Taking the wheel: EV experiences of a seasoned driver and a newbie

In our series ‘Taking the wheel’, we examine how people are, more and more, in the driver’s seat when it comes to mobility. In episode three, EV adept Kees and EV newbie Tessa share their experiences with electric driving.

    “Without electric mobility, no future”

    When Tessa Hoff joined Athlon as our brand-new Head of Marketing, she became the proud owner of her first Electric Vehicle. As an EV newbie, Tessa was curious to hear tips and tricks from experienced EV drivers. Kees Swildens, Athlon’s Head of Digital Business & eCommerce, has been driving a plug-in hybrid for years. Did he have interesting insights to share with Tessa? We asked!

    Kees, Athlon’s Head of Digital Business & eCommerce, is driving home from Stuttgart when his virtual chat with Tessa starts. He has safely parked his plug-in Mercedes Benz A250e at a charging station and is all set for a relaxed conversation. “That’s one of the major changes when driving electric,” he says. “You plan when you are going to stop and you simply make the best use of the charging time – whether that’s by grabbing a coffee, checking your emails or doing an interview, like today.”

    Tip 1: slow down and relax (and be patient)

    Kees, you’ve been driving electric for a while now. When did you first step into an EV?
    Kees: “Over 10 years ago. In 2011, Mercedes-Benz and Daimler launched Car2Go in Amsterdam, one of the first large-scale electric car sharing programs in the world. As I was head of marketing at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Netherlands at the time, I had the chance to support the launch and test the all-electric Smart Fortwo vehicles extensively.”

    Did you become an instant EV fan?
    Kees: “To be honest, I didn't like it at first. It even took me some years to adopt the right mindset to EV driving. It’s not the range anxiety that bothered me, but the extra charging time. Driving a car had always meant getting to my destination as fast and efficiently as possible. Most of the time in the fast lane… When you drive an EV, that’s no longer the case. You really have to change your driving attitude.”

    What made you change your attitude?
    Kees: “Time, I guess. We, humans, are what we repeatedly do. So, over the years I got used to ‘going with the flow’. More than forcing us to take the time for travel, because you need to recharge at times, EVs are also really quiet, smooth cars. They help me travel in a much more relaxed way, which make them worth wanting to change. I could never go back now. While I’ve always driven a hybrid car, I’m now waiting for my first fully electric vehicle – and I’m all ready for it.”


    More than forcing us to take the time for travel, because you need to recharge at times, EVs are also really quiet, smooth cars. They help me travel in a much more relaxed way, which make them worth wanting to change.” - Kees Swildens, Head of Digital Business & eCommerce

    Tessa, you are pretty new to the world of EVs. Would you have considered an EV if it wasn’t for Athlon’s car policy that urges all employees to drive electric?
    Tessa: “Well, coincidentally, I was looking to replace my car when I joined Athlon, so I had been investigating the options. Buying or leasing a new car meant a commitment for at least four years, and I couldn’t justify to myself not to go electric and burden the environment for another four years. While the purchase price is pretty high, I’m sure it works out cheaper over the life of the vehicle. Still, it was very helpful that I didn’t have to outweigh pros and cons and could skip the stress of making the initial investment, thanks to Athlon.”

    Tip 2: be prepared to do some pre-planning

    Do you have difficulty adapting your mindset, as Kees had?
    Tessa: “Not that much. I’ve been driving my electric XC40 Recharge Volvo for a couple of months now and I got used to it pretty quickly. Now, I haven’t done any really long journeys yet, so my perception might change if I had to drive 1,000 kilometers… And yes, when I visit my mom who lives 150 km up north, I do a bit of extra planning now. I charge the car for a couple of hours at a public charger, that’s close to her house thankfully, while enjoying dinner, to avoid range anxiety when heading back home. But driving an electric car is pure pleasure. The car is so silent and comfortable that I don’t mind the extra journey planning.”

    Evs Parking Lot

    “Driving an electric care is pure pleasure.  The car is so silent and comfortable, that I don’t mind the journey planning.” - Tessa Hoff, Head of Marketing, Athlon

    Tip 3: do your homework, test drive the car

    You both mention the comfort of an EV as its main benefit, is that so?
    Kees: “Absolutely. It’s a completely different experience. No noise, no smell and they drive so smooth. Anyway, you can’t really understand how it feels if you haven’t experienced it. That’s why it is really important for users to try the car before they make their choice. There are many options on the market. You could do this by using EV car sharing. Alternatively, take a test drive at a dealership. When you go and test it, you are sure to find the vehicle that best fits your needs. More than that, a try-out will help overcome most of the hurdles and myths about electric driving.”

    Tessa: “I agree. It’s a very relaxed way of driving and the latest technical options only add to the experience. So, word to the wise, if you are in the market for buying or leasing a car, don’t make any decisions before you’ve done a test drive in an EV!”

    Charging electric leasecar

    Tip 4: learn what impacts battery life

    Did you experience any hurdles, Tessa, that could have been avoided?
    Tessa: “I still have a bit of trouble with the battery life estimate, I must say. I’ve always loved a sporty driving style, so to speak. And while I know that affects the ‘fuel economy’ of any vehicle, the difference in an EV is stark. On top of that, heating and air-conditioning, navigation, phone charging, etc. all impact the battery life, as does the outside temperature. That is something I have to get used to. Again, it requires a bit of extra planning. When you know you have a long drive ahead of you, make sure you know where you can charge your car along the way and calculate the extra time needed to do so. And adopt a smoother driving style, that helps me to consume less battery power. It’s a bit of learning by doing really.” 

    Tip 5: ask for support if needed

    Were you familiar with how to charge a vehicle and save battery life in the beginning?
    Tessa: “Well, I am lucky to work at Athlon. On the day that I would get my electric vehicle, we had an in-house training session on how to manage range and charging solutions. That, as well as tips from colleagues, gave me more confidence in the first days of driving my EV. On the other hand, we mustn’t exaggerate the difference. An EV is still a car, with an accelerator, brakes and a steering wheel. And yes, charging is different than refueling, but I remember I was very nervous the first time I had to refuel my parents’ ICE vehicle as well, many years ago.”

    Kees: “That’s true, some extra support can provide assurance to drivers who are nervous about moving to an EV. Just like my colleague Nicki Jenne explained in a previous interview, Athlon as well as corporate fleet managers can help speed up EV adoption, by ensuring a smooth onboarding, coaching on how to manage range and charging solutions, and acting as an ‘information hub’. It might even be a good idea to act as a coach for other newbies and help users when they’re having difficulties with other aspects of electric driving, like charging stations.”

    The future is definitely electric  

    Any thoughts you want to share that could further improve the EV driving experience?
    Tessa: “For now, I can’t charge my electric vehicle in my neighborhood and that’s a bit of a challenge. I see that more and more charging stations are popping up these days, but I do hope that authorities will speed up the installation process. It’s definitely a good thing that more and more companies are installing charging points at their offices, for their own employees as well as visitors. At the Athlon office in Almere, for example, we have multiple chargers available. That will definitely smoothen the road for EVs.”

    Kees: "Driving an EV is certainly a lot less daunting today than it was 10 years ago. I can easily charge the car at the office as well as at home, but still, I agree that we have to accelerate the pace of investment in charging infrastructure. After all, there is no way back: the benefits of EV driving are clear to me, the future is definitely electric."