Electric Vehicle Familiarisation

There is a niche market of people who want to learn in an electric car. However, there is an increasing demand from full licence holders thinking of buying an electric vehicle (EV) who want to explore the different driving style of regenerative braking, intelligent cruise control etc.

We are experiencing a generational shift, moving away from the obsession of manual cars, driving us towards being more eco friendly and embracing the new technology provided by EVs.

With the “transition to e-mobility”, all car manufacturers are providing (or about to provide) a choice of vehicles fuelled solely on electricity. EVs are our future and LDS are proud to be leading the way in the Driving School sector by providing driving lessons in an EV. 

LDS uses green electricity from OVO Energy. This is 100% ethically sourced from a range of green sources including wind, solar, geothermal and hydro, to further reduce our carbon footprint.  Our house has a log burning stove using ethically sourced wood and underfloor heating. 

Our car is 100% electric, being powered by a “vehicle to grid” charger, which sells back electricity to the National Grid at peak times during the day, and also powers our house. Then gets recharged overnight when the power demand on the grid is low. 

We all know that climate change can’t be solved overnight – or with a magic wand. But if we each commit to making a few small changes – together, we can take giant leaps towards a healthier planet. 

At the moment it’s looking like manual cars are not going to be in mainstream production after the year 2030. So the idea that you need a manual licence in this new era is becoming increasingly archaic. 

The last four years have seen a remarkable surge in demand for electric vehicles in the UK – new registrations of plug-in cars increased from 3,500 in 2013 to more than 220,000 during the first 6 months in 2019. There has also been a huge increase in the number of pure-electric and plug-in hybrid models available in the UK with many of the top manufacturers in the UK now offering a number of EVs as part of their model range.

By 2030 the National Grid predicts there could be as manyas 9 million electric vehicles on Britain’s roads.

It makes sense environmentally, financially and enjoyability wise to drive an electric car.

LDS are proud to be leading the way in the Driving School sector by providing driving lessons in an EV. 

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A Simple Training Guide for New Electric Car Drivers

Whether you purchase an electric car for a company fleet or personal use, you can expect superior economy and reduced operating costs. However, the cars do not drive themselves (well, not yet… fully). To reach peak efficiency numbers, drivers have to understand how the vehicle works and react accordingly.

The process includes getting used to strong acceleration and a braking system that actually adds power back to an EV battery, when operated correctly. Knowing how to charge and manage an EV in different types of weather is also useful.

Overall, it’s less complicated than it sounds; most will get the hang of it with some time and effort. But for those who want to get a head start, LDS can help you with in-car tuition; also, here is a simple guide to driving, charging and getting the most out of an electric vehicle.

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Key Differences Between Petrol/Diesel Vehicles and Electric Cars

Sitting inside an electric car for the first time, you will notice everything is basically in the same place as it would be in an internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

Accelerator and brake pedals are in the traditional spots. Gear shifters are located either between the seats (as below, in my Nissan Leaf) or on the steering wheel (as in a BMW i3). Having the gear shifter on the steering wheel was common with ICE vehicles a generation ago, but you can still find the same placement on some vehicles.

One-Speed Transmission

As opposed to five-or six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, most electric cars operate only in drive (one-speed) mode. However, drivers can typically adjust the amount of power available when you accelerate by using different driving settings.

First generation models have ECO settings that limit power for maximum economy. The newer generation models of EVs feature ECO plus sport modes in addition to different levels of braking, which affects how you capture energy when stopping.

Regenerative Braking

EVs feature regenerative braking, which sends kinetic energy back to the battery whenever braking and decelerating. If you are braking smoothly, you will recapture most of the energy used by the car to brake.  In most models you can see on the main display what percentage of the energy used was captured.

Some vehicles will allow you to control how you stop the vehicle. In the new Nissan Leaf, as with many other vehicles, the regenerative braking system is more pronounced and drivers may operate the vehicle using a single pedal (the accelerator). This one-pedal driving helps train vehicle drivers to accelerate and stop smoothly, thereby conserving energy and range.

Instant Torque

Whereas ICE vehicles take many revs to get to maximum torque, electric cars have access to the majority of torque from being stationary. Therefore, EV acceleration is superior to that of equivalent petrol powered cars.

It will take an adjustment to get used to the additional power available every time you put your foot down. In city driving, this rapid acceleration is useful.

No Engine Noise

Last but not least, the most obvious difference between ICE and electric vehicles is engine noise. EVs operate on silent electric motors, so you only hear the quiet whirring and tyre noise. Drivers should not expect pedestrians/cyclists to hear their approach when driving an electric car.

For this reason, the EU has established a new law that will require all EVs operating at low speed to make a noise by the year 2021. Until then, electric car drivers must assume other road users may be unaware of your presence.

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Preserving Range

Conserving range (battery levels) is crucial when operating electric cars, and driving style has a direct impact on battery depletion. Try to accelerate smoothly so as not to brake suddenly, as this method of driving protects against energy loss.

How you heat and cool the car also plays a role in preserving battery power. During winter months, EVs may lose as much as 30% range in particularly cold weather. To combat the effects of winter weather, drivers should utilise heated seats/steering wheel and wear coats while driving to conserve range.

Air conditioning has a similar range draining effect on electric cars, so consider opening the windows if you have limited range to avoid needing to charge before your destination. Use of the sound system and other on board apps will also draw energy from the battery, which is the sole source of the car’s power.

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Charging

Managing an electric vehicle’s charge is an essential part of operation. Drivers can end up wasting time stuck at charging stations if they do not have enough battery power before starting their journey. This means timing your charge sessions appropriately.

Drivers starting out should be aware of the basics:

  • Level 2 (7kw) charging may deliver as much as 25 miles per hour, depending on the onboard charger. When equipped with the least powerful (3.3 kw) charger, plug-ins may only add 12-15 miles per hour of charging.
  • Fast charging (50kw) typically charges a battery to 80% full in 30 minutes.

Charging ports may be located in the same place as a petrol tank (BMW i3) or on the bonnet (Nissan Leaf). When on the road, not all, but most EV chargers, typically require subscriptions, so plan your charging sessions accordingly.

To find a charging station near you, Zap-Mapand Polar Plusare helpful resources. Simply enter your location, and it will show you a map of all nearby charging stations and whatever additional information is available for each one.

Understanding Your Electric Car’s Battery

What factors affect EV battery life?

EV batteries are lithium based – when they are charged and discharged once, it’s called a cycle. A battery’s capacity will degrade as the cycle number increases. A number of factors can also affect this:

  • High temperatures
  • Overcharging or high voltage
  • Deep discharges or low voltage
  • High discharges or charge current

Tips for Maintaining Your EV Battery

  • Don’t leave the battery sitting at 100 percent state of charge too often, because it’s stressful for the battery
  • Avoid deep discharging of battery
  • Avoid extreme temperatures (store in a garage whenever possible)
  • When going away on holiday, set charge level to 50 percent and leave it plugged in – if you can.
  • Minimise fast charging whenever possible

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Notes and Best Practices for First Time Drivers

  • While the above points are geared toward pure electric vehicles, the same applies to plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) until their battery runs out of charge. At that point, the PHEV switches to petrol engine operation.
  • To take advantage of the power source while charging, heat or cool EVs before unplugging.
  • Electric cars offer drivers detailed information on distances travelled, energy used and driving technique. Utilise the vehicle’s mobile app and onboard system to see how you score. This information can help you drive more efficiently and charge less frequently (i.e. save money).
  • When charging, keep a close eye on the battery levels so you do not prevent other drivers from plugging in once your battery is full.

With a little practice, anyone can learn to drive an electric car with maximum efficiency. Whether you are driving a company car or your own EV, the effort is well worth it.

LDS are proud to be leading the way in the Driving School sector by providing driving lessons in an EV. (Add photo o