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BlueCity carsEarlier this week I drove an e-car for the first time. Driving it was both unsurprising and quite different from the petrol and diesel-engined cars I’ve had.

On the one hand there’s no gears, so as in an automatic car you just press the pedal and off it goes, but on the other when you take your foot off the pedal it immediately starts to slow down, very like engine braking in a manual car, only more so. The closest analogy I can think of is a go-kart, but of course with the handling and driving style of a road car – and it was eerily quiet, far quieter even than the battery go-karts I’ve used.

It wasn’t a Tesla or anything fancy, but a small four-seater operated by rental company BlueCity* – if you live in West London, Paris, Lyon or Indianapolis, you might have seen these around the place. They’re made by BlueCity’s parent Bolloré and run on a similar basis to city-bikes or newer services such as Zipcar Flex, in that you can rent in one place and drop off in another.

It’s an interesting idea, the snag being that there’s nowhere near as many charging stations as the bike schemes have, and each charging station only has a few parking spaces, so as well as reserving a car via your phone you also need to reserve a parking space at your destination. They are adding more bases to the London scheme though – taking over existing under-used public e-car charging stations in some cases, I think – and gradually expanding beyond the western boroughs.

My rental wasn’t entirely straightforward – the instruction leaflet doesn’t make the necessary process explicit, and when I got it wrong, it wouldn’t simply start over for some reason. Fortunately the phone helpline provided the essential clue and re-set things for me. (I’d already had to fight to get registered on the service, by the way – they were a right pain about my ancient-but-perfectly-valid paper driving licence…)

BlueCar dashThe car’s interior is a little spartan, with no instruments at all, just two LCD screens. One is the speedo, it also tells you the battery state and whether it is charging or discharging – the braking is regenerative of course. The other first shows you a safety video (I hope I can skip this on my next rental!) then switches to a map view. I'm pretty sure there’s a radio and a satnav in there somewhere too.

Beyond that, it’s a case of engage Drive (or Reverse) and go. Acceleration is initially sluggish, probably for safety reasons, but once you get going it is pretty snappy. The ride feels unnaturally smooth at first, with no engine vibration – and did I mention how very quiet it is? Most odd.

Sadly, not everything is done by app – you also need a contactless keycard, both to unlock and lock the car, and to sign in and out on the charging station. Until you plug the car back in, lock it and then sign out, you’re still being charged for rental. That’s 17p a minute, with a minimum of 20 minutes so £3.40 – about the same as two London bus tickets, or a very short minicab journey. Fortunately, as a Borough of Hounslow resident I get a year’s free membership plus some free driving minutes.

Will I use it again? Owning a car already it is hard to see the need, except when that car is away (as it is this week) or on the odd occasions when I want to go somewhere and there’s a charging station nearby. That needs a good few more charging stations though – currently they’re just in the Hounslow and Hammersmith areas.
 
*Where the English-speaking world tends to use ‘green’ for eco-friendly, much of Europe uses ‘blue’ instead. Partly because blue is the colour of lakes and oceans and so on, but also to distinguish the general principle from the Greens, who are an important political force in many of the countries that have actually moved their electoral systems out of the middle ages.
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One of the unexpected consequences of moving all my old LJ posts here is that it seems to be far easier on DW to jump back and see what you were writing about years ago. Blimey. Ten years ago I was still using a Palm PDA and trying to make Bluetooth data work reliably. And all those rants! 😂

And all those broken image links after I sold a spare domain last year. Oops! That was the next hour or two gone while I fixed some of them... I'll do the rest later, when I've a spare week or two, OK? 😏
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Having finally decided to move stuff from LJ, I went to log in here under the same name (bryangb) to find that I couldn't - it was already taken. I tried requesting a password reset in case I'd set it up but forgotten, but nothing came through, so I realised it was either someone else or was on an email address I no longer have (very unusual, but possible).

So I set up a new account using the same slight variant as on Twitter (bryan_gb), imported my LJ and started importing the few friends still active - only to discover that I did indeed have a password saved for bryangb, and yes I did open this account ages ago but do nothing with it. Argh!!

So if you get two friend requests, that's why. Sorry!

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  • Mon, 14:44: That's the first time /ever/ I found myself wearing - and able to remove - a hat while a funeral cortege went by. #fb

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