By Ben Elliston
First published on TheDriven.io, June 2023.
Through the experience of its members, the ACT branch of the AEVA identified in early 2023 that driver education was a growing issue for the transition to EVs.
Over the Christmas/New Year period, some new drivers were taking to the highway having never even used a DC fast charger – and sometimes coming unstuck.
Drivers were also found needlessly charging their vehicles to 100%, annoying other people who were trying to get on their way. Stories were shared of drivers leaving their vehicles unattended for lengthy periods, while other drivers waited (and stewed).
For AEVA members, driving an EV seems pretty simple. For those who have “grown up” in the EV world, the practices of EV owner decency have been passed down from the real pioneers and the early adopters.
However, we’re now entering a new world where EV buyers aren’t exposed to that environment. It’s worth remembering that at any time, half of the EVs on our roads were purchased in the last 12 months.
With this, the ACT branch of AEVA set about to start running a series of “Know Your EV” workshops. The idea was to develop course materials that could be presented by any knowledgeable presenter to an audience with diverse EV experience.
The course needed to be long enough to convey the most important things to know, but short enough to not deter people from taking time out of their busy schedules to learn how to get the most out of their EV.
Two pilot workshops were run in February and April to test the course content and fine tune the delivery. The first pilot workshop was attended by a small group of AEVA ACT members and the second workshop was attended by a broader group of people with limited EV experience.
These pilot workshops allowed us to refine the course material and we are grateful to all of these participants for their feedback.
On June 24, the branch delivered its first Know Your EV workshop at a public library in Canberra. The course was fully booked out.
Participants paid a modest fee to cover afternoon tea and venue hire. The venue was chosen due to its close proximity to a DC fast charger that was used at the end of the workshop (discussed later).
The branch has also built a wooden portable AC charging station using a dead EVSE contributed by Electric Vehicles Canberra. This prop is useful because we can show participants what to expect when they find at an AC charging station and how easy they are to use.
The course covers the absolute basics, reinforcing that EV ownership is not more difficult, just different in a few ways to owning an ICE car.
We reinforce the idea that EV ownership requires a mindset shift, especially when it comes to charging. You would not stop at the service station every night to fill your car for the next day because that would be inconvenient.
For an EV with home charging available, this is not at all inconvenient. We then go on to discuss home charging and local commuting. All of the home charging options are discussed, reinforcing that charging speeds above 7kW are rarely needed.
Perhaps the most complex topic in the course is the section on long distance driving. This covers how to plan for road trips, how to make use of destination charging at hotels, and how to operate DC fast chargers.
This was clearly a topic of high interest to participants because this is where confidence is lacking and the risks of something going wrong are perceived to be the highest.
The last topic covers the EV driving experience: how EVs accelerate, brake, how they heat the cabin, and so on. We discuss how difficult it is to blindly run out of charge.
Key apps including Plugshare and A Better Route Planner are presented. We finish by discussing one of the most important topics: etiquette.
We remind participants that EV etiquette is vital right now because the charging infrastructure is not ubiquitous (or redundant) enough. We point out that chargers, particularly fast chargers, are in high demand and so we need to be considerate of others to share this scarce resource. Plus, it’s just more enjoyable that way.
At the end of the workshop, participants visit a nearby DC fast charger and get the opportunity to practice using the relevant app (or access card), understand how to plug and unplug, and generally gain the confidence needed take a new EV out on a road trip.
Our first workshop has proven the concept. There is a lot of demand from new drivers wanting this kind of education to better understand their new car. AEVA ACT plans to run another workshop in about eight weeks.
Ben Elliston is the advocacy working group convenor of the ACT branch of AEVA.