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On Being Electrified (Part 1)

"I confess to having 2 cars, one diesel and one petrol. Their combined age is 39 years, together they cost £4000 and they have done 230,000 miles. And both go fine. Neither owes me anything.

Carbon Guilt finally got the better of me and a fortnight ago I bought a small 3 year old electric car, choosing to believe for a moment that I can really become cleaner by going electric.

The honeymoon has been...interesting. On our first attempt at a motorway charge, we were rescued by a Good Samaritan in a Tesla who used his own card to activate the machine when it had refused to accept any form of payment we could offer. At the next stop, my card was accepted first go. No idea why so different. But the chargers in our village had new tricks, completely ignoring different contactless cards and apparently offering no other route to Power. Again, saved by another customer who did the trick with an app on his phone. We paid this time.

Once registered with ChargePlace Scotland, bank details supplied and £12 paid for their card, I hoped the future would be simpler, until we found that the app doesn’t tell you how to connect up. All credit to their Helpline operator in Glasgow who told me to use the “Find a Charger” field – he also said that no one knew this unless they phoned him.

A nice electric drive to Fringe By the Sea at North Berwick last evening. This morning the car is absolutely, totally DEAD. The doors won’t open. I use the emergency key – a scrawny little piece of metal concealed inside the gizmo that annoyingly locks and unlocks the the car every time I walk past it. The emergency key only works on the passenger door and it’s so stiff to turn that I have to risk using pliers. Inside the car, every control is dead. None of this increases my enthusiasm for lowering my footprint.

I resort to Google and YouTube where I find several videos about a wide variety of EV problems, some quite alarming. Sudden death seems to have two main causes. First, something is adrift with the charging system that charges the battery that runs everything except the engine. This is bad news and may require a very expensive and probably slow repair. More likely the problem is failure of this second battery, a small 12 volt item, but without it nothing works. I learn that all EVs have this weak spot, even the newest, high priced models.

Advice is conflicting as usual. The car’s manual forbids charging or jump starting on pain of catastrophic damage. Some YouTubers agree; others say it might be OK if you disconnect the failing battery first. Eventually I find a video by a guy who seems careful, sensible, and practical and shows that jump-starting - pretty much the way we oldies did with our old bangers – works just fine [1]. His advice is to always carry a portable jump start battery in the EV. It seems this is not a one off problem.

With a bit of trepidation I connect a battery borrowed from my ancient Mazda MX5. My EV immediately comes to life with its usual robotic sound effects.

Tomorrow morning? Lets just wait and see..."

Brian McClelland


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