The Wokingham Paper

TONY JOHNSON: If you go down to the shops today

electric vehicle charging point
An electric vehicle charging point Picture: Phil Creighton

You’re sure of a big surprise.

OK, it was last Sunday rather than “today”, but there was one surprise at Reading Gate (next to the Madejski Stadium), then another one at the grocery warehouse on the other side.

Surprise number one

Someone had just popped down to the technology super-store in their McLaren sports car to pick some goodies. Although the car looked low and wide, with a rear-mounted wing the size of a small aircraft’s, the exact model number escaped me.

And while the vehicle might have been a six-year-old McLaren 12C which you can easily purchase for under £100 grand, it could equally well have been someone taking their McLaren P1 out for the day. Good examples of these petrol-electric plug-in hybrids can be bought for anywhere between £1 and £1.3 million, making the price of the environmentally friendly-ish McLaren equivalent to some of the nicer houses in our borough.

Surprise number two

Having spotted the first one on the way from the DIY store to the grocery store, the second surprise was much less noticeable.

It was only while loading my car that I noticed a metallic silver Tesla Model 3 alongside. A four-door saloon car whose flush-mounted door handles reminded me that I’d been parked next to one at the local supermarket the previous day.

However, it was only while researching this commentary that I discovered another surprise. This car isn’t just one of BBC Top Gear’s top ten electric vehicles for 2019, it’s number one on the list.

And it’s really inexpensive in comparison with the McLaren – costing about 96% less, so you don’t have to choose between either owning a house or owning a car.

The surprises keep coming

Drive along the Reading Road regularly from Earley or Woodley towards Wokingham, and you’ll know that just after you pass under the M4, there’s a petrol station, followed by a car dealership and then a motor-cycle dealer.

And while the car dealership used to be a well-known Japanese automotive manufacturer, it lay empty for most of 2018 until the new occupants moved in around December last year. 

Despite having driven past it all year, it hadn’t really registered that the cars on offer were either plug-in hybrids or full-on electric vehicles.

So I went along to E-Cars on Monday to meet the owner and find out more.

Electrifying performance

If you’d thought that electric cars were ungainly, unsightly or slow, stepping into the Winnersh showroom was an eye-opener. 

Of the 100 or so Tesla Roadsters which have been sold in the UK, discovering 3% of them on sale at one place in our borough was a big surprise.

Based on a Lotus Elise, these two-seater sports cars are blisteringly quick and can go from zero to “honestly officer” in around four seconds if you’ve got the desire and have circa £60-70k to go with it.

Happily, they weren’t the only all-electric vehicles on sale.

A range of ranges

As E-Cars owner Lewis Black explained, things have moved on a lot from five or six years ago when choices were limited and prices were high.

So while Nissan and Renault still lead the pack, a look round the cars on display showed clearly that if you prefer manufacturers such as Citroen, Vauxhall, BMW or others, there’s plenty to choose from in the £5k to £15k price range. Then there’s the utterly bonkers Renault Twizy – a quadricycle and a snip at £4.5k if you’ve got the gloves, jacket and ear-muffs to keep the wind off.

However, you might have been put off electric vehicles by the effervescent Mr Clarkson single-handedly causing road-range a few years ago. So it was a nice surprise to discover that the everyday actual range of a one-year-old Nissan Leaf is now more than 150 miles while a £500 homecharger gets it ready to go again in just four hours.

The Last Word

Of all the surprises, the most pleasant one was learning that since moving from their Molly Millars Lane premises in Wokingham almost exactly one year ago, the Winnersh-based E-Cars business has increased sales by 50%, now supplying circa 20 vehicles a month.

Meanwhile, what shouldn’t be a surprise to you is that it’s election day today, which is why this commentary has been put on a politics-free diet.

Happy voting.

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