Sponsored by Citroën

Citroën in the city: can an EV work for a family in a terraced house?

Frontline manager Hattie Greenyer is a busy urban mum trying out the Citroën ë-C4 as part of our #DrivingChangeForGood partnership. Will an EV prove practical for a family of four in a household with no car charger? Is an electric family car worth the switch?

Hattie Greenyer and family with the Citroën ë-C4 (Photo: Exposure Photo Agency)

Sponsor from Citroën

When Big Issue Group started rolling out Citroën electric vans last year, I was the first to drive one, travelling to see vendors and staff around the South West. But as a busy urban mum, would an electric family car have a similar positive impact?

I had doubts. After all, I have no driveway nor an EV charger at my terraced house in Bristol, so how would an electric car work for my family? The fear was real. But I want to do everything I can for the environment.

Plus I know how important air quality is, and the final clincher is that I’ve had a go in the electric Citroën vans used for our frontline magazine deliveries, and really like how quiet and smooth they are.

So, when asked if I’d like to try out a Citroën ë-C4 and find out what it’s like to live with an electric car I jumped at the chance.

And before I knew it, ‘my’ Citroën ë-C4 had arrived. I liked the look of it; angular and interesting, the kids loved it too. “It looks like a Transformer,” said my youngest (that’s high praise, by the way).

Test drive: the family trip

Our first big journey was to see my mother-in-law in Taunton, about 60 miles away. We left with 95% charge and 190 miles on the range readout, which seemed plenty. Even so, having never done a longer trip like this in an electric car, I was a bit anxious when we set off.

I soon started enjoying how the ë-C4 drives. It’s super comfy, even over the really grotty roads around town, and I liked the seamless whoosh of acceleration. Initially it felt odd compared to the manual, petrol car I normally drive. But it was really easy to get used to and I was barely out of Bristol before it felt very natural.

It was really easy to get used to and I was barely out of Bristol before it felt very natural.

The ‘B’ mode – activated by a button next to the gear shifter, it uses engine braking to regenerate energy and recharge the battery – did feel quite peculiar at first, so I decided to come back to it when the family wasn’t in the car complaining about my driving being weird!

Charging an EV when you don’t have a home charger

This is the aspect of an electric car that I was really worried about. If I had a home charger and driveway, I think I’d have taken the plunge and got an EV a while ago, but I can rarely even get a parking space outside my house. However, there’s a charger just a couple of minutes’ walk away with a fast charger, so I dropped the family at home and went to plug in.

Hattie charging the Citroën ë-C4 (Photo: Exposure Photo Agency)

Other than that, everyone was loving the Citroën, particularly how quiet and cushy it is. We got home with 50 miles range showing, and I was keen to figure out the charging situation.

I won’t lie, it took me a while to figure out which one I should use. The slower charger was a 22kW according to the phone app, while the faster one was 50kW and had the cable there already fixed into the station. There’s a two-hour limit on parking at the charger, though, so I went with the faster one, paid with my contactless card and went home for a bit while it charged.

When I plugged in there was still around 50 miles left on the range – 90 minutes later, it was fully charged with 200 miles on the readout, and I was nearly £25 lighter. At around 17 pence per mile using a public charger is not super-cheap – but still good value compared to a petrol or diesel pence per mile!

Holidays and everydays: practicalities of an EV

“It really did become our default everyday car” (Photo: Exposure Photo Agency)

I normally only needed to leave the car on charge a couple of times per week to avoid worrying about range. All good. And, more importantly, the kids discovered an iPad drawer in the dash that pulls out and functions as a stand. The Citroën is now, officially, the coolest thing. I think they’d live and sleep in there if they could guarantee access to games and Netflix at all times.

Our family holiday to Wales went well. I was a bit worried about the hatchback boot of the ë-C4 being small compared to our usual old people carrier, but it took all our luggage and we had a blast.

It really did become our default everyday car; picnics out at the weekend, work trips, holidays, the grocery shop – the Citroën was just so quiet and lovely to drive. In family and work life the Citroën ë-C4 was just so easy and fun.

I had the optional three-pin plug to charge at home, but with parking so tricky on my road, I preferred to use public chargers while I was out and about. I got used to the ones that were on my normal routes, and I really didn’t mind stopping for half an hour occasionally to top-up the battery. In fact, I kind of enjoyed having it as an opportunity to do a few emails in peace, or just read my book. It was like enforced ‘me’ time, and any sort of quiet time to myself is valuable. And I got used to the heavy braking in ‘B’ mode and started to use it quite a lot around town.

Hattie Greenyer

Hattie’s top tips for electric car novices

1. Download one of the public charging apps, such as zap-map or Octopus Electroverse, and familiarise yourself with where the rapid chargers are on your most-used routes.

2. Lots of EVs have phone apps to schedule your charging and pre-set your climate. These are really handy and save energy.

3. Most electric cars have ‘eco mode’ to help range, and just try to drive smoothly – look a long way ahead of you, to allow for gentle braking.

To find out more about Big Issue’s partnership with Citroën search #DrivingChangeForGood And discover our fun videos exploring EVs on Big Issue’s YouTube channel

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