On Monday my Renault Fluence ZE and I attended a complimentary driver training course offered by Better Place. I met Better Place master driver, Oren, at the visitor centre and we went out to my car along with another employee along for the ride.
Back in the UK I took lessons over 12 years ago with the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). This is a UK organisation responsible for giving advanced lessons to interested motorists and to prospective driving instructors. They have worked for years with the Police and (if things haven’t changed) it used to be a requirement for Police drivers to pass various of their advanced tests.
Most of what they taught me had to do with defensive driving and far sighted observation of what is happening around you as you drive. It is heavily focused on anticipation of the actions of other drivers. I have incorporated a great deal of what they taught me into my daily driving ever since. In Israel, especially, where the driving is not of a generally high level, this kind of careful attention has certainly saved me from significant harm.
It also turns out that careful prediction of what is going on ahead saves you fuel. It’s not about “hyper-milling” and other strange techniques, it’s just about not over accelerating when all you will have to do 100m later is brake.
So the emphasis of Better Place’s session is on energy efficient driving. I have argued that this is actually less important with an EV than with a petrol car. Most petrol drivers could save themselves hundreds of dollars per year with better technique. Unless I’m driving to the very edge of my range, it makes little difference to me.
We started off on Better Place’s handy little test track. Oren has driven a car like mine over 230km on a single battery charge. He did this on regular Israeli roads without annoying anyone by driving slowly. In a normal mix of city and highway driving 140km is probably more reasonable. Without care
Oren encouraged me to learn how to accelerate without using the upper ranges of the power available: something I can do have the feel for. He also made me perform a full emergency stop. I’m glad he did that, I learned that the car turns on the hazard lights automatically: something I hadn’t found out.
He also encouraged me to make a couple of laps as fast as I could: it was fun to remember my days on various tracks in the UK and, while Fluence is no sports car, anything can be fun if you chuck it into corners with gusto!
We then headed out to the jungle: Israel’s roads. I left the place giving a demonstration of the running predictive commentary technique the IAM taught me so long ago. It’s very nerdy: basically you speak about everything you’re doing and seeing with the car. Most people can’t take more than three minutes.
I was practicing my best energy efficient driving, trying not to use the brakes (actually quite easy in a car that slows down when you lift off the accelerator). It’s all about predicting what’s happening ahead and reacting before things happen not afterwards.
We stopped along the way for Oren to show me something about my wing mirrors. He disapproved of me looking over my shoulder to check my blind spot and instead asked me to adjust my mirrors for a wider view. He said there was no need for me to see the side of my own car and I’m trying this. It has eliminated the blind spot on the drivers side and drastically reduced it on the other side. With a very small shift in my head, while reversing for example, I can still see the side of the car. I’m open to new ideas so I’m giving this a try.
What a great experience: I know the cynics will come back at me with all the stuff about how Better Place are ever going to make a profit but I don’t care. They are leading the way in so many areas of service. It’s beyond good and while I’m trying not to sound like a complete fan boy all the time, I really can’t complain about anything.