Fourth, Fifth and Sixth EV Drive through car clubs

I have a rather strange “tradition” of hiring cars and doing a road trip or similar. Years and years ago I hired a Peugeot for a couple of days and did most of what the youngsters call the “NC500” in a day.

Then a few years ago I hired a big Volvo Automatic and took the family to Oban.

As my personal cars have got better and I’ve had the motorbike I’ve hired less cars. This may also be due to a more or less 3 year stint working in Reading and Berkshire where I had a hire car for work every day and this was an excellent opportunity to drive a few different cars. During that time I started driving automatic cars as this was a lot easier in my VW Golf with my dodgy left knee.

Latterly I’ve been interested in driving Electric Vehicles, but as an early adoption item these are rather few and far between in hire fleets. Enterprise had a good number of Tesla Model S for a few years but it would appear that the pandemic has seen these reduce.

In the last few months I’ve discovered a couple of Car Clubs which are there to discourage personal car ownership and provide a convenient way of hiring a vehicle for a short time. It so happens that Enterprise Car Club operate locally, and off the back of a planned visit to Dundee I also discovered Co Wheels. Now I’ll admit that I’m probably farther down the route of considering an EV as my main mode of transport rather than giving up personal transportation (yes – I’m really bad with two personal vehicles) so I’m a little embarassed that I didn’t give up my VW Golf and BMW GS Adventure before hiring those cars but hopefully get a few points for starting the journey (if you forgive the pun).

So in order, here’s some more EVs that I’ve had the experience of driving.

Fourth EV Drive – Nissan Leaf – Enterprise Car Club

After the Tesla Model S hire with Enterprise, I discovered that Enterprise Car Club in Edinburgh have a number of Nissan Leafs at locations, and ultimately decided to take a short hire of a car in Fife to see how I got on with the car.

There was a gap of a couple of months between sign up (which involved license stuff etc) and hire. The actual hire process was very slick through the app on Android. I rocked up to the car, booked the car through the app and the car opened up for me.

With EVs both car clubs operate in the same way, they are given allocated parking spaces with EV Charging (much to the consternation of other EV users if comments on Zap-map are representative) and one has to leave the car on charge when finishing the hire. When starting one has to remember to take the charging cable with the car.

My wife came along for the experience and she liked the leaf, unfortunately for me the foot parking brake caught me out and the driving position didn’t fit me – I’m quite tall and have an aforementioned dodgy left knee. We drove around Fife a little and I tried a couple of charging points. The Leaf had Android Auto which was excellent for quick navigation.

I didn’t quite gel with the Leaf which annoyed me slightly as it’s very popular but it eliminated it as a future option and having driven it I wouldn’t wish to do so again. Although performance was good when not in eco mode, the handling was a bit bouncy and the front wheel drive loaded up the steering quite a bit.

Nissan Leaf charging at a charger in Glenrothes
Nissan Leaf charging in Glenrothes

Fifth EV Drive – BMW i3 – Co Wheels Car Club

After a couple of months it came to city break time and a random internet search popped up a number of BMW i3 and MG ZS EV in Dundee. Rather than having a relaxing time in our accommodation I dragged my wife around Dundee in pursuit of trying different electric vehicles.

Co Wheels are slightly different than Enterprise in that they rely on a smart card only for managing the hire process but this worked fine for the two cars we tried.

Unfortunately the i3 was in short supply over the bank holiday weekend we were in Dundee so in the end I only managed to sneak in a short hire of 1.5 hours. This meant I didn’t get opportunity to go far or to try charging it up, but it was really handy being 5 minutes away from where we were staying at Staybridge Suites in Dundee. Finally note that the car club cars are on the top (13th) floor of the Olympia multi-storey. Top tip is that there are lifts at each end which is a lot faster if you have a time slot to make.

The i3 was the reverse of our experience with the Leaf – my wife didn’t get on with the seating position and the seat belt in particular was angled really uncomfortably for her. My wife is quite a bit shorter than me and the rear door arrangement means that the seatbelt is part of the reverse door. My driving position was fine with seat in it’s lowest position and right back.

Driving position was fine even if the seat was a bit flat, and driving dynamics were excellent – really good regen and a good punch out of roundabouts and at junctions. The challenge was the dashboard and view forwards – there is a large space between the front seats and the base of the windscreen. The short nose means it’s quite tricky to place the corners, where on an ICE car you have the sides of the bonnet (hood for non British readers). The age of the i3 also means that it doesn’t have Android Auto so one would have to use the built in kit (albeit being BMW based this was rather good).

The i3 was a bit out there and too small for us to have as a car, but as a drive was excellent.

Sixth EV Drive – MG ZS EV – Co Wheels Car Club

After the compact “city runabout” of the BMW i3 we hired an MG ZS EV in Dundee. This is a small SUV styled EV and although I have a slight aversion to SUVs I was in the mood to try everything.

I walked the mile or so to collect the MG and drove back to the hotel to pick up MrsL. Yet another way of engaging forward and reverse (this time a dial in the centre console) but the bonus of Android Auto made the navigation a doddle.

We took a drive to Perth and all was fine – a little bouncy but plenty of room, very easy to drive and pretty much eventless. I understand the MG is a good priced vehicle and it seemed a decent car – for an SUV! My wife liked the interior which had a little bit of a budget Mercedes theme going on and I even stopped off for a charge at the Garden Centre between Perth and Dundee. All in all a good car but I like sportier handling (like the i3!).

MG ZS EV Charging in Perth
Charging at Glendoick Garden Centre

Unfortunately things got complicated when I came to return the car. The Car Club Model means that you return the vehicle to it’s parking space and plug it in to charge. Unfortunately the charging session would not start and I ended up bouncing between Co Wheels and ChargePlace Scotland on the phone. I don’t know what the problem was but it was the only dampener on an otherwise eventless hire.