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?
by: Hattie Greenyer
25 Sep 2023
Hattie Greenyer and family with the Citroën ë-C4 (Photo: Exposure Photo Agency)
Sponsored by 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.
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.
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
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’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
Change a vendor's life this Christmas and beyond
Buy a Big Issue Winter Support Kit for £34.99, you’ll receive four copies of the magazine and vendors could receive immediate tools for survival plus access to vital training and employment pathways to escape poverty for good.