“Filling a car with petrol already feels a little alien."
Ian Oliver talks to LV.com about why his Tesla Model S was the perfect retirement present, and why he thinks everyone should be open-minded about a more electric future.
Name: Ian Oliver
Profession: Semi-retired, former director of a software company
Married to Mary, 56, with a grown-up daughter
Car: Tesla Model S
When did you buy your electric car and why?
I bought my Tesla Model S in July last year. I’d wanted an electric car for a long time. It’s a retirement present, really. I’m what you’d call a petrol head. I’ve always liked cars, but you find yourself driving along thinking, 'Wouldn’t it be nice to have this experience, but without having to keep putting petrol and diesel in it?'
I bought the car in Bournemouth and when I got in, I just said, ‘Take me home’. It showed me the route to Leeds and where to stop at one of the Tesla superchargers for 20 minutes to get me home. We’re thinking of driving to Valencia through France and Spain. You just have to tell it where you want to go and it will work out the superchargers along the way.
What do you like most about your electric car?
It's easy to drive, very relaxing and of course, very quiet. It’s got good acceleration and you’re not thinking about which gear you’re in – you just press the throttle and off you go.
I've had cars with big V8 engines and I liked the roar, but I don't miss it at all. I'm sure when Ford started making the Model T a few people said they missed the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves – things change very quickly.
There’s certainly something quite addictive about coming down every morning to a vehicle that’s fully charged and ready to go for 200 miles or whatever. In the last eight or nine months I’ve only been to a petrol station once and that was to buy a pint of milk. You can drive past, look at the prices and giggle.
Do you think there a lot of myths out there around electric cars?
There’s a vast amount of misinformation. Claims that there’s more CO2 being produced because of the electricity that needs generating, myths about the kind of environmental impact of making the batteries. I think about 95 per cent of what I do on Facebook is trying to fight the myths. All I’d say is, speak to people who drive an electric vehicle and find out what the real-world experiences are.
Do you think you've saved some money by having an electric car?
Your biggest cost on any car is depreciation, but EVs hold their price pretty well. Servicing – there’s hardly any of it. There’s no oil to change or anything. Obviously you save huge amounts on fuel.
I don’t pay road tax and can park for free in council car parks. I also got a small grant to put in an electric charge point at home – although I think the Government could be doing a lot more to stimulate the market.
What do you generally use your electric car for?
Now we’re retired we go out on trips, visit relatives… we use it for everything. For day to day stuff we just don't think about the charging. If we're doing a 200-mile round trip, that’s fairly comfortable. If I'm doing a longer trip, I'll just sit down and plan the trip in advance so we find the right charging places.
Are you particularly concerned about the environment?
Yes, we simply can’t afford business as usual. We need to reduce CO2 emissions and improve the quality of air in towns and cities. In many ways, electric vehicles are low-hanging fruit.
Do friends comment on your electric car?
Some do – but I think most people who see it just don’t realise it’s an electric vehicle. And even when you tell them they say, ‘Ok, but it’s got an engine as well?’ No, it doesn’t have an engine, or a gearbox, or an exhaust or a fuel tank.
When they see how much storage that gives you, once you get rid of all of those bits and pieces and basically just have a battery and a couple of motors, I think they start to get it. I’ve done what I can to convert a few people along the way.
Did anything surprise you about the car in terms of what it could or couldn't do?
I’m one of those people who researches everything, so I'd read the entire manual cover to cover twice before I picked the car up. What has been a pleasant surprise is how the car has continued to improve because of the over-the-air software updates from Tesla.
Every now and then you get a nice new feature to control things on the car remotely, like turning on the air con or heating. Yesterday we were off to a restaurant, so I added the details and when we hopped in the car it already knew where we were going.
On the latest software update I got something called Dog Mode where if you leave your animal in the car it puts something up on the screen saying don't worry, the air conditioning is on, this is the temperature in the vehicle and my owner will be back soon.
We simply can’t afford business as usual. We need to reduce CO2 emissions and improve the quality of air in towns and cities. In many ways, electric vehicles are low-hanging fruit.
What are some of the challenges you face?
The only two big issues with electric vehicles are price – that will change when the volume of cars goes up – and the charging network. We need more chargers and we need faster chargers for when people are on a long trip. We also need a lot more ‘destination chargers’ in car parks, or by cinemas and hotels.
Tesla have invested in creating their own charging network so you’re spared most of the issues. Other owners have told me it's disappointing when there are a couple of chargers in a location and they’re both in use, or one’s being used and the other’s broken.
Also, each charging company has got a different app so people are having to sign up to lots of different things. Why can't you just put your contactless debit card on it and be billed that way?
It’s really about getting enough chargers with enough power to charge the car quickly, as well as sorting out the issues of incompatibility and broken chargers. The good thing is that it does look like there’s some proper investment in it now.
What would you say to others who are thinking of buying an electric car?
Have some test drives, speak to owners and have a play with some of the route planning software to see how you’d do trips. Above all, approach it in an open-minded way.
What’s frustrating is we haven't changed our second car yet. You look at that little light on the dash and you think, I've got a socket over there, why do I have to drive off somewhere and spend a fortune on fuel? Filling a car with petrol already feels a little alien.
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