pottering to and from the office and other occasional trips, all the time monitoring the Range ‘Guessometer’. I managed to get it down to around 50 km a few times. I asked the garage what happens if I run out of battery, and, strangely, they could not answer. It seems that this is my problem, as I had bought the car.
In an effort to make sure I knew how the ESB Charge Point system worked, I decided to try a charge on the Public Charging Network (let’s call it the PCN). On the way home with Linda, I said we would stop in Naas, where I had spotted an ESB charging point beside Swans. There, we could plug the car in and go to lunch.
We arrived at the car park and there was the ESB charge point and one free space. I manoeuvred expertly into the space and produced my ESB card. Everything looked good until I tried to connect the car. At these AC-only charge points, you need to provide a cable to connect your car. However, my Peugeot dealer had forgotten to supply the cable, so, unfortunately, that little experiment failed dismally. Luckily, we had enough spare amps to get home, and a visit to the Peugeot dealer resolved the cable issue.
Following all of this, Sean got in touch. Sean, from Galway, is an avid Connacht Rugby fan, and a season ticket holder at the Sportsground. ‘Hardy man’, I hear you say. Sean would not be able to attend the upcoming Heineken Cup clash between Connacht and Leinster and so was kindly donating his tickets to me. I believe he hoped Connacht would win and heap further ignominy on this poor Leinster fan.
To make the trip to the West more interesting, I said to Linda that we would also visit my son Daniel in Sligo on the Saturday. The only issue was the question of whether we would we take the Peugeot electric car, or her petrol car. Having embraced Electric driving for around six months, I decided I should go the whole hog, and use the Public Charging Network (PCN). Not wanting to be too frivolous, I decided to do a test in Naas. So, armed with my ESB card and Peugeot cable, we headed off. The ESB app informs you if the charge point is available or in use.
Again, the charge point was available and this time I connected, and we took Sammy (our Labrador) for a walk. Some 23 minutes later, we had charged up another 2.64 Kwh at a cost of €0.71. Now that I was a seasoned user of the PCN, I could contemplate a trip beyond the range of our battery car
We planned to stay in Oranmore, visit an old friend there, and have lunch. Oranmore is 219 km from our house, and a full charge on the Peugeot ‘Guessometer’ is 320 km. What could go wrong? This all seemed doable. We had also noted that there is an ESB charging point at the train station in Oranmore, so that would be brought into the mix for the onward journey.
On the road, we started to experience what I like to call “Range Roulette”. This is where you watch the range figure decline faster than the distance to destination on Google Maps. Although this is good for your brain activity, doing the mental arithmetic, it was starting to become a concern. Would we make it there without an interim charge? If we needed a charge, how long would it take? Linda also kindly added that we should have taken her car instead.
Close to Athlone, we made a decision to do a quick charge. We stopped at a Circle K station, and discovered that they had two brands of chargers. The first was called ChargePoint, and the second was called Ionity. Would the ESB card work with these? No, not a chance. “Ah, sure we can download the app and use one of them”. No, that does not work either. It seems that you need the card to go with the app, similar to the ESB system. So, after about half an hour of trying, we looked up the closest ESB charging point which was just outside Athlone.
It was Kilmartin’s Service Station, to be precise. This one had a ‘Fast Charge Option’. “Oh yes, we will try some of that, thank you very much,” I thought. All connected, we headed for the nearby Woodies, where a pair of gardening boots for Linda were purchased, in an effort to appease the ‘Range Anxiety’. This time 21.72 Kwh was downloaded for €6.63, and this took 37 Mins. Yes, I am most definitely liking Fast Chargers.
Back on the road, we got to Oranmore and went to lunch in Morans, in Kilcolgan. Great seafood, by the way. Having sort of mastered the ESB app, we booked into our hotel in Oranmore. We booked a taxi to take us to the Sportsground, with a slight diversion to plug the car in at the train station. This time it was the slow charge, but that was not a problem as we were off to the match.
It was a lovely, crisp, sunny Friday evening, but the Sportsground does not do comfortable. There were no seats in the stands, and there was a cold, bitter wind. You know you are in the West when you arrive there. Connacht put up a very strong resistance, and could have scraped a win, but gladly Leinster did the business. We were all glad to be leaving that cold environment, but at least it did not rain.
A taxi back to Oranmore train station revealed a charge of 38.74 Kwh for €11.82, which had taken three hours and 38 minutes. We were now all set for the trip of 148 Km to Sligo in the morning. This time we were confident that we would make it without issue.
Now, a seasoned campaigner with the ESB app, we looked for charging points in Sligo. There were not many, and most were in use on Saturday afternoon. Finally, we found a Fast Charge one close to the Lidl. This time, a full charge of 38.74 Kwh took 1 hour and 22 minutes, for a cost of €11.82. Slightly worryingly, I noted that the charge on the ESB card was now €10.57 in the red. It was set to automatically top up from my debit card when it dropped below €5.00.
We now had a range of 327Km, and a distance of 225 Km on Google maps. By now, of course, we knew that Range Roulette would dictate that the range would chase down to meet the distance left, but a 100 Km gap seemed to be a good cushion. We knew we could always call into the fast charger in Athlone, if required.
I carefully set the cruise control to 100Km, in an effort to extend the range. At about half way, the gap between range and Km left was down to 30Km. By this time, we had passed Athlone, so we pressed on. It still looked like we would just make it home, but could we chance it?
We stopped at an Applegreen in Enfield, where there was an ESB Fast Charger. It is located in the far corner of the carpark. We parked up and connected to the Fast Charge point. On scanning the ESB card it came up with the worrying phrase, “Card not Authorised.”
It was now about 9PM. Google Maps read 61Km, and the Peugeot ‘Guessometer’ read 64Km. Thankfully, the ESB App has a 24/7 customer care number. You dial this and wait for the recorded message to slowly trudge through its blurb, twice, then the phone rings, and we got to speak to Becky.
She noted that the card was indeed in debit of €10.57, and was correctly set to automatically top up when it dropped to less than €5.00. It seems that Bank of Ireland has other ideas. So, we tried setting up an Avant Money Credit card, but as I do not currently have this set up on-line, that would not work. I tried again with a work Bank of Ireland (BoI) card, but still, no luck. Finally, we tried reverting to my original BoI debit card, and low and behold, it seemed to work and sent me an approval message on the BoI App. I approved the payment, and looked forward to a Fast Charge. However, once again, Bank of Ireland had other ideas. It sent ESB an annoying message, stating “insufficient funds.”
Not only were there plenty of funds in the account, there is also an overdraft facility on the account, which was not in use. After some discussion with Becky, she agreed to give us a charge which she could control from her end. So I re-connected the Fast Charge cable and then, suddenly, the call was dropped.
Once again, I dialled the ESB number, waited for two rounds of the repetitive messages, and then got through to Michael. I had to explain all of the above to him again, and he agreed to do the same as Becky. However, this was not working. It turns out that there was an issue with the Fast Charge part of that charging station, but he could give us the standard AC charge. We connected that and started to try to figure out how much we should charge. We settled on 90 km with 61 km on Google maps.
So, now we were in slow charge mode, and it was definitely dark. Would using the lights affect the distance covered? If so, by how much? Some discussion about making long journeys in the electric car ensued.
Just then, we noticed a car coming towards us in the far corner of the car park. Was it the Charge Police, or perhaps a romantic couple looking for a quiet spot? It turned out to be another electric car, shimmying into position for a charge.
Armed with local knowledge about this charge point, we were able to tell the driver that the Fast Charge was not operational, and that we were using the slow charge part. Their electric car was a BMW i3, I believe. It turns out that they were very experienced EV users. He was on his second BM i3, and she drives a Renault Zoe EV.
This brave couple had a young child and baby in the back of the car. They had a potent mix of “Range Roulette” and “Are we there yet.” They had come from Galway and were heading home to Howth. However, like us, they were unlikely to make it without a top up charge. They were remarkably sanguine about this and obviously used to this scenario. He also told us that when the temperature drops, so does the range indicator, by about 20%. A new worry for us, on this cooling evening.
As we chatted, the charge clicked on to 90Km, so we agreed to disconnect and move off. To disconnect, you usually use the ESB card, but mine was still reading “Card not Authorised”. Once again, back onto the customer services line, we waited for the double cycle of unhelpful messages, and finally got to speak to Becky, again. Becky was able to stop the charge, and we were released. We said goodbye to our new charge buddies, and headed for home. Another game of “Range Roulette”.
Somewhat annoyingly, we arrived home with 31Km reading on the range meter. This would suggest that we could have made it without the top up charge. Or would we? Who knows? Certainly not Peugeot, and definitely not Bank of Ireland.
In conclusion, we travelled 586 km at a cost of €25.25, although this does not include one charge at home. However, by any standards, this is cheap motoring. Sadly, the real-world range of the Peugeot e2008 is around 230 km, and that is in ECO B mode, and keeping the speed at around 100Km.