Electric cars — and the first mass-market models are due on our roads in February 2011 — could be the first big step towards a clean transport revolution, or a conscience salver for the green minded rich who keep the Audi six series for longer trips, as well as lots of lesser steps in between.
We know that charging electric vehicles (EVs) will soon become easier, at least in London and some other major cities. But until now nobody has answered the really important question — what is it like to have an electric car as part of your everyday driving life?
An interview that Jorn Madslien Business reporter, BBC News, Oxford did with Oxford-based businessman David Beesley provides one of the very first accounts from a real, and not predisposed to supporting, EV driver.
Beesley, who runs a business supplies company, has just handed back the prototype electric Mini to BMW after a six-month trial.
He paid around £300 a month to drive the car, as part of his everyday life.
He understands it cost him about £3 to fully charge the car at home, although he never seemed to give it one because the battery was never completely empty.
He took delivery of the Mini-E in December 2009, and the first part of his driving was during one of the most severe British winters for years.
This was the only time when the car seriously underperformed, with the battery capacity dropping to a range of just 40 miles, compared to almost 100 miles during summer. And that was all.
There were no other problems with the car.
Beesley is described as a “petrolhead” by the writer. Pretty accurate – his other cars include three large Lexus saloons, a Chrysler Voyager, a Smart car and an advanced the Winnebago mobile home.
He told the writer: “Clearly, if you do 90 miles per day then this is probably not the car for you, but how often do you drive more than 90 miles in one stretch? I cannot fault the thing, even in its present form.”
He said he never used to consider how far his journey would be. “I come home, I get out of the car and I plug it straight in. On most journeys, there was no need to top up the batteries to get home.
“He continued: “And if I go to see a client in High Wycombe or my auntie in Southampton, it is not a problem if I want to plug into their socket while I’m there. ”
BMW estimate it takes three hours to charge the battery with a 30-amp fast-charger, or eight hours when using an ordinary 13-amp socket.