According to government statistics, we are estimated to be a population of 104,200 souls on our tiny nine-by-five island, as at the end of 2016. A total of 104,200 people living on a gorgeous 45 miles square drop in the ocean. However, did you know that we have in excess of 121,551 vehicles sharing the island with us? More than one car for every single person – woman, man or child!
This data was released through a Freedom of Information request to the government in June 2015, and the figures are for the period ended December 2014. Given that the numbers of cars rose 20,000 from 2005 to 2014 – we are likely to be closer to the 130,000 vehicles mark by the end of this year. (You can see the statistics here – https://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1462)
When we talk of air quality and pollution you might think only of large cities such as London. London has a congestion charge for parts of the city (£11.50 per day) and this week has just added an emissions sub-charge whereby polluting cars are charged an additional £10 per day. You probably don’t think of air quality being an issue in Jersey, but it is – and it is monitored daily by the environment department at two places – Halkett Place and Howard Davis Park. (You can read more here – https://www.gov.je/Environment/ProtectingEnvironment/Air/Pages/IndoorAir.aspx .
The problems relate to the volume of traffic, and especially diesels cars and commercial vehicles which are pre 2009 (so don’t have particle filters fitted). Diesels are potentially more dangerous as they have very small particles which are covered with partially burnt hydro carbons – and exposure over many years could lead to major health problems and are linked to cancers. Particulate matter, Hydrocarbons and Nitrogen Oxides are all pollutants which come from our vehicles use, combining to create some challenging health issues – from respiratory to cardiovascular – when there are high concentrations.
But more than just immediate air pollution, carbon emissions from our car use add to the greenhouse gasses which are currently wrapped thickly around the earth like a cosy winter blanket, and its getting us all hot and bothered. Climate change is real and it’s happening now.
So what can we do?
Many islanders do walk, cycle or use the bus – but the majority use their cars for the rush to school and work, or for business. But there is another way! Instead of polluting petrol and diesel cars, electric cars are finally coming in to their own – and last weekend the lovely people at Jersey Electricity let me loose with a Renault Zoe for a weekend trial.
With its maximum island speed restriction of 40 miles per hour, and a limited land mass of 45 square miles, Jersey is the perfect environment for electric cars. Jersey Electricity are themselves leading the way in electric vehicle use – and their stall includes Peugeot Ion, Nissan Leaf, Nissan eNV200 and Renault Kangoo as well as the Renault Zoe I was using. This car was the winner of the What Car? Car of the year 2017 competition for best electric car.
The Renault Zoe is a Battery EV, which means that everything runs on electricity. Electricity runs the controller which in turn powers the electric motor that replaces a petrol or diesel engine, and is why the batteries must be powerful and long lasting. In the Zoe the battery is housed in the floor of the car – which strengthens the centre of gravity and doesn’t use up vital boot space! Regenerative braking is also used, a technique which enables ‘top-up’ of the battery as you drive by capturing the kinetic energy – up to 20 % in some instances.
There are also hybrid EVs, Plug-in hybrid EVs and extended range EVs on the market.
The first thing that blew me away was just how quiet an electric car is. When I was being shown how to start the car, I didn’t even realize we were fired up and ready to roll. The keys were sitting on the seat beside me, I pressed the starter button and heard a short electronic sound from the dashboard – and hey! Presto all set to go. And there was not a sound, no running engine, nothing!. I occasionally drive an automatic Matiz, so was used to having no gears to change, but I don’t think it would take very long to get used to anyway
When I picked the Zoe up from Jersey Electricity it had a full charge of 75 miles. I spent the weekend on an island road trip. From St Saviour to St Ouen, Gorey to Grosnez, off I went on a mini-adventure. The weather jumped from cold, wet and windy through to warm and sunny – a perfect microclimate to test the car in lots of different conditions!
I was super impressed! Easy to handle in the wet, fast off the mark and simple to manouver it was truly a delight to drive.
The only thing I would say is to be especially wary of pedestrians – they do have a tendency to step off pavements thinking they can’t hear a car, but not actually looking to see for sure. The Zoe makes a whirring sound as you accelerate (between 1 and 20mph) to let people around know you are there – but it is quiet and drops away altogether at higher speeds (higher than we should be doing in Jersey).
I used the car from Friday to Monday afternoon but didn’t need to charge it at all. The Zoe had 75 miles on its original charge, and 22 miles left in the battery when I returned it. The car tracking device calculated that I travelled 72.8 miles over the course of the 3 days – meaning I used 53 miles of purchased electricity and the remaining 19.8 miles of energy was made up from a combination of sensible driving (me???) and energy regeneration from slowing down or applying the brakes.
When you do need to charge your electric vehicle there are two options available. At home you can plug into a standard 13 amp 3 pin socket, however the preferred method should be to have a dedicated, wall-mounted fast charger installed. Jersey Electricity recommends Economy 7 if you are charging at home, as this offers reduced electricity costs between midnight and 7am – and it’s an easy step to plug the car in and set the timer to start at midnight. Depending on the size of the battery in the electric Vehicle, the batteries can take between 4 to 8 hours for a full charge, but reach approximately 80% after 3 hours and then trickle charge to completion. But what does that mean in terms of actual cost of electricity for a full charge? The short answer is that depends on the specific battery and the tariff involved, but a 22kw battery charged up using Economy 7 will cost about £1.70, or just over 2p per mile. Even if you charge your car, but then don’t use it for days, the charge will still keep and be fully ready to go when you are.
The second option for charging an electric car is by hooking up to one of the public charge points. These are currently available at Durrell, JEC Powerhouse and the car parks at Minden Place, Patriotic Street, Sand Street, Pier Road and Green Street, a total of 16 plug-in points on the Evolve network. For ten pounds per month you can become a member of the Evolve plan which allows you to plug in to any of the public charge points. Ten pounds to fuel your car for a month! You still have to pay for car parking – but this way you get to park and charge at the same time. The added bonus is that electric vehicles qualify for half price parking, because they are zero emissions. More details on that here. The only potential issue I can see is the electric charge points becoming congested as the number of electric cars increases. There are also Evolve Home and Evolve Home Plus options on the JEC website.
Energy efficient, minimal maintenance costs, zero emissions and a dream to drive! I seriously don’t understand why we don’t have many, many more electric vehicles on our roads in Jersey. At the end of 2014 there were 35 electric cars registered in Jersey. Only 35 out of 121,551 vehicles! Although I expect the number to have significantly increased to date, I think we’d probably still struggle to reach 1% of total cars in the island being electric.
I do think the tide is turning – and whilst the cost of the electric car is more expensive than the traditional car at outset, you can recover the additional costs in savings over a 4 year period (depending on the amount of miles you do per annum) – as well as reducing your carbon footprint and quietly doing your bit to help Mother Nature and our global community. Alternatively, most electric car retailers offer battery rental choices – where you buy the car at a lower price but rather than owning the battery outright you rent it at a monthly charge. New car prices range from £14-20k with battery hire, and about £5k greater with its own battery.
There is even a healthy second-hand market for electric vehicles in the island. These are mainly imported from the mainland – where they normally have low mileage usage, and will have benefitted from the plug-in grant offered by the UK government (and which can take up to £4,500 off the cost of an electric car!). Electric cars imported into the island suffer 5% GST, but are not subject to Vehicle Emissions Duty. If you are interested in a new or second had electric Renaults then please speak to Steve Rowland or Phil Valois at Bagot Road Garage for more info. Electric vehicles are also available through Freelance, Motor-Mall, Jacksons and Jersey Hyundai.
I also spoke to Jersey Post who are in the process of transitioning their diesel vans over into electric when the existing vans need to be replaced. They currently have 30 Nissan eNV200 electric vans out of a fleet of 110 vehicles, with another 15-20 planned for next year. These vans drive, on average, between 9,000 to 11,00 miles a year – at a cost 1.8p per mile against the diesel cost of 14p per mile! I am told they are very popular with the drivers and that Jersey Post, as well as saving on the cost of running the vans, also have savings on parts, time and maintenance.
Still think that electric cars aren’t up to the job? Then what about the taxi company who uses electric cars and have clocked up 100,000 miles? Read more – https://www.zap-map.com/electric-taxi-company-clocks-100000-miles-in-nissan-leaf/
For me, the benefits are amazing: low environmental impact, very low running costs, so very quiet, emission free and low maintenance. I found driving the Renault Zoe to be a relaxing, pleasurable and reliable drive and I was reluctant to give it back. What more could you want from your car?
With thanks to Bob Huelin and Ian Wilson from Jersey Electricity, Darren Moon from Jersey Post and Alan Irving from the Department of the Environement for answering my unending questions and sharing your enthusiasm so freely.