Long ago, when we had three children living at home who played rugby and cricket and went on expeditions for D of E and needed to be fetched and carried, we bought a second hand seven seater VW Sharan. It was great and very adaptable for either lots of people or lots of luggage or a combination of the two. Eventually the children grew up and I found myself commuting to Banbury for work in a huge and smelly 2004 diesel which was valued at about £1000, although to us it is worth much more than that. I wanted something small & environmentally friendly which would do my 20 miles a day commute and turn on a sixpence, something less tank-like, less expensive to run and definitely less smelly.
I looked for little, affordable electric cars online and found the Zoe. There’s a Renault garage in Banbury so I arranged a test drive of a second hand one. The car was lovely – quiet, fun styling and had all those never-heard-of luxuries like working air con and sat nav as standard – but the staff at the garage were sadly not very helpful; they wanted to sell new cars, not second hand ones. I looked online and found a second hand Zoe from Richard Sanders in Northampton, went for a test drive and decided to buy. For £6000 I had a car which had 8000 miles on the clock and was about 18 months old. The only strange part was that you had to lease the battery, and the strangest part of that was that you had to estimate your annual mileage and pay accordingly. So my estimated mileage was the lowest you could go for and I signed up to pay £50 a month battery lease for eternity.
I bought the car in December 2017 and charged it up to start with using the “granny cable” borrowed from the seller which you can plug into a 13A socket (just right for when you visit granny). The charging was slow (overnight), but I booked for a 7kW charging point to be installed on the garage in the driveway. It took a little while to organise that as it needed a channel made in the driveway to bury the 30A cable from house. By the following February, the 7kW charging unit was installed (grants are still available) and charging time went down to a couple of hours.
The children loved the new car – there would be a race to leap in and connect their phone to the Bluetooth so they were in control of the backing tracks to our journeys. The Zoe runs so quietly that you can hear all of the nuances of the music; you can whisper to each other and be heard; you can think without being disturbed by car noise. It feels like it will come off worst in an encounter with a Range Rover, but I drive gently so that’s less likely to happen. I usually drive on Eco mode, where the battery charge is eked out by pootling up the hills and being slow to warm up the car. Tim prefers to take it off Eco so you can whizz up Oatleyhill and see a little less of the flowers and wildlife as you go along.
The car started with a range of about 80 miles, less on chilly days and more on warm ones. When the battery gradually declined to showing 60 miles on full charge after a year or so, I booked in to the Wolverhampton dealership which updated the software and boosted the battery back up to 100 miles on a good day. That is covered in the warranty with the battery lease. We took it down to Eton on the motorway and discovered that driving at 70mph ate up the battery life far quicker than expected and we just crawled to our destination with a whisper of Watts left. We had an exciting time trying to find a place to charge up for our home journey! Most of the time I just charge up at home, but mid-journey charging is more of a labyrinth with a host of charging companies, all with their different apps and charging systems. Looking forward to that one being harmonised one day…
We have kept the Sharan for long journeys, for trips taking & picking up from uni, for taking a sculling boat to regattas, but the Zoe is the car of choice when going to work, doing a bit of shopping or pottering locally, which covers most of our journeys. Tim uses the car club 90% of the time (normally the matching Zoe) though he can use my Zoe when I let him with strict instructions to replace the seat in its rightful position and put it back into Eco…
If you are interested in trying out an EV we have two Renault Zoe’s available for hire via Hooky Car Club, from as little as 50p per hour and 20p per mile. For more information please see here.