Meet the motorists who are leading the charge

Kya deLongchamps talks to two drivers who have revved up their lives with electric cars.
Meet the motorists who are leading the charge
Thomas McGuire
Guillaume Séguin with his BMW i3.
Guillaume Séguin with his BMW i3.

Kya deLongchamps talks to two drivers who have revved up their lives with electric cars.

The Department of Transport doesn’t as yet have our pedals-to-the-metal in targeting 950,000 EV cars on Irish roads by 2030 (when EVs and hybrids become the sole choice in new vehicles).

Mid-sized family cross-overs and snappy city EVs remain pricey, boutique buys.

Still, with zero emissions at point-of-use, there’s no more messianic motorist than the driver of an all-electric vehicle.

I spoke with two bright sparks about their day-to-day experience of the home-charged car.

Thomas McGuire hails from Wexford and changed his petrol 2002 Nissan Primera for a Nissan Leaf in 2016.

This year, the family’s remaining petrol car was replaced with a Tesla Model 3.

“The EVs have added a surprising amount of comfort and convenience to our lives,” says Thomas.

“As 90% of my daily driving was within range of a full charge, I could go weeks without needing to do anything more than plug/unplug at home — no more standing at a fuel pump in the rain.

“As climate controls can be set on a timer, or activated at any time with my smart-phone, I’ve not had to enter a car too hot or too cold, or defrost windows, in over four years.

"Air conditioning powered by the Li-ion battery has meant I’ve been comfortably working out of the car during Covid-19 restrictions — air conditioning on all day and powering necessary devices (laptop, phone)

"You couldn’t do that with a non-battery only vehicle!

“I have a 110km–120km daily commute and was spending €50 on petrol every four or five days.

"A plug-in hybrid’s battery-only range wouldn’t suffice for the commute — I’d be both plugging daily and still going to the petrol station.

"The 30kWh Leaf was released shortly thereafter and with its 170km range I was confident of getting through the day, whatever the conditions, without a recharge.”

In 2016 ESB ecars installed a 3.6kW home-charge point near the electric meter at the side of the house, he says.

“Last year I installed a Zappi home-charge point for its smart use of my solar array (PV).

"I switched to a night-rate tariff with Electric Ireland as I was recharging the Leaf five or six nights a week (travelling 700km–800km a week on average), €2 or so versus about €10 a day in the Primera.

"With the 3’s bigger battery, it’s €5-€6,” he adds.

“Both the Leaf or Model 3 respond instantly to the accelerator — there’s no messing around with my foot and hand to change gears while accelerating/decelerating either.

“Regenerative braking also enables me to slow down for a tight corner, just by easing off the accelerator.

"I brake much less, and it also generates energy for the battery — around 4,000km or so of my 40,000km annual average.”

Thomas McGuire
Thomas McGuire

Thomas adds he’s “never thought of not using” the electric car for a long journey.

“There’s been a two- to three-time increase in battery size/range since I got the Leaf in 2016, and the charging environment has improved since fees were announced in 2018, with more (and multiple) chargers available,” he says.

“In terms of my PV arrays’ contribution, it’s been primarily for home use, though with the addition of another electric vehicle, I’ve been able to add 15-20km relatively easily daily these days (covers its daily drive).

"If I’m having an overnight stay anywhere, I try to seek hotels with charge points.”

Guillaume Séguin is public relations officer with the Irish EV Owners Association (irishevowners.ie).

He lives in Cork and has driven a BMW i3 for the last 18 months.

He previously owned two Nissan Leafs and regularly takes his EV over to Italy.

“I used to own a traditional hybrid, without socket-advanced technology, 10-20 years ago,” says Guillaume.

“Pure electric vehicles managed to catch up and offer better ranges and charging speed so I converted, as I don’t fancy putting petrol in a tank, something traditional hybrids will always require.

“I live in an apartment, but I was lucky. I have a dedicated parking spot with a bit of wall I could have my charge point affixed to.

My electricity meter is at the same level so it was a matter of having a very long wire from my parking spot to my meter.

"I pay a bit less than 10c per kW unit, on night rate. A full charge (150km to 200km of range) costs me less than €3.

"I program my car so it only charges during the night. You get used to plugging in at home, just like using a smart-phone actually.

“The BMW i3 is a city car with 170hp. It has instant torque so it’s very quick off the traffic lights.

"There is an app with the car so I can know at any time what is the charging status, but also remotely start the heater a few minutes before leaving if it’s a cold morning.

“Range anxiety is a thing that you can have for the first few months of ownership, just the time to get familiar with how far the car can go, and also where are the public charge points you may need on your usual journeys.

“EVs run silently, so you have to be careful at slow speeds near pedestrians.

"The horn sounds a bit aggressive so I got myself an old school bicycle horn, sounds more friendly and it makes people laugh!”

Declan Meally, head of department, SEAI, concludes: “An electric car can make sense for 80% of those commuting every day in Ireland.

"At night (when night-rate is used to charge an EV) wind is usually contributing to a significant proportion of the electricity generated.

"It can, at times, be over 50% of the electricity generated.

“Generous incentives, coupled with low running and maintenance costs, mean more car buyers are starting to look at electric cars as a genuinely viable alternative.”

  • To learn more and to explore available grant aid, visit drivingelectric.ie and the SEAI at seai.ie/grants

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