How do you start an electric car?

My father arrived late last night and so I booked the Co-wheels car club car to collect him from the airport. This is only the second time I’ve used it and I thought it would be straight forward since we had done it before so I booked the car for 9:30pm; Dad’s flight arrived at 10pm.

The car unlocks with a swipe card and this bit was easy. I then tried to unplug the car (it’s an electric car) and I could not do it. I tried and tried to pull the plug out of the socket but it just wouldn’t give. At this point I started to get a bit flustered and so I looked in the glove box for an instruction manual and discovered that this was a different car to the last one. I don’t usually take notice of car models and this car was white like the last one. That’s the main thing, right? However I knew it was a different car because the interior was different. It turns out this one was a Renault Zoe and the last one, I think, was a Kia.

The instruction manual was about the length of War and Peace. I hate reading instruction manuals, even when they’re short and there was no way I was going to read all of this. Eventually I discovered a button beneath the steering wheel (in about the same spot as the fuel cap on petrol cars) with a picture of a plug on it. Pressing this unlocked the plug from the car. I couldn’t remove it from the charger but decided just to leave it there as I was running out of time.

By this stage I was in a bit of panic as I now only had 15 minutes to get to the airport. I put my foot on the brake and pressed the start button. Nothing happened. I turned the touch screen on and it lit up but nothing happened when I pressed the accelerator. I tried lots of other things including pressing random buttons and saying words beginning with “F” over and over again but I couldn’t get the car to move. I tried flipping through War and Peace hoping to find “How to start car” in all-caps and bold text but failed. At this point I was a frantic mess and gave up. Dad caught a taxi to our house instead and I took a few swigs of cointreau.

This experience has made me realise I’m getting old. Once upon a time I would just have been able to figure something like this out without needing to use a manual or ask someone. I was brought up with petrol cars and so perhaps the electric car is not intuitive to me. But I’m not going to let it defeat me. Next time I’ll book it half an hour earlier to give myself time to have a proper look at War and Peace.

I contacted Co-wheels and they’ve refunded the booking which is very nice and they’re going to hold some training sessions. Yay!

20 thoughts on “How do you start an electric car?”

  1. Your post nearly did me in. I was working up a lather wondering if you’d make it to the airport on time!

    That’s really good that Co-Wheels is going to hold some training sessions. I’m like you. I hate reading instructions and avoid them like the plague. When I have no alternative but to read them, I usually have trouble understanding them, particularly when they’re about computers and software.

    Glad your dad has arrived safe and sound. I bet Daniel and Elizabeth were especially excited to see him again. πŸ™‚ Happy days!

    1. I think the main obstacle was that I felt rushed and stressed and the difficulty unplugging the car got me all worked up. Once you get into a state like that nothing is going to work.

  2. It seems they have made the whole process of using an electric car counter-intuitive? I’m glad your Dad arrived OK, but not much fun for you. I look forward to hearing about your training sessions πŸ™‚

    1. It does seem more difficult than it should be. Perhaps once I’ve got the hang of it and have driven it numerous times I’ll be fine. I guess what would typically happen when you buy a new car, the salesperson gives you a quick lesson on how to use it. Because this is a car-club car which we didn’t buy there was none of that.

  3. If all else fails re-boot.

    Your not getting old. There are increasing instances of “if it ain’t broke, mess about with it anyway”. Seems to be a need for designers to stamp their mark by being (awkwardly) different. If in doubt, just ask yourself “What would an idiot do ?” πŸ˜€

    I if you need a training session to start an electric car, then somebodies messed up and it’s not you.

  4. Everyone knows French cars have user interface issues! French and Italian cars have “quirky” (read “counterintuitive”) designs.
    I know what you mean about getting old. I had a hell of a time trying to get a Doodle poll set up this last week – had to add some dates and then it all went haywire. I didn’t even understand the question it was trying to ask me.
    Hope you enjoy the time with your Dad anyway.

    1. I actually didn’t know that about French cars. I had heard French cars are always breaking down but I didn’t know they had poor user interfaces. Most of the cars I’ve had experience with are Japanese as these are the most popular makes in Australia and New Zealand.

      1. Sensible people! Although Japanese cars do have a reputation for being boring! The Italian car I had had all these little “gimmicks” on it, which combined with poor reliability (mainly electrical) meant there was always something annoying to break down.

  5. You had me laughing out loud imagining your frustration, saying words beginning with “F” over and over. I am pleased your Dad made it OK and look forward to learning more about his as I’m certain you will recount his visit.

    I don’t think you are getting old. Well, you are, but age has nothing to do with your experience. In an attempt to make things easier, designers today are actually making things more difficult. If you need an instruction manual the size of War and Peace, there is definitely something wrong.

    Nice post πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! That makes me feel better. There should be a short bullet-point list on the front page of the manual – How to start car.

  6. I was in a similar situation after renting an electric in San Diego. I started and drove off but in the middle of traffic with a flatbed truck behind me, I could figure out how to get something to work (I forget what it was). I just pulled over and stopped. This happened a couple of times in total and I ended up using more miles and had to modify my original plan of visiting a cliff-side park.

  7. I assume that at this stage, as your Dad got home ok, you’ll find acceptable if I tell you that I found this post hilarious.
    You can describe the most serious and distressing situations in enticing ways. War and Peace was brilliant!
    I do agree with everyone above. Not an age issue at all. There should be a quick instruction at least to start the car.
    Well done! And enjoy your Dad’s visit.

    1. Yes, Dad arrived and was not bothered at all. I was the only one who got all worked up about it. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  8. Hope your dad is not bothered. At least they refunded your cash.

    Here I am, wishing and waiting for the day we can start cars by yelling f word after f word πŸ™‚

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