When last we met I was cliffhangering like a beauty, having decided my Covid-infested body needed a car but having also ruled out an electric as too expensive and too impractical. People, I was on the brink of going back to dirty-bad petrol.

I literally lay awake fretting about it, thoroughly miserable about upping my carbon emissions in what are almost certainly the early days of climate breakdown. People around me had a good go at justifying it for me: That everyone else on this stinking planet is polluting it with a clear conscience, that disability trumps the apocalypse, that I should just stop talking about it because they are very definitely sick of hearing me talk about it. With their support I finally committed to it. I shopped, I shortlisted, I rebranded petrol cars as dinosaur-powered mobility aids, and then – I couldn’t go through with it. When my EnviroChum came to take me to a couple of test drives he instead found me shopping for electric cars massively out of my price range, and hiring one for the purposes of hard science.

The grand experiment
I requisitioned a Renault Zoe for a few days, determined to figure how it could fit into my life with no home charger, a small amount of disability and a smaller amount of cash money. I went for a 2019 model; old enough to be readily available second hand but new enough to still have some decent life in its battery. I rented a lab coat and three pens for its pocket, bought a clipboard outright and began the grand experiment. The key tests were how well the battery lasted with my commute and the business of social work, how quickly it drained when parked overnight, how big a pain in the arse public charge points are, and how often I’d have to use the buggers.

I didn’t choose the battery life…
The two-year-old battery held up pretty well with my drive to and from work. It’s about a nine-mile round trip, during which the predicted range barely moved. That’s partly thanks to regenerative braking, which recovers energy when the car slows and uses it to charge the battery. There’s so much stop-start action on my traffic light-plagued journey that I just about broke even. The same happened when I did a couple of home visits in the neighbourhood but there was some battery drain when I went further afield on a 70mph spree. But battery drain is really battery use; we don’t talk about petrol drain when we drive our filth-spewing shit machines. By the end of two full days I’d done 46 miles and taken the battery down to 67%. If I recover my body enough to go back to full-time social work I’d be doing that twice a week, which puts me on track for needing a full charge every eight or nine days – and more frequently as the battery ages.

On the two nights I left the car unplugged the battery’s range predictor lost a couple of miles by morning but its charge percentage didn’t drop a point. That suggests I can go a week without driving it and not worry about it waking up dead. And there’s an app that monitors the battery’s charge remotely so I can keep an eye on it from the bed where I live. So: Battery life isn’t a worry.

Public charging: Wot a nightmare
Looking into charging the thing I dipped a toe into the electric car lifestyle, a grimy underworld in which strangers spend their nights going from one car park to another in search of a bit of action. It’s like dogging without the sex. Happily, I could combine this with one of my favourite pastimes: Dogging.

Photo by Uygar Kilic on Unsplash

In this subculture there are two types of car chargers: Destination chargers and whatever the other kind is called. I’m still quite new to the subculture. Destination chargers are for when you get where you’re going, to top you up while you’re doing what you’re doing there (dogging). There are a couple at my office which are strictly reserved for staff cars, but given they’ve taken the staff cars off the road and ignored my begging to bring them back they and their chargers can suck it. I could, in theory, charge my car at the office once a week and never give it any more thought.

Using the Zap Map, Plug Share and Charge Place Scotland apps I found two destination chargers near the office which don’t exist any more, and three at the outer limits of my patch that were broken. But I also found a bunch that worked fine, including one at the shopping centre where I get lunch, and another at the gym I used to go to before my body began decomposing. They’ll keep me topped up.

The other kind of charger is less convenient, where you head to a charging hub with nothing to do but wait for the car to charge. And have intercourse with strangers. There are a couple of hubs near Zero Towers and a couple of regular car parks that would be destination chargers if I ever went to gyms or museums. I can use them as hubs, paying about a tenner for the eight-hour stay I’d need to fully charge the battery.

I’ve seen people calling public charging a nightmare. But people talk about parking as a nightmare. They talk about bad customer service as a nightmare. Cleaning out the office fridge, waiting in for a parcel that doesn’t come, losing their streak on Wordle; all waking nightmares for their traumatised victims. Personally, somehow, I’ve managed to summon the strength of character to come through these and other nightmares relatively unscathed. I feel equal to the task of charging a battery. I’m aware it’ll be more of a nuisance the longer I do it but after ditching my car I was happy being rained on to and from the train station because I’d reduced my emissions. I think I’ll be happy wasting an hour or two reading in my car while it charges, or leaving and collecting it for an all-day or overnight charge, because it will have driven me to the moral high ground.

The only other option is going back to petrol, spluttering out carbon dioxide like a genocidal maniac. And although it’s true that me and my emissions won’t make the difference between climate apocalypse and survival, it’s also true that all of us and all of our emissions will make the difference. And I am one of all of us. I need to walk the walk. Or, more accurately, limp the limp.

I’m doing it! Nuts to the money! Nuts to getting hosed on interest! I’m getting an electric car!

Photo credit (header image): The Zero