Going all electric

Since passing my driving test I’ve always driven combustion engine vehicles, whether they be company vans or cars, and as I generally lived a distance from my base office didn’t think twice about filling them up. For me the vehicle was a means to an end – I needed it for work and it was just a necessary expense.

Of course, up until recently there wasn’t really any other choice, with fossil fuel vehicles continuing to outperform in terms of practicality and cost, despite the government trying to de-incentivise their use by penalising both petrol and diesel drivers heavily through fuel and personal taxation. But in recent years, manufacturers have woken up to the fact that oil-based fuels won’t be around forever so have started to move towards producing electricity-powered vehicles, which also come with tax incentives.

Firstly we started to see hybrid versions. The advantage of hybrids was that they didn’t need charging but instead used regenerative breaking to supplement the fossil fuel engine and thus improve performance and extend range. This meant that the existing fuel station infrastructure remained a neccessity as cars still had to fill up, albeit less often.

I did consider switching to a hybrid at one point, mainly to reduce my monthly fuel outgoings but the cars were still quite expensive and I couldn’t justify the extra cost for the moderate return in fuel savings. But certainly the fact that the cars could go almost third further on a tank of fuel was enticing, especially as I hated the chore of having to fill up at petrol stations.

Of course the perfect solution would have been to switch to an all-electric car but the choice was limited, and with my commute of over a hundred miles a day, the cars on the market were either not practical or prohibitively expensive.

But the idea was always in the back of my mind.

And then Covid-19 came along and way we work was completely transformed. Gone was the daily drive to an office but instead the ask was stay at home, working remotely wherever possible. And for me that suited me just down to the ground as the regular commute was now just to move from the bedroom to the study, where I could be just as effective as working from an office.

But at the same time, my existing car, a 2012 Hyundai i35 started to show its age, even though it was spending most days sitting on the driveway wondering why its owner has stopped racking up the miles.

Now I’m not one for regularly switching cars; the i35 was bought 6 months from new and for me it is was just a vehicle for taking me to and from work and shelling out a fortune on a new model every couple of years was not a good investment, especially as I was adding +25,000 miles each year.

But lockdown got me thinking.

With the likelihood that driving to work each day was going to be less of a requirement I started to look at my options. Should I go diesel, hybrid or even electric and should I buy or lease?

Fortunately the choice became clearer when a colleague suggested I investigate the company car leasing salary sacrifice scheme, also mentioning that the deals on electric vehicles were really competitive. And with the benefits in kind tax on electric vehicles at zero percent leasing was viable option.

And they also had Tesla’s on their list.

Now I’d been watching how the Tesla company had been progressing in car manufacturing when I saw one for real at the Birmingham Gadget Show in 2016. At the show they had demo versions of the Model S and I was smitten by how modern they looked, and the silence from the car was mesmerising. And the battery range was improving, 200 miles on one charge. One day I thought.

Fast forward four years and with a promotion secured, my ‘spending’ power had increased significantly. By then Tesla had brought out their Model 3, a lower priced, saloon version with significantly improved range. I completed the online form to get my estimate of monthly costs, not quite believing my dream of getting an EV was becoming a reality. The salary sacrifice scheme really is a great way to be able to get a car that would be way out of my league to purchase at £50,000 as the lease costs are taken before tax, making the bill affordable.

In July I took the plunge and completed the order and was given an estimate of 8 weeks delivery, taking me up to September. That would give me time to sell my existing car, sort out a charging point at home and look at power company charging scheme options. I also hit YouTube for every video I could find on Tesla Model 3’s, eager to learn as much as I could before delivery. I also downloaded the online manual and read it cover to cover multiple times, to the dismay of Tina, who couldn’t understand my obsession with ‘a new car’.

In early August I received a text from Tesla, confirming a delivery date at the start of September and the VIN number of the car. This information enabled me to track the delivery of the car across the Atlantic through The Tesla Motors Club forum on the shipping movements page, helping to build up the excitement.

My new car arrived, as scheduled, on the 2nd September and was immediately named ‘Trevor’ which seems to be a tradition bestowed by Tesla owners on their new vehicle.

In a future post I’ll give a run down of being an EV driver.

Half a century plus one…

IMG_1165Last year my company announced everyone was to be given their birthday off, which for me meant I was off today; has it really been a year since the last one?

Tina had already volunteered to work today so I had a free day to sort out the MOT on my car, which was due by the end of the month, so booked it in for an afternoon checkup. I woke early so decided to take Rio out for a walk, which in hindsight turned out to be a mistake. When we returned back I noticed spots of blood on the hall and study carpet and on closer inspection of Rio’s paw noticed he’d gashed one of his pads, probably on some glass. Great, not an idea start to the my or Rio’s day. Tina and I cleaned up the wound as best we could and covered it with one of Tina’s socks then got to work on the carpets with the Vax machine. Frustratingly this was the second time I’d cleaned them in two days after Rio had thrown up over them yesterday!

After lunch I drove to Kettering and left my car with the Halfords Autocentre, confident it would pass its first MOT, especially as it had been serviced by the Hyundai garage only last week.

But of course it failed!

Unbelievably the Hyundai garage had not put the brake fluid cap back on after changing the pads and discs and it meant a trip to Northampton to get a replacement cap. Fortunately the Halfords centre didn’t charge for the retest but it was very inconvenient just the same.

Tonight we are celebrating proper with a family outing to our local Indian restaurant, which has a reputation for good food but comically poor customer service. I’m sure it will turn out OK but woe betide if the waiter is not nice to me on my birthday…


Going Korean…

For almost eight years, my preferred choice of car has been the Ford Mondeo; the two I have owned over that period have been cheap to run and due to the high mileage I do each year (+20,000 miles per annum) have needed to be reliable.

The first Mondeo was bought in 2004 and within three years I had added over 100,000 miles to it before passing it over to Tina who then added a further 10,000 miles in five years, with her ‘short journey’ driving. When I decided to change that Mondeo I did consider other cars; an Audi was one option but eventually I stuck with the faithful Ford model I knew well and bought another one. This has proved to be as reliable as the first one giving me over 120,000 miles of trouble-free driving in the five years I’ve owned it.

But over recent months it’s starting showing its age.

When I collected it after it’s summer service, the garage suggested that it would need new front discs and pads as well as rear brake shoes at its next service. Ouch I thought, that sounded expensive. And knowing the tyres were well on their way to needing replacing, suddenly alarm bells started ringing as to the impending costs to keep it on the road.

Hmm, I thought, perhaps it was time to get a new car rather than spend any more on a high mileage one that will almost certainly need more things doing to it as it got older. But finances being tight (after the kitchen refit) I really wanted to hold back on replacing it until 2013, with a good work bonus helping with the funding.

But then last month the first of the problems started. I left for work as I normally did, joining the A14 towards Coventry when the battery light came on. Thinking it was just a spurious light I drove on but as I got nearer to the office all electrics started failing and I just about got in to work, with the car needing a new battery and alternator in order to get me home again costing me £350 for the privilege. And then last week the car started developing a whining noise which has subsequently been getting louder and louder and so I decided that it was time to look for a replacement before it became un-drivable. And I couldn’t even use Tina’s Mondeo as the brakes on hers had been playing up resulting in severe knocking noises when ever the pedal was pressed (not an ideal situation when it comes to trying to stop the car).

And so we were in the running for two cars, with my being the priority purchase.

My sensible head said to me to buy another Mondeo but my heart was yearning for something different and so Tina and I went out today searching for its replacement, with the car loan arranged online prior to leaving the house.

The first place we passed was a Hyundai dealer and immediately fell in love with an IX35, a mid-priced SUV from the well respected Korean manufacturer. With Tina also in the running for a replacement for her Mondeo (my cast-off) she spotted a smaller car, the I10 from the same company and thought it would be ideal for her. We chatted with the sales guy and then left with the intention of re-visiting the showroom if we couldn’t find anything else during the day.

Just up the road we arrived at Motorpoint of Peterborough, a large car sales place with a massive selection and we were soon being shown a number of models, including the two we’d seen earlier. We mentioned that we were interested in trading in the two Mondeo’s and were given a reasonable price, considering Tina’s was on the drive at home with dodgy brakes. We then took the two we’d chosen out for a test drive and were both happy  with how they drove and so went back to the showroom to sign the dotted line. How about that for fast work then?

Relieved (and amazed) on how easy it was to buy two cars in just under two hours, we drove home in the second Mondeo, the whining from the wheel bearing seemingly getting louder and louder as we got closer to our house. Lets hope it holds out until we can get it back to Peterborough on Tuesday when we collect the new cars as I don’t want to have to tow it in using Tina’s Mondeo with the state of its brakes!