Low-battery red warning light on Better Place Renault Fluence ZE, IsraelEnlarge Photo
It's been a little more than 100 days since I drove away in my first electric car, a Renault Fluence ZE, as one of the first 100 private paying customers of the Better Place company in Israel.
Here's the rundown of how I've used the car, including my likes and dislikes.
In 113 days, I've covered 3,700 electric miles, and I'm averaging 30 miles a day. I've pre-paid Better Place for 12,400 miles per year, which works out to 34 miles a day.
The car was stationary on 25 days. On 15 days, I've gone beyond the car's "low anxiety" realistic range of 75 miles per charge. I fit the pattern of a driver whose regular requirement is within the range of overnight charges, but also takes occasional long-distance trips.
Fifteen times, I've gone further than 100 miles in a day; on three of those days, I went more than 150 miles.
To cover the longer distances, I was able to switch batteries during a 5-minute stop at a Better Place switching station. I've now switched 23 times, though only 14 of those times were absolutely necessary. (I've demonstrated the process to interested passengers several times, which accounts for the rest.)
Those 14 required switches happened over 10 days. One was necessary because I came home with a low battery and failed to plug it in properly: I could blame my 5-year-old, who plugged me in that day, but that would be unfair! Luckily, I have a switch station just 8 miles away from my home.
The most I've switched in a single day is twice, on four days. Future battery switch stations to be built (we now have only 14 out of 38 planned) will mean three of those trips would become possible with only a single switch.
Daily driving distance distribution for Better Place Renault Fluence ZE, IsraelEnlarge Photo
On two occasions I've had to take a different route than I might otherwise have traveled, because of a non-functioning switching station.
The car's in-dash system alerted me to the problem, and after calling to confirm the outage, I decided to divert.
I've been called three times by Better Place when my battery level dropped below 12 percent, to check if I was going to be OK. Twice I was a few miles from home, and the other time I had just pulled in to switch the battery.
There is no extra cost to me for unlimited switching: I don't pay any more whether I charge at home or in a public parking space, or by switching batteries.
All of htis works out to roughly 260 miles between battery switches; I used to fill up my gasoline car more often than that!
Stopping, pumping, and paying for gasoline took longer than the switching process does, so I've saved a little time overall.