It’s 139 years since what is widely considered to be the first car – the Benz Patent-Motorwagen – took to the streets, since that time motoring has changed beyond all recognition and become a huge part of everyone’s lives, even for those that do not own a car they find society shaped by them.

Car of the year 2022, the futuristic Ioniq 5
Benz Patent-Motorwagen 1885

Until now one thing has remained constant, cars have been powered by the burning of flammable liquids. This has served us incredibly well; it might not feel like it, but motoring has defied inflation and gotten cheaper whilst cars have gotten more powerful and luxurious year on year. But as we all know these gains have not come for free. Conventional cars emit noise and fumes and use a limited resource that we now know has a deeply troubling long-term effect on the climate. So, you would think that an alternative to those fuels – going electric – would be widely welcomed, and by many that change is, but for others there is a trepidation and concern about moving away from something we are so familiar with, especially when there is so much information – often misleading – in circulation.

This post sets point to address some of those concerns by speaking to Islanders who have ‘taken the plunge’ and gone electric.

Alison from Lake drives a Peugeot E208, a supermini that is indistinguishable from the outside from the conventional engine version. Alison says “I’ve driven the car for over a year now and I’m delighted with the performance, comfort, and convenience. My last two cars were Mini Coopers and the EV performance is easily comparable, in fact probably nippier because of the instant response from the accelerator.” The car is plugged into charged a couple of times a week on cheap overnight electricity from a simple 3 pin external socket, so far that has always been sufficient, but the household will upgrade to a faster purpose-built charge point when they change one of their other conventional cars to electric – something which is certainly on the cards in the coming months. “we switched to our first EV to reduce fuel costs, but the benefits have been much greater than just that”

Brian, also from Lake, drives an electric MG4, this car was provided as part of a motability scheme as Brian was involved in an accident some years ago, leaving him partially disabled. The car has been modified to be used without using either the brake or accelerator pedals, those functions are taken care of using a ‘push – pull’ lever. Brian is delighted with the comfort and performance of the car. Brian said, “my wife especially loves the pre heating which is operated from an app so that the car is snug when you jump in on the chilly mornings, but I do get in trouble if I forget to set it!”

Brian, with his popular MG4
The push-pull lever that both brakes and accelerates Brian’s car

Brian also charges on the driveway using an overnight tariff that means his mileage is incredibly cheap, recently he drove from Lake over to Poole and back again for just a few pounds. The MG4 has a maximum summer range of 300 miles reduced to a minimum of 230 in the winter, which means a trip to and from London allowing for plenty of diversions is cheap, comfortable and without any need to ‘top-up’ on the public network.

Trevor who lives in The Bay has had a Hyundai Kona for a little over a year, the interesting thing in Trevor’s case is that he does not have private parking and is therefore reliant on the public network. So far that has not proven to be a problem, Trevor lives a short walk from the St Johns car park in Sandown where there are public points provided by the IW Council, he can leave the car there once a week and top up enough to do everything needed on the island. This is costing him under £20 a week, or around 10p per mile which compares very favourably with petrol and diesel running costs.
Off the island the car has been to Wales a couple of times and to Cornwall and has never been short of range, in fact the Kona can get from Sandown to Cornwall in one go – by which time every driver will have needed a break or two anyway. Large charging stations are popping up on all the major routes around the country and outside of peak times on busy routes like bank holidays to the West country, the reports are that the charging network is increasingly fast and convenient.

An impressive 344 miles of range in Trevor’s Hyundai Kona, enough to get from Portsmouth to Newcastle!
Hyundia Kona

Tony drives a 2016 Nissan Leaf which was bought over to the island as a second-hand car 4 years ago. As an early model this car has a far smaller battery and therefore shorter range than any newer models, but Tony as says “she can still circumnavigate the island even in winter with about 83% of the original battery health, which is enough for 99% of journeys. We’ve also been up to Bristol, Farnborough, past Oxford, and down to Torquay. Charging in the wild can be interesting in an older small battery model, but we have not gotten stuck so far.” The car has been faultless, and Tony has no plans to change the car in the coming years, and in fact the Nissan Leaf is the much-loved classic of its genre, so maybe it’ll be kept indefinitely!

2016 Nissan Leaf overlooking Freshwater Bay

My own experience is like Tony’s as I also drive a 2016 Leaf. It has recently passed 70,000 miles and the only battery trouble I have had is with the key fob! I have to say that even after four and a half years of driving I still enjoy the car tremendously, there literally isn’t a single annoying niggle. Of course, if I lived on ‘big island’ with a small battery that would be different, but here it is just fantastic. Nissan Leaf’s are the now by far most common ‘old’ EV on the second-hand market, with hundreds of them available nationwide at reasonable prices, contrary to some misconceptions they are still extremely capable cars with lots of capacity left in the battery.

If you are interested to know more about EV’s and to seek advice, then you can join the locally focused Isle EV Facebook group to hear directly from other owners. Also, Wight Community Energy will be hosting the third edition of the Going Electric show in July where you can get the chance to meet owners and all the islands main car dealers, as well as learning about other green technologies that can save you money whilst delivering comfort and a lower environmental impact.