Fuel panic buying: Are electric car owners feeling smug?

Nissan Leaf owner, Mark Goodier, with one of the cars
Image caption Mark Goodier was the first Leaf owner in England

As talks aimed at averting a strike by fuel tanker drivers resume this week, electric car owners talk about whether the grass really is greener on their side.

While long queues at petrol stations around the country followed the government's advice to take "sensible precautions" in case of a strike by fuel tanker drivers, one group that was able to look on without concern was electric car owners.

"The best thing about owning an electric car is never having to visit a petrol station," said 50-year-old Nissan Leaf owner Mark Goodier.

Mr Goodier, a Smooth Radio DJ based in London, owns one of only 1,279 electric vehicles registered in England and was the first person in the country to buy the Leaf when it became available in March 2011.

Watching the images of motorists queuing up to fill their tanks was a mixed experience for him.

"It just reminded you how much the oil companies have got us hooked on their drug and how thin the veneer of civilisation can be. It was very sad to see.

"I try not to feel smug but I felt glad that we had made a sensible decision," the former BBC Radio 1 DJ said.

'Big downside'

The long-term financial and environmental benefits convinced him he should ditch petrol and he is "thrilled" with his purchase.

Image caption Fuel drivers are threatening to strike over safety and working conditions

However, Mr Goodier conceded that an electric car was not for everyone yet, citing that the cost was still prohibitive - the Nissan Leaf currently sells for £25,990, once the government's Plug-In grant of £5,000 is deducted.

According to him, the biggest challenge though is "the 100 miles maximum range - that's a big downside".

Toby Aldrich, from Farnham, Surrey, is the owner of the first commercially sold Mitsubishi i-MiEV in the country and feels the limited range is a minor concern.

He said: "It's not that big a deal. How often does one go more than 80 miles in a weekend?"

The advertising agency owner, 51, believes "passionately in exploring alternative sources of energy" and was not sympathetic about the plight of his petrol car-owning peers.

"I was laughing. I was praying for a tankers' strike. It was impossible not to feel smug.

"I had people calling me up asking 'Can I get a lift off you?'. It brought home how dependent we are on oil."

Although he admitted electric cars are "tremendously expensive to buy", Mr Aldrich feels that "if you can afford it, you should buy one".

Renewable energy company Cleaner Air Solutions Ltd was also of the same opinion and Terry Skee, the company's commercial director, was one of those behind the decision to buy a fleet of five Nissan Leaf company cars.

Image caption Terry Skee's company owns a fleet of five Nissan Leaf cars

"We make significant savings on fuel, it gives us flexibility as we can charge them on site and they're fun and funky to drive," said the 53-year-old from County Durham.

One of the issues often raised with owning an electric car is the difficulty in recharging them but with about 2,500 recharging points across the UK, according to the Department for Transport, this is becoming less of a deterrent.

"It's a great benefit to be able to charge the car at work and far better than waiting in a queue for petrol," said Mr Skee.

"If the strike goes ahead, I would offer my friends a lift. I wasn't going to sit and pour more fuel on the fire the way the government did."

Despite his stance, Mr Skee does offer a note of caution about electric cars.

"Resale value is an issue at the moment. They're an expensive acquisition so we'll have to wait and see what happens," he said.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites