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It has been a hectic week - PART ONE

Monday, public holiday, I could relax. I didn't have much choice, the weather sucked. So I did some stuff for Tea. That's the previous blog entry.


About my car...

On Tuesday, I went to get my car seen to. Two new front tyres, and a check over prior to the Contrôle Technique.
The mechanic had a somewhat interesting method of putting the tyre onto the rim. Spray brake cleaner all over the place, add fire, boom! Instantly the tyre fit the rim.
Okay... don't complain... it worked... (note the wheel jumping into the air!)
How to get a tyre on the rim
I approve of this method of getting a tyre on the rim.


On Wednesday after work, the test. I was worried for the pollution test, and the cloud of smoke that spewed out every time he pressed the accelerator.

Emissions test
Emissions test.

It failed.

Not for the emissions. Astonishingly, that was a pass. A close-to-fail, but not a fail. I think I'm allowed up to 2.5 (particles per million?), and I was at about 2.25, 2.09, and 2.16.

What I failed on...

  • The ABS is faulty.
  • A coolant leak.
  • The middle-bar stop light at the top doesn't work.

I had thought that the ABS unit being faulty wasn't that big a thing in these dinky cars, but that was apparently something else - like an assisted master cylinder for the brakes. I have no idea, I'm not a brake expert, but it'll need a replacement ABS unit and/or sensors.

The coolant leak, not a big deal. I think it's a side effect of the mechanic filling the radiator all the way to the top. There's no expansion tank, so if water expands as it warms up, there's nowhere for it to go other than the overflow pipe.

Finally, the stop light. It actually does work, but...

Spot the stop light
Spot the stop light.


So, it will likely cost me around €1,500 for a new ABS unit and four sensors. But a more pressing problem is that with the stop light, if that design is no longer up to the Normes Françaises, then there is simply no way that will pass the test. You can't see it because some plonker put a big-arse spoiler right there in the way.


Which means that, sadly, it looks like it may be the end of the road for Caoimhe. Yes, terrible pun intended.
I think the problem with getting emotionally attached to a car is that as it gets older, it requires more and more money to keep it going. Now that the test has highlighted some potentially insurmountable issues, it's possibly best to cut my losses sooner rather than throwing money at the car in order to keep it going.

Which means I will be getting a new car.

I mean that literally, and not figuratively.

I am "buying" an Aixam Sport Coupé. Not just that, but an electric one. Not just that, but brand-frigging new.

If you're asking where the hell did I come up with eighteen grand, I'm right there with you. Where did I come up with eighteen grand? A lottery win?

No. I'm cheating. It's actually a loan car. It's a long-term (three year) loan with an option to buy at the end (which I won't do because it's shockingly expensive).

So I am making an initial first payment of nearly six thousand euros. The salesman that I spoke to earlier today said they would give me €3,500 as trade in on Caoimhe. He said that it made him feel happy to see a car that is so well looked after as mine. Makes me wonder what sort of awful cars he has seen in his time.
I also get a €900 rebate from the government for a new electric vehicle. Finally, I have written a cheque for €1,500 which was what I had put aside for the ABS work. So, a down payment of about six grand (which is really only costing me €1.5K), and then I pay €132 a month. It's a little more than I wanted to pay, but it's acceptable - I was aiming for about a hundred a month, so I'm not going to walk away from a good offer over thirty two euros.
Don't forget, until recently I had been paying a little under €90 a month for the loan for my first car. As for budgeting, I can always stop the €35 for the newspaper, given that I don't often actually read it...which means I really ought to stop it. I keep saying I'll come home and read the paper, but so rarely do, and it's like a euro-something a day. So, here's the deal then. July 4th, UK election day, if I'm not reading the paper regularly and finding interesting stuff in it by then, I'll cancel the subscription (it's a Thursday, I've just added it to my calendar app).

At the end of the three years, I hand the car back. Unless I want to pay around ten grand to keep it.
The salesman said there's a better option - pay half that as a downpayment on a new car, then keep up with the monthly payments and... a brand new car all over again. Smaller up front payment? Just go for a lesser-specified car.

Why did I get the bigger car? Range. The smaller one has a range of about 60km (remember, it's a dinky little car). The larger one has a bigger battery which gives it a range of about 80km between charges. The Aixam website will tell you ~130km, but the dealer prefers to quote a realistic real world distance. 80km will be more than enough to go to work three times, or go to Châteaubriant. I'll probably keep the battery topped up so I have a range of 40km (because that's 80km once you turn around and go back). In theory I can go to the mechanic and back, it's about 40km. I trust, though, that he'll pop it on charge for a little while during the checks so I can stop by the supermarket and then make it back home after, hassle free.

Depending on what is in stock and what colour it is (I specified not white), it could be delivered in just a couple of weeks. It could otherwise be around August time.

I took it for a short test drive. The car, running flat out, does 50kph. Even downhill. It's an electronic speed limiter and unlike the diesel models, it can't get diddled. That's not a problem for me, I think it's dumb to want to go fast in a car that's basically a yoghurt pot on wheels.

Two things I did notice. Firstly, it was more than willing to belt it up the hill. I'm sure that'll put more load on the battery (there's a rather distracting thing on the dashboard that gives an instantaneous readout of the load), but unlike my car with its two pulleys that looses oomph going up hills, this one just keeps going steadily.
Secondly, like a real car, there seems to be a fairly direct relationship between how much the accelator is pressed and how fast the car goes. This was not the case with the diesel engine, as between the wheels and the engine were the two pulleys and... let's just say it took a lot of gentle footwork and anticipation in order to keep a steady speed. If I kept my foot in the same place, I'd slow down going up hills and speed up going down them. The changes could be quite dramatic, which would be infuriating for anybody following. So to try to keep to a target speed of 48kph, it needed a lot of thinking.
I think, with the electric car, I'll just need to find the 48 position and leave my foot there. So in that respect it's more like a geared system.

There's a bunch of weird whiny noises at speed. This is a combination of the motor and the gearbox. These noises, which are quite normal, really stand out because otherwise the car is pretty silent. I'll be able to enjoy my music properly (it's some sort of tactile panel thing with - sadly - no steering wheel control, I'll miss that, but it does Bluetooth so it'll probably just play stuff off my phone like I do right now). God knows it'll be good to drive through a small town without little children (and plenty of adults) staring at me, as "hell's that racket?". It'll be good for me, as well, to enjoy going places and hearing my music and the road sounds (like a real car) without clank-clank-clank-clank.

The charger is 700W. The guy wasn't sure, so I looked at the charger itself. ☺ The larger battery charges in about three and a half hours (from discharged; or 2h30m for 20% to 80%). So I'd estimate something like 700W for an hour a day to keep it topped up. That's less than a unit per day. Thirty five (ish) centimes, over a 31 day month, that's about eleven euros. On the other hand, I think user manual said the car is rated at something like 86Wh/km, which would imply about 2kW for each drive to work? This doesn't make sense... as a four hour charge (let's go for worst possible case) at 700W would consume 2.8kW and give me an estimated autonomy of "about 80km" according to the dealer or "about 113km" according to the manufacturer's endless optimism. These figures just don't match. So I suspect the 86Wh/km is relating to the battery, not how much it needs to suck from the grid.
Which means I can see why the dealer ignores the publicity optimism. It looks like the battery is 7.44kWh, and the drive unit needs 86Wh/km (normalised consumption). Well, 7440÷86 is 86.511. Which means real world range is likely to be in the region of 86km, and they'll round it down to 80km to give a little bit of leeway. Dunno where the manufacturer gets the >100km range from. Only going downhill?

Either way, if my "tenner a month" back of the envelope estimation is way out of whack (note, I'll not be working for around ten of those days, I don't do weekends!), it'll need to cost around four times that in order to cost the same as buying diesel. If you want to fiddle around with the numbers, I tend to fill up roughly twice a month. It costs €17-19 each time, for around 325km travelled (that's work and back 12-ish times).
So, yeah, my electricity bill will skyrocket (as I'm not a big user of electricity), but on the other hand, the only dead dino juice I'll need will be for the mowers.

Of course, I'll have a whole new set of anxieties to deal with:

  • Range
  • It's not really my car
  • Range
  • Monthly payments (what if I lose my job, get cancer, get badly injured? worry! worry!)
  • Range
  • All the chaos to deal with in May three years from now.
  • Did I mention range? ☺

On the other hand, I can let go of a few anxieties:

  • Price of fuel shoots up? It'll only matter for the mower that sucks fuel like there's no tomorrow (I'm counting on around €7 per cut - guzzle guzzle).
  • Frenchies pissed off and blockading the refineries? I can now shrug. So I don't cut the grass this week.
  • New car - don't have to worry about bits falling off, old tyres, getting the roadworthiness test, or any of that crap.
  • The car is guaranteed for the first two years, with a special Aixam recovery/assistance network offered in that time. Any breakdown, they'll sort it.
    The motor and battery are guaranteed for five years. Any fault with either, they'll sort it.


I'll be able to talk more, obviously, when I have the car. But for now, this is sort of what the inside looks like.

Inside a new Aixam
Inside a new Aixam.

And this, this is the dashboard. Ignore the bit that says "REGEN", there is no regenerative system on these cars, I think the motor is too small to make it worthwhile.

An electric Aixam's dashboard
An electric Aixam's dashboard.

On the left, a traditional swing-dial speedo. In the middle, a digital one (useful for me, I like my little GPS speedometer as I can just glance down and know exactly what my speed is). Clock, outside temperature, some sort of temperature gauge on the left (motor? battery?) and a power consumption meter on the right (that I might put a piece of paper over - as an ADHD person the last thing I need is something that distracting). And, cute, the battery level indicator as a swing dial on the right, like an old fashioned fuel meter.
And, yes, this particular car had only ever driven 7km and I went and doubled that. I kind of feel guilty...

I quite liked that car, and if it had a better range then I'd have said "that'll do". But, alas, I don't live in a city or big town where it would only need to get me around short distances. I live in the back of beyond. Remember, 80km range means I can go 40km away (without farting around with overpriced charging stations).

Finally, here's what is under the hood. Comically little.

The motor powering an electric Aixam
That's one powerful little motor.
Mine will be different. The bigger capacity cars have a motor that is directly connected to the gears, not via a belt like this one (one less piece to need to change). The thing at the front with all of the fins is the charger unit. The battery is slung under the boot, which means there's no spare tyre. It'll be sad to no have one, but then I've not used it in all the time I've been driving. It's more a sort of "just in case it is needed", rather like why I carry jump leads, a battery charger, spare drive belt, and tools in the boot. France, for all of it's advances and modernity, does not have anything comparable to the AA or RAC (as far as I can tell). Which is, in part, why I have the "ready for just about any minor mishap" mindset. I just want to be able to get my arse home, get a cup of tea in me...


I want to write about the other big thing that's been happening this month, but it's just gone half ten and I've been outside nearly all day, with a diet of two teas, a fake coke, three Milky Ways (that are kind of icky, the fluffy stuff has a texture like polystyrene these days) and... that's it. I'm going to go make dinner and, you know what? Everything hurts. I've been doing heavy work outside. There's a very specific reason why. I'll talk about it in part two (probably tomorrow - I should force myself to take a day of rest or I'll just ache everywhere at work).

But, yeah, I do this on the weekends. I'm like "oh, I can eat later, let's do stuff right now". Later it's like, "I'm tired, I ought to think about heading to bed and.... oh shit, I haven't eaten anything!".
I do this.
I always bloody do this.

Tired. Wanna crawl into bed. Got to make dinner. Oh, FFS...



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jgh, 26th May 2024, 04:13
My car went for its MOT in February and had a similarly expensive list of required repairs. I paid £888 for it, and the repairs started at £700 for the parts... if they could get the parts, which weren't being made any more. So, I bit the bullet and, as I'm not working at the mo, got rid of it. Spending the whole day travelling by train for me now. 
I'm saving a chunk of money, but it's a bugger having no flexibility on travelling. In April the bus timetables changed, so now the *very* *earliest* bus from here now leaves 15 minutes later, and no longer arrives in Leeds in time for the final onward connection. So, it's now impossible to do my normal journey by bus. 
Going by trina requires an initial bus ride to the nearest station. That's a gamble over whether the 1-hour journey will actually get there in time for the connecting train. Which 50% of the time is cancelled leaving another 1 hour to the next train. Which then 50% of the time is no longer a direct train, but terminates halfway requiring *another* 1 hour wait for the following train. And this is one of the state-run franchises. 
Looking under your bonnet, I hope you don't intend driving through any fords in that! I've never seen an engine bay with so much ground visible through it! 
Rick, 26th May 2024, 08:17
It's almost as if they're intentionally trying to wreck Britain's public travel network isn't it? 
I used to use the train a lot in the early 90s and everything pretty much went as it was supposed to. The bus too, was slow but mostly on time. 
I'm not sure an electric motor would be a good thing to put in water, so going through a ford wouldn't be a great idea. That being said, there aren't any around here. They build bridges...
C Ferris, 26th May 2024, 09:31
Not thought of a electric Bicycle then? 
Solar panels - can you plug the car in at work?
A tree-dwelling mammal, 26th May 2024, 12:03
If you have the funds available up-front, it might be worth considering solar panels? 
I installed them here a couple of years back, it's probably saving me over 50% on my electricity bill over the course of a year. I don't have an EV though. The system cost me £5,500 all-in, it's a 4.5kW array with a 3.6kW inverter. I don't have the storage battery as this would have pushed things up to about 12 grand. The returns on this wouldn't have offset the extra cost, particularly factoring in the export tariff (that's right, I get paid for any surplus that gets exported to the grid, adds up to a few hundred quid a year). 
A friend has a 9kW array with a 6kW inverter. He ordered it around the same time as he was changing his car and going for a full-EV. He had the storage battery fitted, along with a solar-aware EV charger. Which, given that he works from home most of the time and only goes into the office twice a week, suits his usage patterns very well. During the summer it costs him nothing to run the car for his commute as it all comes off solar.
Rob, 26th May 2024, 18:57
We have our car on lease (actually Motability) and the lack of worry from having a new car with everything covered is immeasurable. 
7km.. Reminds me of a time at work, was still driving a banger at the time and my boss wanted me to go to a customer site and thought it'd be too embarrassing! So he rented me a car just for the day. Something small, abs new - had less than 30 miles on the clock. In that day, I added about 250..

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