Electric Cars — The 7 steps of an Early Adopter

Electric cars have been making the headlines with increasing regularity in recent months. The Scottish Government wants to see our roads free of petrol and diesel cars by 2032, eight years ahead of the UK Government target. Electric vehicles, sometimes referred to as EVs, are set to be the norm but how do you or I break new ground and make the shift to be an early adopter?

Pace of Travel

Be prepared to change the pace of travel from point of departure to final destination. This was the first point I needed to address. I live in Edinburgh with an abundance of low carbon Lothian buses on offer. Sometimes my car sits in the garage for two weeks before its engine is turned on. However, I travel to my regional office at Findhorn every three weeks — 162 miles each way. Current EVs are not able to cover such long distances so I needed to identify the charge points where I could make a leisurely stop, enjoy the changing landscape of the Highlands and let go of the fossil fuel speed mentality.

The Seller as Resource

Find a seller who lives and breathes EV vehicles; someone who drives an EV regularly and has gone through the process him/herself. I found Stuart at my local BMW dealer. He was my first resource and made an intricate transition seem like an educational adventure. Once I had a general overview of the chain of documents I needed to complete, my next step was spending 48 hours test driving to experience the rules of the game. I found the car lighter, silent and its acceleration capability was a real surprise. That was enough for me to say ‘Yes, this is the way to go!’

The Benefits of the Carrots

As an early adopter I was able to harvest the benefits of the carrots offered to encourage us to make this change. In my case the harvest was bountiful. With £4,500 from OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles) and £1,900 from BMWUK I was able to trade in my old car and cut my monthly lease to a very reasonable monthly instalment — so easy to say yes to! Over and above I received £500 from OLEV and another £499 from Energy Saving Trust as contribution towards the installation of my homecharge unit.

Engage your Neighbours from the very Start!

If it is educational for you…it may also be educational for the proximate whole — I mean your neighbours. I decided to install a homecharge unit in my flat’s garage by my parking lot. I started by sharing my intention and asking: is anyone planning to buy an EV and installing a charge unit in the near future? Silence! As I advanced the proposition and shared the engineer plans I received messages of support and, in particular, my neighbour in Flat 1 requested further plans and pictures which supported my preparation for requesting key authorisation from the landlord.

Don’t let the paperwork put you off

I have worked for the United Nations for 24 years so I’ve developed a special delight in preparing chains of documentation to advance projects internationally. Here’s my list of paperwork and supporting evidence I had to put together to help you:

· Vehicle Order issued by my BMW Retailer

· Annex D: Electric Vehicles Homecharge Scheme Installation Form from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (nicknamed OLEV)

· MPAN number (Meter Point Administration Number) found on the electricity bill issued by my Good Energy supplier

· Installation quote by approved Energy Saving Trust installer Chargemaster

· Energy Saving Trust Domestic Application form

· Installer Engineer Survey

· Copy of the Electrical Certificate to prove that the installation has taken place

· Energy Saving Trust Claim Form

If that’s not enough…add to this all BMW paper for the financing of my EV!

Chargepoint Installation Feasibility — OK to Proceed

Find a helpful person to guide you through the installation process. I found Jamie on the other end of the phone at Chargemaster, one of the several Energy Saving Trust approved installers. Jamie guided me through the steps to determine if my parking setting would meet the technical requirements needed to install a homecharge unit. High resolution photos of the fuse board, main incoming electricity supply and preferred location of the charger in my allocated parking space were needed for the first engineer survey.

I wanted to charge my electric car at home, as my home runs on renewable energy from Good Energy and this would shrink my carbon footprint dramatically. However the engineer was categoric — living on the second floor I would need hundreds of metres of cable to connect my home unit to my flat’s energy supply. So the solution was to get the authorisation from the Factor and neighbours to install my own meter within the collective electric cupboard.

From Range Anxiety to Range Exhilaration

From August to November I went through a self-initiated steep learning curve enjoying each step of the EV emerging culture, supported by the goodwill of all I met and talked to. My new BMW i3 is being charged in my garage as I prepare for my first crossing of the Cairngorms. ‘Range anxiety’ is a familiar feeling to those who have been the early adopters of electric cars but I read that today there are already over 4,800 charging locations in the UK, offering nearly 7,500 individual charging points and that these numbers are growing at an ever-increasing rate. With the increase in electric vehicles on the road, we are likely to see this number continue to rise. As for my anxiety, I read Rumi: On a day, when the wind is perfect… the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day as I cross the Highlands in zero-carbon exhilaration.