I set off yesterday on a 120-mile M4 journey in the Range Rover, with about 50 miles of fuel left in the tank. The sat-nav, as is its habit, soon sent me a message that I didn’t have enough fuel to complete the journey, and offered to redirect me to the nearest filling station.
My reflex was to bat this offer away, knowing I’d find a filling station in the next few miles. But at the same time it occurred to me this was the very situation to that faced by drivers of current electric cars: the trip stretches ahead but they lack the range. But why, exactly, was I completely confident about facing the Range Rover journey when I know I’d have found it much more of a challenge in a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe?
The answers are obvious, you may think. Electric cars have shorter ranges. On a 120-mile trip you’d need to stop at least once for a 20-30-minute fast charge, and that’s if you start with the battery 'full'. But I’ve already investigated the fast-charging arrangements on London’s westerly motorway, and found it a straightforward, rather pleasant procedure. Not perfect if you’re in a hurry, but no disaster.
So what was the nub of the problem? I kept thinking back to an early return trip to Oxford in a Nissan Leaf – at the end of which we very nearly ran out of charge. I can’t remember the exact words, but the machine started declaiming loudly that unless we stopped and pulled over, it would simply become immobile in the street.