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Pretty much everyone we met on our journey asked skeptically, “And how’s that going?” To be honest, it went really well. That beings said, it has its challenges. So here it is: The Good, The Bad and The Scary!
Price: I’d say the best thing about the electric car was the price. Since neither of us are over 25 (eek, yes we are young…), our only option for renting a conventional car was to take a bus to the nearest city and pay a £150 surcharge for being a young driver. Because we were booking a bit late in the game, plus the rental cost and the cost for fuel, we were looking at — at least — a £350-400 to rent a car for 72 hours.
Note: Casey just looked up the same deal for this weekend and got £124, but that still doesn’t account for fuel. Not sure what was going on last week, but I want to be accurate!
The electric car from Ecar Club, on the other hand, charged us £50 to become members (you must become a member) and then £35/24 hours. That includes insurance and electricity, so you pay the full cost up front with no hidden fees. The total, for a Saturday at noon to Tuesday at 3 p.m. rental ended up being £164. And we could pick it up in town, saving us at least another £25 in bus tickets.
And the cool thing about Ecar Club is that now Casey and I can rent a car whenever we want by logging in online, booking a slot, and showing up! It’s only £4.50/hour (or £35/24 hours), so it’s much less expensive for day/weekend trips than purchasing bus or train tickets.
Amazing Customer Service: I’ll mention further down that the sign-up was complicated, and it was, but I have to give the Ecar Club team an A+ for customer service. We called them about 15 times (not exaggerating) and they were gracious, helpful and patient the entire time. Such a rarity these days!
Feeling Futuristic: The Renault Zoe that we rented was sparkly, new, and super futuristic-feeling! I mean, come on — you are CHARGING a car. It’s all around cool, even if it’s still pretty impractical…
Limited Charging Locations: You have to be really careful about planning out your trip in Scotland, because there aren’t a ton of “zap” locations, particularly in the Highlands. You’ll have to go online to the “Zap-Map” and make sure you have enough range to hit all your destinations. (That took over 2 hours of meticulous planning on my part). Depending on where you want to go, you might not be able to take an Ecar at all.
Time to Charge: When you are on a super limited time frame, like we were, the 45 minutes to an hour it took to charge (at rapid zap locations — there are slower locations as well, so make sure you pick the speediest ones!) was annoying when the charging location wasn’t close to attractions. Granted, we planned a lot of charging around places we wanted to stop anyways, but that wasn’t always possible.
Complicated Sign-Up: Because we were planning everything last minute, it made the whole signing-up process a bit stressful. Ecar Club advertises that you can be driving a car “the next day,” but that’s false. We signed up on a Wednesday, made a special call to ask for an expedited membership, and still didn’t get the card we needed until Saturday morning. Now, they would have let us take the car if we had a contactless card and called them up, but just sign up a week or two in advance and avoid all that confusion!
Limited Range/Fast Power Consumption: The Zoe has a range of, supposedly, 100 miles. But that’s if you drove 35, downhill, the entire trip. I’d say you should never plan to go more than 70 miles on one charge if you are going to attempt highway speeds at any point during the drive. Why scary? Despite my best calculations, we almost ran out of charge at one point! Yep. We had a 7 mile buffer for a period of time and there was nowhere else to charge on our route.
Slow and Steady: Casey really saved the day by driving no faster than 45 mph for miles, and we turned off the heat/radio and tried to coast into town. If you have somewhere you need to be, electric cars are not a great option for long road trips! The car only got up to 60 on Eco-mode (the mode you must be in to get anywhere near 70 miles from a charge) and we hardly drove faster than 45 the entire journey.
E-Car club is totally worth it for travel in populated places with lots of charging locations when you don’t have a strict timeline. It’s also totally worth it if you are young and cheap!
I think electric cars are a great idea, but until there are more places to charge and the cars have better range, they require a lot of sacrifices (time, speed, sanity).
Needing to worry about charge all the time was a little stressful, and not being able to go the speed limit was irritating (to both us and the others on the road). That being said, it’s a cool system! Casey and I took a car out yesterday again by just logging in, picking a time slot, and driving away. We plan to take a road trip to Aberdeen in the near future and use Ecar Club.
So should you sign up? If you are over 25 and live near a different car rental location, I’d probably say no. If you are under 25 and live near an Ecar Club hub and further away from other car rental locations, I’d recommend you give it a try!