TODAY'S electric vehicles are powerful, smooth and refined and the early adopters who have switched to them consistently report that they really enjoy driving them and never want to turn back to a petrol or diesel.
Pure electric vehicles have no vibrations typical of a car with a throbbing engine under the bonnet and they have a great deal of punch when you press the accelerator thanks to the nature of the electric motor, which provides instant torque to the driving experience.
When you get in to the driver’s seat of an electric car for the first time, and switch it on, usually at the press of a button, you may experience an eerie feeling of the car running without the sound of an engine turning over.
But you soon get used to it.
Electric cars are all automatic and the controls vary from traditional automatic gear sticks to various shaped buttons and dials to move from park to drive and reverse modes.
Most of them provide the usual “creep” of an automatic car when you take your foot off the brake, although in some models, the driver can control the level of creep to their preferred setting.
Electric vehicles are equipped with regenerative braking which enables the car to slow down to a standstill just by taking your foot of the accelerator and allowing the electric motor to run, gently, in reverse.
This feature both slows the car down, saving on brake pads whilst also generating electricity to increase the range of the vehicle and reduce your electricity bills.
Some models allow you to modify the level of regenerative braking so you can decide how quickly the car will decelerate when you take your foot off the accelerator.
With many drivers, to conserve energy and just for the sheer fun of it, driving behaviour changes by slowing down more steadily when approaching a stop sign, red lights or stationary traffic.
This happens to be the best way to save energy and drive more safely.
If you are going on journeys that take you towards the limit of the range of your electric car, you may experience some concern about whether you will reach your destination with enough “juice”.
Many models of electric car come with many exciting features as standard such as touch-screen infotainment – which amongst other things, tells you where your nearest recharging points are – cruise control, reversing camera and keyless entry.
And some such as the Tesla and the new Nissan Leaf also offer driver assistance features such as self-parking, automatic lane assistance and adaptive cruise control.
Accompanying most electric car models is a smartphone app that can be used to check the battery charge level, start or stop charging, remotely switch on climate control and lock or open the car doors.
One of the most-loved features of many electric cars is the ability to remotely heat or cool the car from your mobile phone or even from the key. Whilst all your neighbours are scraping ice off their cars, you can just let the car defrost itself whilst you eat your breakfast and then step into a defrosted, preheated cabin.
It is a priceless joy of driving an electric car.
Driving an electric car is also still somewhat of a novelty for many and drivers, even after several years of driving them are often proud of their cars (even if they were not “car people” before) and will grab any opportunity to talk about the pleasures of driving them and perhaps profess to be saving the planet into the bargain.
There is also pleasure in the knowledge that whilst you are driving, you are not contributing to poor air quality and that your CO2 emissions are lower than a petrol car, even taking into account the carbon embedded in the electricity you used to charge the car and the manufacturing of the car and its batteries.
Overall, driving an electric car is an experience that brings the pleasure back to driving, makes you feel good about yourself and is just great fun!
Driving a plug in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)
Driving a PHEV offers all the experiences that you get in a pure electric vehicle when it is in electric-only (EV) mode. Once the engine kicks in, you will have a whole new experience. All the PHEVs on the market have been beautifully engineered so that switching in and out of EV mode is seamless.
PHEVs allow the driving experience to benefit from the best of both worlds and with two drivetrains – electric and petrol/diesel – combined, you get both power and fuel-efficiency that is second to none.
Many PHEVs offer the driver a variety of driving modes. You can combine the two driving systems to maximise power, you can switch to electric-only to save money (electricity is much cheaper than petrol) and you can also plan your journey so that the electricity is saved for a low-emission zone in which only zero-emission driving is allowed (such zones are being proposed and put in place all across the world).
PHEVs, along with pure electric vehicles, also get to plug in at the thousands of publicly available charging points across the UK.
Often these charge points also come with either free parking or free electricity or both and are located at great parking spots – sometimes the only available parking spaces in the area.
In short, electric cars and PHEVs bring a whole new level of pleasure and joy to driving, even for people who were not so into cars until now.