There are many reasons to make the switch to an electric car – the environment, the money saving and the simple fact they’re often nicer to drive, are three off the bat.
But on the flip side, there are also many reasons not to buy one too. When you’re making the decision over what car to buy next, chances are something electric will be very high up the list and you’ll not only be crunching the numbers, you’ll be assessing the pros and cons of charging, ranges and new-fangled technology.
I’ve just picked up my latest long term test car, the Audi Q4 e-tron, after a string of easy-to-fill-up-when-you-want combustion-engined cars and I’ve had to get my head around living life in this electric future.
Unfortunately, I haven’t got access to a home charging point so am currently making do with plugging the Audi into a normal socket in the garage, like a pressure washer. Charging this way is the slowest way to do it – a recent top-up for a half-full battery took 17 hours.
Yes, that may sound like a lifetime, but I plugged it in when I got home one Friday evening and didn’t do much on the Saturday, so by the time I got to it again, the charging was done. Of course, this isn’t the best way to do it, but until I get a proper charging point installed at home it will have to do.
Not all electric cars come with a three-pin plug charging cable that allows you to do this and I’d suggest if you’re after an electric car you try and get one thrown in.
You’ll probably eventually get set up at home to charge properly, but if you’re visiting relatives or a hotel without a charging point, it’s a guaranteed way of ensuring you can add some miles if you need to.
If you haven’t got a weekend to spare to charge your car then you can always fast charge at a public point. I’ve used the Genie Point 50kw charger at my local supermarket and it’s a far quicker way of adding some miles to the range. You don’t need an app to start it and can do it quickly on the firm’s mobile website.
When it comes to range, I’ve been getting mixed results from the Audi. After a full charge, it currently gives me about 270 miles. This Launch Edition is supposed to do 305 miles, but I’m yet to see that on the dash after a top-up.
That said, 270 miles is very usable and often means you don’t need to factor in a recharge on your trip. That’s handy because the public charging infrastructure across the UK is nothing short of woeful. In my experience, more don’t work than do, which can make long trips very stressful.
I’m of the opinion that electric car ranges need to be 250 miles-plus to be usable. I don’t buy the arguments from manufacturers of cars with small ranges that ‘most customers just don’t need it’. That’s just spin from a firm that has made a car with a range that’s too small.
So what’s the Audi like? Well, first impressions are very good. I’ve been seriously considering buying an EV myself and even put a deposit down on a Tesla Model 3 earlier this year until they messed me about so badly I cancelled it. I’m glad they did, because I actually think this e-tron is better.
While a Model 3 might have some cool cache, the Audi is backed up by a ‘proper’ dealer network and is built by a manufacturer with decades of experience.
Most people won’t even know the e-tron is electric as it looks pretty much like a regular SUV from the firm. Inside there’s plenty of practical and usable space and while the ride might be a little hard, I love the high-up driving position and comfy seats.
The specification on this early Launch Edition is a little strange. It might be something to do with the lack of microchips out there when they built it, but it’s lacking many things that you’d expect on an Audi costing £55k. There are no electric seats, there’s no parking camera or front parking sensors and the doors have the buttons for keyless entry, but not the tech.
It also feels a little flimsy in places. I jumped out of a Q5 into the Q4 and immediately noticed the doors feel very different – the electric car doors are far lighter and don’t shut with the same satisfying thud.
The multimedia system, though, is excellent and with wireless Apple CarPlay (which should be in every car), a cinch to use. The heating does tend to get on my nerves – whatever temperature I set it to it appears to blow hair dryer-hot air at me.
So far, life with an EV has been, on the whole, very pleasant. I find the way it drives – swift when you want it to be, but silent for the majority – a relaxing way to get places and I’m a big fan of its chunky looks. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it fits into life over the coming months and whether I’ll ever want to go back to life filling up at the pumps again.
Model: Audi Q4 e-tron Launch Edition
Price as tested: £51,165
Engine: Electric motor
0-60mph: 8.3 seconds
Top speed: 99mph
Range: 305 miles
Emissions: 0g/km CO2