Sunday, 2 April 2017

Teaching in an electric car

This post is about the experience of an ADI who has recently bought an electric car to teach in. It makes a very interesting read and certainly makes you think about choosing an alternative to petrol or diesel. I have to give Rob Cooling full credit for this post.


For anyone interested this is a brief update on my experiences teaching in an electric car (Nissan Leaf). It's been a great success and I'm looking forward to the day when I can sell my manual and spend my entire working week in the automatic (my deadline for this is October).


It's so much easier, it makes me wonder why we make driving any harder than it needs to be - the idea that 'proper' driving is only a manual seems increasingly silly to me. Driving is about what happens outside the windscreen - the ability to understand the complex movement of traffic at varying and increasingly confusing scenarios. The more of the drivers 'processing power' that can be devoted to that the better. I've been stunned by the difference it makes to pupils when they switch to the automatic, the improvement on their overall driving is sometimes quite dramatic (they have so much better awareness, planning and anticipation). The less there is to think about inside the car the better, it's much more important to have that attention on the outside world.


Expectedly some of my current pupils who really should have been in an automatic from the start switched to the electric with very positive results. Rather unexpectedly a few of my other manual pupils have opted to switch to the automatic following a trial lesson (1 x Aspergers, 1 x autism, 1 x dyspraxia) and a couple of others are contemplating doing the same - automatics are so widely available nowadays that the restriction to an automatic licence isn't much of an issue. My wife has a manual licence, but chooses to only drive automatic. I will never return to driving manual myself. In my desperation to clear all my manual pupils I'm working overtime to get them all through the test so I can properly fill my diary with only automatic pupils.


Interestingly I have noticed a slight pattern regarding pupils who really wanted to learn in the automatic (electric) but were told by the person paying the money (parent/partner) they want them to learn manual, I think we have a generational thing going on at the moment which should change over the next decade. I think there's a lot more pupils out there that would choose automatic if it wasn't for someone else making the choice for them (for good reasons, there are more manual cars out there).
Demand for automatic (and the electric car) has been staggering. I've barely sorted out the promotion for it and without exaggerating I'm getting 2-6 requests a day, I can't take any of the work on as I'm fully booked and have pupils queueing on the waiting list. I'm only taking on pupils onto my waiting list who have learning difficulties / special needs as this is where my passion lies.


The electric car is smooth, quiet and comfortable. It's fantastic and the range has so far presented no issues (nor do I believe it ever will do for me due to the way my work pattern is setup). I do 3 x 2 hour lessons in a day and never seem to exceed 100 miles, plus I have a large gap between my 2nd and 3rd lesson allowing 3 hours to fully recharge. In a couple of years I'll upgrade to the 2018 Leaf which is supposed to be capable of 200+ miles on a single charge. My current Leaf will do 95 miles on a single charge (although I wouldn't feel comfortable allowing it to get lower than 15 miles without recharging). My range anxiety fears have ebbed away.


I've been tracking the costs and it seems to be about £2 per 100 miles, which for me equates to about 70p per 2 hour lesson. I'm not using a cheap energy supplier either, this is based on using Ecotricity who I think are brilliant (not cheap). It's worth pointing out they gave me a £40 discount off my yearly bill because I own an electric car and I get free access (52 charges per year) to their rapid charge network.


Another unexpected bonus in the Leaf is that I no longer have pupils struggling to release the parking brake, as it's foot operated it seems to be easier - I was wary at first but now quite happy.
Downsides? I've temporarily put Pass Plus on hold as it's a 230 mile trek which would be tight (not impossible) in the electric car. I'll need to sit down and do some planning, I think I can make it work with a few tweaks. The only other nuisance is the Leaf squeals when braking while reversing, from my research this seems to be a common problem. Having said that I think it's improving, it's just annoying having a beautifully quiet electric car when then squeals when you brake during reversing! If it doesn't stop I'm going to take it to Nissan and see if anything can be done.


I never hide the fact the I don't like driving (which is pretty weird given my job). I emphasise I hugely enjoy TEACHING not driving. But suddenly I want to drive, the fascination with the technology involved in electric cars and the potential environmental benefits mean a lot to me. For the first time I'm actually really enjoying driving.