My EV & Me: Umicore colleagues share their tips on driving electric
With the acceleration of carbon free mobility, electric vehicles (EVs) are one of the important trends driving our business. But what’s it really like to drive one? We speak to some Umicore colleagues with first-hand experience with Umicore's company car leasing policy, which only offers electrified vehicles in Belgium, the biggest in the Group.
The pace of EV acceptance is picking up. Better charging infrastructure, longer battery life and more choice of cars are encouraging an increasing number of drivers to make the switch to electric. Yet some are, understandably, still hesitant. After all, it can be difficult to part ways with your trusty petrol or diesel car. They have a reliable range and take no more than a few minutes to fill up; they’re the familiar, comfortable option. But is the alternative really so radically different?
Stijn, Purchase Manager Nickel, believes it’s a question of planning. “In the two and a half years that I’ve been driving an EV, I’ve made three trips over 1,000 kilometres, mostly without issue. Admittedly I learned the hard way on that first journey, but I soon realised that I just had to think ahead about where I would stop and ensure that wherever I arrived also had a charging spot option.” “And I actually think that having 15-minute breaks throughout your journey helps to recharge your own batteries, so you’re much more relaxed when you reach your destination!”
With recharge cards that give you access to a wide variety of charging stations, travelling around Europe by EV is straightforward. It also helps that charging infrastructure is developing rapidly.
“I went to France this year and noticed how many more charging stations there were. At times these could be busy, but like Stijn suggests, you just have to adapt. I think concerns over the range of an EV are inflated: for more than 95% of the trips I do, it’s never a problem.”
Tim, Head of Research Operations and Technology
As a city-dweller without a charger at home, Geert, VP Electro-optic Materials, makes an extra effort to keep his car battery full. “Where before I could wait until my car’s tank was running low on fuel before refilling, now I recharge my car whenever I can. That does mean there’s a bit of pressure to ensure I find a charging spot when I’m at home in the city. It’s not always easy having an EV without my own charger but it’s still possible to make it work!”
Hilke, Operational Manager Precious Metals Refining, has enjoyed owning an EV for the last three years, especially as it becomes easier to travel longer distances. “Of course, you still need to stop slightly more and for slightly longer, but I think having a positive mindset really helps, seeing the advantages over the inconvenience. We’ve loved discovering hidden gems on our travels purely because we’ve had to find somewhere to charge the car. We try to plan around mealtimes to make the most of those mini breaks, but I’ve also seen families with kids bringing beach paddles and a ball.”
Why an EV?
For Stijn, when the time for a new car came, the choice was between a hybrid or an EV. “There were two main reasons why I went with an EV. The first was that I was working in battery recycling, so it felt natural to go for a battery-powered vehicle myself. The second was the appeal of being an early adopter; the car I ended up choosing hadn’t even entered production yet! But I really wanted to give it a try.”
Going fully electric was a logical choice for Tim. “I live too far from work to use a hybrid effectively. Ideally, I would want the car to run on electricity only to the office and back, but I think I would have had to rely on using petrol for some of the journey. It made sense to go all in.”
Geert also found that an EV was a more suitable option: “My previous car was a hybrid, but I found my fuel consumption was still extremely high. This prompted me to take that next step to an EV, even though it also felt like a bit of a step into the unknown.”
To recommend or not to recommend?
Geert is a fan of his EV and is glad he’s doing his bit to cut down on air pollution in the city. “Driving electric not only has an environmental benefit, but it has a really important health benefit due to the absence of emissions such as NOx or (soot) particles.” Yet he’s also aware that EVs aren’t yet a perfect option. “My EV is great for 49 weeks of the year; those three other weeks, usually over the holidays, are a bit of a struggle, with charging points becoming much busier.”
The EV industry is innovating quickly, which can make it hard to know when the right time is to go electric. But for EVs, the point of purchase is not an end point. Tim: “It’s like having an iPhone on four wheels; you can download and install performance-enhancing software updates remotely. But just like a smartphone, things can occasionally go wrong!”
For Stijn, it was important that he could use his EV in the same way as his old car. “My 60 km commute remains unchanged; I can still drive to work and stick to my day-to-day routine. Only that either my wife or I need to remember to plug in the car at the end of the day! But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
Hilke is happy with her choice and wouldn’t change her decision, despite some pain points. “It’s true that with more EVs on the road, the increase in charging infrastructure can sometimes be cancelled out. So driving an EV does require a bit of adjustment and forward-thinking, but this shouldn’t dissuade people from making the switch.”
The consensus among the four is that EVs are a positive – if sometimes challenging – way forward for mobility. To get around those teething issues, all you need is a bit of planning and patience, then you’re on your way and ready for your next road trip.