EV Tales #1: Why I Chose Electric

My diesel is dead to me

Ford Focus

Here’s the problem: I have a 1300-mile, 10-day round trip to make with my wife Lucy, in a twelve-year old Ford diesel that’s become increasingly unpredictable, unreliable and very dangerous. Dangerous as in 'suddenly-losing-all-power-dangerous', usually on motorways, always at 69.5 mph, always with a quarter tank and often when I'm thinking about food. A very curious constellation of factors I know.

Last time (of three similar times) we were halfway up the M3 heading to a family event in Manchester. Smug at setting off early, we arrived four hours late after breakdown, recovery and last minute car hire (I walked into Enterprise 29 seconds before its midday close).

Imagine it: suddenly the engine stops. No power, no acceleration, no sound (apart from loud, intense swearing), nothing. The car keeps going but has ceased any form of internal combustion. Thankfully I was 100 yards from a junction. I used the car’s momentum and guided us to a smooth yet embarrassing stop on the verge.

We all stare at the unfortunate broken-downs don’t we? Well next time would you not do that? Keep your eyes on the road and look straight ahead please. We can’t help breaking down now and again you know. Unless we’ve put in the wrong fuel. Then it’s OK to look and maybe frown a little too. We’ll learn our lesson that way.

Weeks later, after a specialist diagnosis (camshaft sensor) I am still fully and wholeheartedly unable to trust my dirty old car with facilitating any form of medium to long distance travel. Ever again. My diesel is dead to me.

The EV Option

So, this 1300 miles. It comprises a carefully choreographed and meticulously planned route between three elderly relatives in the north of England plus a welcome post-COVID return, with our daughter, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. These four people have a combined age of 294. My daughter is mid 20s. Go figure. Here's the route:

  • Winchester
  • London
  • North East
  • West Cumbria
  • Edinburgh
  • North East
  • London
  • Winchester

And we've no car.

I’ve left alternative travel too late. Even with a relationship-building / -saving / -wrecking ‘Two Together’ railcard we’re looking at £316 just for the first leg to the North East. I’ve only bothered looking at this part of the grand tour because another national rail strike has neatly aligned itself with our plans.

What about hiring a car? £717.16 for the required 10 days. An odd figure I know, but I’m confident that a clever AI seeking meaning in its otherwise purposeless life has gained some satisfaction generating that price. Oh, and 19 pence per mile for fuel (£247). And that pesky collision damage waiver they offer at checkout.


A coach? Cheaper, yes, but we can opt to leave the house at 4:30am for a 9 hour journey or 11:20 at night for one that is a whole 5 minutes quicker. All this for just the first stage of the journey. Then more coaches (no trains, see above) to West Cumbria and on to Edinburgh. And back. I calculate (in the style of a clever yet purposeless AI) that coaching it will take up exactly 38.4 hours of our 10 days away.

Just then, with perfect narrative timing, Lucy has an idea. It emerges from her subconscious like an X-Wing from a swamp. Electric Vehicle Subscription. I phone my very early adopter brother with the idea and he says, ‘You should do it. Make it an adventure. You should definitely do it. Now is when you should do it’ (he has). So we decide to also do it. Right now.

Onto an EV

For the same cost as a 10-day conventional car hire (without petrol or CDW), Onto will give me a month’s electric vehicle ‘subscription’. You get the car, insurance, tax, breakdown and up to 750 miles allowance. (See above and god bless their bolt on mileage packages). This feels right. I love adventure. I love technology. I love learning. I love optimising a solution for the least money. I want to experience new ways of doing things, new solutions, new possibilities. And I want to find out if range anxiety is actually a thing.

After a bit of faffing and online chat with the Onto helpdesk, I upload a scan of my licence, add card details then as easily as calling a breakdown recovery truck from a lay-by on the M3, I’ve arranged for a Corsa-E Elite Premium to be delivered on the day our journey begins. And after several whole minutes of elation the questions start pouring in. Here are a selection:

  • How do I start it?
  • How do I charge it?
  • What happens if it runs out of charge? (I think I know this one - see earlier re my old diesel)
  • Can I charge it from my house (or, preferably from the houses of my elderly relatives)?
  • Are there different plugs/adaptors/sockets?
  • Does it have all the different leads?
  • Will they be long enough?
  • What if there are no charging stations?
  • How do I find a charging station?
  • How do I make the charger work?
  • Can I use any charging point?
  • How long does it take to charge?
  • Are there different speeds of charging?
  • What if there’s a queue?
  • What’s the protocol or etiquette at a charge point?
  • Will it handle my 1300 mile trip?

You’ll notice that my early stages of curiosity are focused almost exclusively on the charging aspect of an electric vehicle. I've become a one-man FAQ section.

Then it’s a broader suite of concerns:

  • How do I drive it?
  • How fast does it go?
  • How fast should it go?
  • Do the lights or radio or USB socket or aircon drain the battery much faster?

I’m very quickly back to charging.

And, significantly,

  • What colour will it be?

Find out the answers to some of these help desk queries and meet George in EV Tales #2: My Very First EV