I drove an electric car for a week and almost ran out of battery on a motorway

THERE are only 15 miles left in the battery of this Tesla and the charging point I’ve come to is broken. 

It’s fair to say I’m panicking. I’m not sure what happens when the battery dies – does it damage the car?

It’s not like I can pick up a jerry can and walk to the nearest petrol station to fix the problem.

There’s a call incoming on my phone which is connected to the car, and I hurriedly hang up, fearful it will drain the battery further. 

Like around 8 million homeowners in the UK, my home does not have a driveway or off-street parking. 

The row of terraced houses that I live on is lined with parked cars.

Frequently there are no spaces and I’ll have to park in the next street. 

So where does that leave you if you want to buy an electric car? 

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The government is pushing us all towards EVs. 

By 2030, you'll no longer be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car.

But for this grand plan to work, UK motorists desperately need the infrastructure in place to make it viable.

If you have a driveway or dedicated parking space you can charge your car at home overnight – it’s simple and incredibly cheap too.

The RAC estimates it’ll cost you about a fiver to fully charge your vehicle at home, getting you up to 300 miles in the electric tank.

There are even grants available to get you money off of installing your own charging point.

But that doesn’t help me right now. I’m frantically clicking around on the Genie ChargePoint app to find out where the nearest working car charger is to me as all the ones at this station are broken. 

It’s five miles away in a Morrisons car park and if that one is bust I’m officially out of options. 

Knowing there was a charging point less than a mile from my house, I was blase as the battery edged into the red and the car started flashing up warnings. 

But all three at the station were broken, and the same happened at the next location I found. 

A recent Channel 4 Dispatches investigation found that around 1 in 20 charging points it sampled were not useable. 

Some 10% of the Rapid Chargers it sampled were out of service, and 3% of the new Ultra Rapid Chargers were faulty.

The Dispatches investigation even found one charging point that had been out of service for SIX years. 

In the Morrisons car park in Essex, I’m in luck – the charging point is working. 

But there’s something else I haven’t factored in. Standard charging stations are incredibly slow. 

As I plug-in, I’m informed it will take 6 hours 30 minutes to fully charge my vehicle.

There is also a sign up saying I’ll be fined if I stay longer than 90 minutes. 

Drivers aren't convinced on EVs

An Opinium survey recently found that cost was the biggest concern for drivers when it comes to EVs, with 56% are put off by prices.

But 54% of drivers surveyed are concerned that charging points are too scarce. 

Four in 10 drivers say they have no way of charging an electric car at home, and many are also worried about their safety while charging up in a public place. 

Sitting in the slowly-charging Tesla at the back corner of a supermarket car park, I can definitely relate to this last point. I feel like a sitting duck.

If someone were to approach me and I felt uncomfortable or threatened, I can’t just pull away as my car is attached to the charging point – not to mention the fact the battery is nearly flat. 

Brighter lighting, better positioning and speedier charging are clearly needed for drivers to feel safe.

Yet EVs are undoubtedly the future. 

Currently electric cars make up only around 7% of sales, but that’s on the increase – and this year’s fuel crisis only accelerated the trend. 

Online searches for EVs shot up by 1,600% in September as petrol pumps across the country ran dry, according to Google search data. 

I can see why – after a week with this car I'm very nearly sold on the idea myself.

It’s smooth and nippy, it’s comfortable, and it even parks for you – although that does feel VERY weird. 

My husband was particularly interested in all the high-tech gadgetry that comes as standard, while a friend rejoiced as he changed the sound of the indicator from the usual “tick tick” to a whoopee cushion noise. 

Costs are coming down

And EVs are also becoming more affordable. You could get a Skoda Citigo from around £19,000 when we looked on Autotrader, and a Renault Zoe for £22,000. 

The Tesla Model 3 I’ve been driving is the cheapest option from the EV pioneer, starting at around £38,000. 

Insurance costs are coming down too. According to GoCompare, the average price of insuring an EV was £450.83 in the first half of 2021 – down from £515.83 a year ago. 

But infrastructure remains a real problem.

There are currently around 26,000 charging devices in the UK but there are an incredible 32.7 million cars on the road – that’s 125 cars per charging point. 

Luckily I live in a fairly big town so I had another charging point a few miles away – but what about those who live in rural areas? 

The Competition and Markets Authority has suggested there needs to be a tenfold increase in the number of charge points across the UK by 2030, and that more needs to be done to end the “postcode lottery” of finding a charging station. 

Mileage is another common issue raised among sceptics.

But at 300 miles a tank, this Tesla has served me well over the week – I’m definitely the one at fault for leaving it so close to the wire before charging.

In fact, it’s estimated that on average UK motorists drive only around 142 miles a week

The verdict

I'd always been pretty sceptical on electric cars – mostly because I have the same concerns about costs and charging as everyone else.

A week with this Tesla very nearly converted me though.

Out for a drive with my husband, I started speculating about whether an EV could be in our future, with their smooth driving and no gear changes to worry about.

And then it was time to charge up.

Even if I hadn't left it until the battery was near empty, I would still have had to tour around three different charging stations to find a working one or make a major diversion to the nearest Tesla supercharge point.

And there's no way I would want to wait for six hours for a full charge – I'd be fined anyway.

On top of that, my personal safety felt like a very real concern while I was plugged in – something that would only get worse on a dark, wintery night.

Until the infrastructure improves, EVs just aren't a viable option for every driver, myself included.

How you can get an EV through salary sacrifice

Cost has typically been a major obstacle for drivers looking to buy an electric vehicle.

But options such as salary sacrifice are one way to reduce the cost, as long as your employer lets you do it. 

Salary sacrifice is where you give up a bit of salary to save on income tax and VAT in return for a non-cash benefit such as cycle-to-work schemes, training or company cars. 

In this case, an employer needs to sign up with a company such as Loveelectric.com and then workers can choose their EV.

You pay a fixed monthly price, which includes servicing, maintenance and breakdown cover. 

As an example, someone earning £25,000 a year could lease a Fiat 500 Electric Hatchback on a 48-month lease term.

The standard price would be £285 a month but through salary sacrifice you’d pay £165 a month because the payment is made from your salary before tax, meaning you pay less income tax and national insurance contributions. 

Steve Tigar founder of at loveelectric.cars said: “A lot of people still don’t know there’s a ‘bike to work’ scheme for electric vehicles. 

“It’s not if, it’s when people will switch to electric, and with incentives in place for employees, it’s now a no-brainer.” 

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