Joanna Davis is a senior lifestyle writer for Stuff.
OPINION: I wasn’t exactly an early adopter when it came to EVs, and when I bought my Nissan Leaf four years ago, there was a lot I didn’t know.
So, as the number of EV drivers grows, let me give you a bit of a push up that steep learning curve.
More than 14,000 EVs have been registered this year, and that’s nearly double 2021 registrations, bringing the total number of EVs on the road to 46,000.
Range anxiety is real
Range anxiety is a thing but it fades.
My 24kWh Leaf is not exactly top of the range for electric vehicles. With about a 130km range (when I first bought it), I would never consider driving from my home in Nelson to Christchurch – too many hills, too much open road, not enough fast chargers.
But in the early days of owning it, I was even afraid to make the round trip to Motueka (about 94km) for fear of running out of electrons.
Now I think nothing of getting in the car with only 20km on the guessometer and driving to town and back (admittedly, I live close).
It’s probably the 12V battery
If your car won’t start, it’s probably the 12V battery – that fairly standard-looking lead-acid battery under the hood. This has never happened to me, but I’ve read around the EV Facebook groups enough to know this is the go-to response.
I’ve also learned that it’s the 12V battery that powers the seat warmers. Apparently, it would be a dangerous situation for your backside to be toasted by a 350V battery pack.
Turtles in the wild are rare
The turtle may or may not be a native of Japan, but every Leaf has one.
When the battery is virtually dead, the car will warn and warn, and then go into turtle mode, which gives you a few 100 metres to crawl and hopefully get the car to safety before it shuts down. Some drivers report getting two to three kilometres on the flat.
Even though my range anxiety has decreased, and I’ve taken a few risks with distance and charge, I haven’t experienced turtle mode. I have an AA membership though, just in case.
Charging etiquette matters, part A
If you’re going to walk away from the car while it’s charging at a fast charger – maybe to spend the money you save on gas at the supermarket, Warehouse or Kmart (ahem, guilty), it’s good manners to put your phone number in the windscreen.
You can also log your info in the Plugshare app, but a lot of people don’t seem to use it.
It’s so frustrating to turn up to a charger in use and have no way of knowing if the other car is going to be there for an hour longer, or for 10 minutes.
If you DO leave your car unattended charging, as one punter did at Pak N Save Kilbirnie last week , risk having nasty notes left on your windscreen, and your photo posted to the internet (public Wellington Facebook page Vic Deals, in this case).
That offender, in a Hyundai Ioniq company vehicle, left their car at a charger (locked) from 9.30am for much of the day. Someone let air out of their tyres. Such vigilante justice seems way over the top to me – plus possibly illegal, definitely dangerous – but unattended vehicles are a frustration.
Charging etiquette matters, part B
If you only need 80% charge, and there are folk waiting, you should only charge to 80%. The last 20% takes ages. It’s not kind.
I personally will also end charging early (unless it’s completely necessary for me to charge) if requested by absolutely anyone who has a young child in the car. I’ve had young children, and they are savages: It’s not fair to make their people wait.
Charging can be low-tech
You can have an “intelligent EV charging solution” or you can whack a charger in a standard three-pin power point overnight and call it done.
Some people get on special EV plans with their power company, or at least opt in to a plan with low-cost power at a certain time of day. Some of us don’t bother.
You can also pay to install a wall-mounted faster charger inside your garage, or outside with protection.
There are some strange warning lights
The yellow warning light above is apparently indicating that the front impact sensor is not working properly, most commonly because of sun strike, or a dirty windscreen.
I’ve seen this query posted many times in Facebook EV groups.
Other suggestions of its significance include that “it’s the equivalent of a Hawaiian missile alert”, “an indicator that you’ve activated the forward deflector shield for a Klingon assault ship in the Romulan neutral zone”, or possibly a Tinder notification: “Your car is looking for romance”.
You will pay less in maintenance
Tyres are the main expense I’ve encountered.
Of course, your car still needs a WOF. If the mechanic tells you the oil is leaking, you should laugh. This is standard ICE(internal combustion engine)-mechanic humour.
I only panicked for a millisecond the first time I heard it.
One time I left it for a WOF check and later picked it up from where they’d parked it – in a public carpark across the street – to find it still running. Easy to do. It’s quiet, of course, and only beeps at you briefly if you get out with the “engine running”.
Some people genuinely hate EVs
You will encounter people, diehard fans of ICE cars, who will not so much as entertain the existence of EVs. They’ll tell you they are slow, useless and/or a scourge on the environment.
My stepfather, who has raced Mustangs in his time and owned many a classic car, will not set foot inside mine. He simply refuses.