Northern Ireland

BBC reporter takes an Ecar test drive across Northern Ireland

Ken Speer and Conor Macauley
Image caption I paid a visit to Ken Speer, the first owner of an electric car in Northern Ireland

Ken Speer has been driving around virtually for free for the past 13 months.

A retired engineer, he was the first person to buy an electric car in Northern Ireland.

Like me, he's driving a Nissan Leaf. He bought it because he was interested in the technology and said he viewed the hefty £25,000 price tag as an investment of sorts.

He now uses the solar panels on his roof to charge the car. On a sunny day he can do it for nothing.

"Simplicity really was what I was looking for. Modern cars are so complicated, expensive to maintain," he said.

"We haven't had any maintenance apart from the annual check-up and that costs £50."

The running costs of the electric car range are the biggest attraction. The list price and the range are the biggest problems.

Last night I left Belfast to head home, a journey of 25 miles, with the range telling me I had 68 miles available.

It was dusk, it was raining and the windscreen needed cleared so the climate control was on.

All of that drew on the battery so by the time I got home I had only 15 miles left, instead of the 43 I might have expected.

Image caption Charging the car in the driveway

There is an Eco mode on the car, so on Tuesday morning I engaged it to see if that would improve the energy consumption.

It made a big difference, not just to the battery life, but also to the way the car drove.

It was noticeably more sluggish. There's a clear trade-off between battery life and performance.

The week-long trial has generated a lot of interest, especially on social media.

I'm tweeting my observations on @tvconormac.

The first day it was all good natured banter about the length of the flex required to run an electric car.

Now though people contacting me are asking about charging costs, price, boot size and suggestions about who the target market should be.

There are three more days of the trial left.

The next report for BBC Newsline will be on Wednesday night.

On Friday's programme we'll be revealing how we got on when we tried to drive round Northern Ireland on battery power alone and whether the infrastructure was up to the challenge.

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