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How a new LEAF turned into a whole new way of life

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Kate and James Coates, YouTube electric car-bloggers extraordinaire, on super-simple servicing and other electric car enthusiasms. 

Kate: 

We met in 2013, when I was the proud owner of a Clio 182. James immediately suggested a Nissan LEAF instead! 

 

James: 

She wasn’t keen, but I talked her into it. I used to work for Jaguar Land Rover on electric power trains, but I already had a Tesla Model S, and I had got my HV (that’s High Voltage) qualifications. Long before people were into electric cars, I was already an advocate. I’ve always had a genuine love of helping people into the electric car world.  

 

Kate: 

Yes, and that’s what led to our first YouTube video. We heard so many nervous comments about charging that we decided to do a drive from Hinkley to John O’Groats – winging it, without any planning – just to prove it could be done.  

To show we weren’t cheating, we videoed the whole trip. We really enjoyed making that video, and lots of people said they realised how simple charging could be after watching us. So we made some more videos, which also got great feedback. Then we were asked to review some electric cars – and that became the main platform for our YouTube programme. 

James: 

As well as reviews, we keep doing how-to videos as well. Like the episode where Kate services a LEAF.  

I was a trained mechanic, albeit for petrol and diesel cars, but Kate is a complete amateur. So we decided to see whether someone like her – under supervision of course – could service a LEAF by themselves. That would really prove how simple electric cars are. 

Kate: 

Yes, and it did. The bit I enjoyed least was doing the brakes – that’s a dirty, time-consuming job. But there are lots of other bits that anyone could do if they wanted to. 

James and Kate

James: 

It’s a little-known fact that since October 2003, you don’t have to go to a main dealer anymore to maintain your warranty. Anyone who’s qualified can do it. Also, electric cars are relatively new and maybe only a small part of the dealership’s business, so they’re not that experienced themselves yet.  

Kate: 

Yep – and nowadays you could even have your service come to you. 

James: 

Which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last eighteen months. Matt Cleevely asked me if I wanted to do something together at the same time as Jaguar Land Rover offered me voluntary redundancy. So the change felt meant to be. 

Ours is a whole new breed of company who come to you and service your electric car on the spot.  

Some people might think, well, I’ve got a new electric car and I don’t have to have an MOT for three years, so why do I need a service at all? But there are lots of things that need careful checking before three years are up. 

Basically, it’s going from checking simple things like coolant, pollen filters, wiper blades, tyre pressures and so on, then up through a seatbelt check, brake fluid, lights, wheel bearings… right up to the high-voltage side of things: wiring, the charging port and the charging cable. 

The brakes in particular need checking. That’s because they get used a lot less often, since electric cars have regenerative braking. The brake discs can actually seize up through lack of use. Here’s a top tip, by the way. Make a point of turning the regenerative braking off once a week, then brake hard a couple of times and that will help keep them working properly. 

Kate: 

The business was a bit of a leap in the dark at first – after all, it is a whole new concept. But James said to me “As an electric car owner, do I trust a dealership who may not be very experienced with my particular model, or do I trust a specialist who knows about it and is passionate about it?” He’s been proved right: Lots of people agree. They also love the convenience. And the prices. 

James: 

Yes, we aim to be cheaper than the dealerships. Although it’s cheaper having an electric car serviced anyway. Plus, there’s less waste, which is another green benefit. For example, there are no oil filters to change. In fact, electric cars use very little oil at all, and what they do use doesn’t need changing till about 60,000 miles. Even then it’s usually only about a litre.  

Our business is growing and changing all the time. At first, there were very few models to work on. We’ve always had a lot of Teslas, LEAFs and ZOEs, probably because they’re the ones that have been around the longest. But now there’s also Jaguar I-PACEs, Audi e-trons – a nice, wide range.

So, you two… how would you sum up your electric car journey? 

Kate: 

From the minute I got my first electric car, I was taking people out in it and showing them how zippy and fun it was to drive. Then there was the success of the videos, and having that turn into a nice little business. Finally, it’s when people get in touch with us and say that our videos have helped them make up their minds to get an electric car. That’s rewarding! 

James: 

Well, for me it’s having not one but two businesses where I can share my love of electric cars. And the satisfaction of watching it spread. Most of the people I worked with at Jaguar Land Rover now have electric cars, and so do many of our friends. Including some who I never in a million years would have thought would switch. 

Kate: 

They’re obviously watching all the right videos! 
 

Kate and James Coates are electric car enthusiasts.  

James worked as a mechanic at Williams Advanced Engineering, then moved to Jaguar Landrover as a specialist in electric power trains before becoming a director at Cleevely EV Mobile Services

Kate is an occupational therapist and keen ‘tinkerer’ who has always loved cars and driving.