Video: What's It Like To Drive An Electric Car In London?

By BethPH Last edited 30 months ago
Video: What's It Like To Drive An Electric Car In London?

Could one of London's latest short term car rental schemes recharge our interest in electric cars? Londonist spent an afternoon with Drive Now in a BMW i3 to find out what it's really like to drive an electric car in the capital.

The car club company, a joint venture between BMW and Sixt, has come to an agreement with the boroughs of Islington, Hackney, Haringey and Waltham Forest, so their cars can be picked up and dropped off anywhere in this area. There are no parking charges (and you can use residents' bays); it's congestion charge exempt and with a one-off registration fee of £29, it's certainly pretty cost-effective. It operates on a Pay As You Go system, which works out to 39p per minute to drive or 19p per minute parked.

To book a car, load the app up on your iPhone or Android and it will locate the nearest car to you. Then just hit the 'reserve' button and off you go to pick up your car. In addition to the i3, Drive Now has a fleet of Minis and BMW 1 Series with petrol engines.

We found the i3 surprisingly nippy and pleasant to drive. The built-in control display screen is already set up with charging points mapped, so if your trip turns out to be slightly longer than you anticipated, you can stop off for a top-up. The i3 has a range of 80-100 miles, depending on how fast you drive and other things like using the air conditioning, but the display shows how many miles are left so planning ahead is easy. Charging options are DC-rapid (around 30 minutes), DC-fast (up to three hours) or you can plug it into a power source overnight.

One of the bonuses of using Drive Now's cars is that you don't even need to drop it off at a charging point; the company will check the power status of its cars and go out to charge them up if they're low on juice.

Drive Now's Joe Seal-Driver says he wants to see the scheme expand into other areas of London, and estimates that every one of their cars has the potential to take between six and 13 cars off the capital's roads.

Find out more about using Drive Now's electric cars.

Last Updated 04 November 2015


£11.40 an hour base, before even driving anywhere? Zipcar starts at £6-8 / hour, including 60 miles. And it includes congestion charge, etc.

I would love to see more electric cars on the street - but for this service to really gain traction beyond a small niche of people who're willing to pay such a massive premium - they need to be more competitively priced

Geoff T

Tesla have a showroom at Westfield and of course you can do test drives, could be an interesting follow up to investigate Tesla's own Supercharging points around the capital?


I'm with DriveNow, but I must admit if you live outside of Islington it doesn't make much sense. The moment you go outside the business area you can no longer just "drop off" the car, so you have to leave it in "park mode", you basically pay for it while you are not using it. That might be okay when you are off to do a 1-2 hour shopping spree somewhere around town, but if you are taking the car so you can visit friends/family, you can't help but feel this is a waste of money and cost-benefit argument diminishes.

Still, if you live in the area, you get the app out and you find the nearest vehicle and just hop in. When done you can leave it anywhere. That gives DriveNow a MAJOR advantage over other street car companies that have "designated" areas.

I wonder how they managed to crack a deal like that with the local authorities though. If I was someone who owned a car but wasn't occupying the parking outside my house, I would be seriously pissed if I found a DriveNow occupying my spot for a few days in a row. But then again no one owns a parking spot...


Sounds good if you live or work and need to drive a lot in the area. The range of the i3 is definitely no problem in an urban setting, assuming you always find it fully charged or nearly. The ability to park them anywhere in the zone is a great advantage. Zipcars need to be parked in non resident pay and display (not free) and you pay the same rate per hour when you do.

Note that it's not only electric cars on offer but the i3 is really good. It's faster than nippy (0 to 60 in around 7sec) with a very direct steering. BMW wouldn't have it any other way I think.