Where do you want to go? China or India? I have always found India infinitely more fascinating — for a simple reason. If you ask Sinophiles about China, they always quote statistics; Indophiles tell you stories. It’s fine to know that China has built 24,000 miles of high-speed rail track, or that its GDP is growing at an annualised rate of 8.27 per cent, but it doesn’t make me want to visit. It’s like reading an article about the film industry in the Economist: informative, yes, but it doesn’t make you want to go to the cinema.
The electric car market is trapped in a similar numerical morass. The more you read on the subject, the more you wish you had a degree in electrical engineering. I suppose all technologies are like that in the early days. There’s a house down the road that’s one of the first homes in Britain to be wired for electricity. It was owned by William Spottiswoode, president of the Royal Society, and when he decided to get the leccie put in, he needed Michael Faraday to supervise the wiring.
But, as my brother explained, you don’t need to memorise Maxwell’s equations to get by. A rule of thumb is that an X kW DC charger gives you X miles of extra range in 20 minutes charging. So plug into a 50kW charge for 20 minutes and you’ll add 50 miles to your range. Charge at home on a 7kW charger and you’ll get roughly 21 miles per hour. I have discovered several 50kW chargers within easy walking distance of good Indian restaurants, so my worries are at an end.
The other tip is not to recharge at motorway service stations. These were the first places to install charging stations so, Tesla aside, the infrastructure tends to be rubbish. For some reason, even though they deliver enough juice to run a Soviet-era smelting works, no one thought it might be useful to install an electric light to help you see what you are doing. And the charge locations in service stations are often tucked away in dark recesses of the car park, as though they’ve been chosen by Son of Sam. By contrast I used a BP Pulse charger next to a small pub in Godstone and the experience was a delight.
But all this nerdery overlooks the simple fact that electric cars are simply glorious to drive. I was a fan of the electric Boris Bus in London for two reasons: it was nicer than a diesel bus when moving, and it was much nicer than a diesel bus when stationary: serene and silent, rather than rattling the teeth of the occupants while the engine ticked over.
Electric cars deliver this ten times over, because you get to drive them yourself. And this is where the magic lies. You have a vehicle which, according to your whim, can have the driving dynamics of a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud or the driving dynamics of a go kart. You are never in the wrong gear, because there aren’t any gears. One-pedal driving, where releasing your foot from the accelerator decelerates the car rapidly while returning energy to the battery, takes time to master, but is hugely agreeable — and also makes you a nicer person. That’s because when some git brakes in front of you unnecessarily, you no longer resent being robbed of your hard-won momentum. When stuck in traffic, you no longer feel entropy doing its evil work on your engine as it ticks over. True, you are no longer poisoning the lungs of Londoners, but I can live with that.
My daughters want me to buy a Tesla. I half want to buy a Tesla too. But then I face a dilemma. Do I really want every aspect of my life to be decided by 17 chino-wearing Stanford graduates in Palo Alto? So next time, in a nod to denim and Detroit, I’ll be reviewing the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
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