Range or charging anxiety is the big EV barrier, but planning for longer trips can ease your new electric drivers’ concerns
Three factors have coincided over the course of the past year to create a new issue for fleet managers to deal with, even though, strictly speaking, it’s not their responsibility.
First came the government carrot to promote EVs in the form of an ultra-low Benefit-in-Kind rating for cars with zero tailpipe emissions. This spurred company car drivers into looking for cars that qualify. At this point, a few drivers realised that because they didn’t do a high mileage they could run an EV.
It wasn’t until the spread of available electric cars jumped from being just a handful of cars covering only a few sectors, to being a decent level of choice within a host of different segment that fleets and company car drivers began to take them seriously and order them in higher numbers.
The final factor at work here was the shift to working from home caused by the pandemic. This meant the rise of video conferencing and significantly fewer business miles – making EVs even more viable for a larger audience.
Now that drivers are able to make in-person visits and staff are starting to return to offices, those that have switched to EVs are potentially needing to cover longer journeys and charge away from home. It’s this trend that means, rightly or wrongly, fleet managers will be answering questions about how to best do this.
For fleet managers in this increasingly common position. Here’s Company Car Today’s 10-point guide to attempting long journeys in electric vehicles.
The secret to covering long journeys in EVs is lots of planning. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut in this respect. Once drivers know they’re going on a trip that will necessitate on-route charging then they’ll need to factor in a few things to work out the best place to charge.
Knowing the range of the car is obviously essential, plus the journey length, but it’s also worth considering how far from your desired route you’re willing to deviate to charge and how much you’re willing to pay for electricity.
The best way to plan is to use either Zapmap or the app from the relevant car maker – which almost all EVs have. However, it may be worth also using Google Maps because some of its clever mapping tools – such as traffic conditions – aren’t covered by Zapmap.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHARGE POINT.
Make sure you know how fast your car will charge, information that is available on the manufacturer’s website or online at resources such as www.ev-database.uk.
If the car will only charge at 50kW there’s little point looking at 100kW+ charge points, which can be more expensive. However, the opposite is also true. If the car will charge at 100kW or higher, then using faster charge points will mean significantly shorter stops.
You’ll also need to make sure the charge point you’ve chosen has the correct connector for your car. Again Zapmap can filter for this.
KNOW YOUR MATHS/RANGE.
Eventually, you’ll get to know if your EV’s trip computer provides an accurate range figure. However, it’s also worth memorising a few basic sums to help calculate your real-world range.
All EVs show how efficient they are, usually in the form of miles per kWh. In other words, if a car is running at 3.0 miles per kWh and it has a 50kWh battery, then 3.0 x 50 = 150 miles of range. But if the car’s doing 4.0 miles per kWh, then the range will be 200 miles.
Being able to do these sums on-the-fly is a useful way of checking your range.
HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN
Always have a ‘plan B’. Until the UK’s charging infrastructure is prolific enough and reliable enough, there’s still a reasonable chance that the charge point you’ve planned to use will be either busy or not working properly.
There’s also the possibility of diversions, traffic and wrong turnings.
If you’ve got a back-up plan then this will reduce any range-anxiety.
MAKE A PHONE CALL
While we’re on the topic of charge points not working, many experienced EV drivers recommend not giving up on a ‘difficult’ charge point, but instead phoning the helpline that’s printed on almost every location.
Often charge points can be reset remotely or, if payment systems aren’t working, offer free charging.
INSTALL LOTS OF APPS
Be prepared to install lots of apps to cover both the journey planning and the ability to charge.
While it’s a legal requirement for all public charge points to take a card payment, this can be out of action or more costly than using the supplier’s app.
However, be aware that some will want pre-payment or an account loaded with an amount before you can use them. Almost all apps also want a large amount of personal data before you can sign up.
That’s why it is best to install apps and register before you start your journey in order to save time when trying to charge.
USE THE SPARE TIME WELL
Once you’ve plugged in and your car is charging, it’s worth using the time constructively. This could be as simple as answering a few emails and phone calls, but could be full-on work if there’s a good coffee shop with wifi near the charge point.
THINK ABOUT THE DESTINATION AND RETURN
Two points often overlooked are charging at a destination and the return journey.
If your drivers have any control over their meeting locations, it’s worth booking meeting venues that have charge points – where possible. As meetings can last for a couple of hours, the charge points don’t need to be that fast to gain a useful amount of top-up charge.
When planning journeys, it’s easy to overlook the return. And even Zapmap doesn’t make it easy to plan an ‘each
Think about the facilities you’ll need – the loo, for instance. This author has carefully planned for fast EV charging, successfully hooked up the car at a charge point based at an otherwise regular petrol forecourt only to find that the single filling station toilet was out of order. Not great after a two-hour journey.
Apart from toilet facilities, you may want refreshments. If you’re charge point is at a motorway services, that’s probably not an issue, but remember not every charge point is attached to 24/7 facilities.
Possibly the biggest help to making long EV journeys go as smoothly as possible is simply to learn from experience.
Getting over the hurdle of range anxiety for the first journey and the extra knowledge makes subsequent trips less stressful. Once you really know how far your EV will go on a single charge, then you can fine tune planning for the next journey.