We chatted to presenter, author and conservationist Philippa Forrester about making the switch to electric.
I’ve always done a lot of driving, so when I worked on Tomorrow’s World I got a lot of the transport stories. We were looking at electric cars even back then, so that seed was planted. In a way, it wasn’t a matter of if I’d get one, but when. And that happened when I came back to the UK after some years in the States. As I didn’t have a car, it seemed like the natural time to go electric.
Was it a quick process given your background?
Not at all. I’m no tech expert though I’ve always been interested in technology. I had to get my head around the process like everyone else. I went on to Google and got a lot of useful stuff there. Social media is an amazing resource too. And so is talking to people. In motorway service stations, I’d go and chat to people charging their cars. And I can’t emphasise enough how helpful and enthusiastic I’ve found every single person in the electric car community.
What would you say were the milestones on your journey?Installing the charger probably felt like the biggest hump. From the supplier to whether it could link to the internet, that all came together pretty slowly. But over a fairly short period of time it all felt very normal.
Did you have any other worries?
Oh, range anxiety of course. ‘What happens if the next charger isn’t working?’ But once you’re an electric driver, you get used to that, and you develop little strategies. For example, switching the heating off on a hundred-mile journey gives me at least fifteen extra miles – and I can still have the heated seat on. But you have to change your mindset. Remember that it’s not like an ordinary car. It’s more like a mobile phone, so you can top up the charge anytime it suits you. If I’m going somewhere like London, I top up before I get there, not when the car’s nearly empty. Then I arrive confidently, with at least half a charge.
Did you have help choosing your car?
Yes, I was lucky. A dealership got in touch, they wanted to support their customers and asked if I would be an ambassador. Part of which meant I got to drive lots of different models, which is so important.
The car you choose is totally dependent on your own lifestyle. I have three large sons, a dog, usually lots of luggage and do a lot of longish drives, so I went for space and range.
I got my MG ZS at the end of 2021, and though I knew I would like it, I’m slightly surprised at how much I love it. It’s great to drive, and our trips are so cheap.
The boys got used to the whole charging thing really quickly. They just ask me if we’re going to need to stop, and if so, they download something to watch on Netflix, or play a video game. It’s often the perfect chance to have a coffee and something to eat.
What’s your advice for anyone considering an electric car?
Just start! And reach out, ask for help. Because everyone is happy to share what they know. Here’s a story which shows what I mean.
We were at a busy services, about third in line to charge, and a lady in her 70s turned up in her new electric car. She was in a bit of a panic. She only had 12 miles of charge left and was completely thrown by the fact that she’d have to queue for a charger.
Everyone rushed to help her. One guy told her that there was a pub nearby with a charger she could use. He helped her download the app and showed her how to use it. Then gave her his phone number and told her to call him if she had any problems.
That sums it up for me. The fact that anyone of any age can learn this new thing. The brilliant electric community – everyone from the dealers to the drivers all supporting one another and sharing the journey.
I would be really sad if I had to go back to an ordinary car. This is tomorrow’s world today.