On the driving course, there is a surprising amount to learn about braking distances and acceleration – Drivalia starts training on safe driving for company electric cars
The past winter with its freezing temperatures has been challenging for electric car drivers, not only in terms of charging, but also in getting used to a new type of car and driving style. Last year, almost half of the company cars ordered by Drivalia were fully electric cars, so many first timers are now driving on the winter roads.
Practicing in safe conditions on the track helps you get to know the behavior and driving characteristics of a heavy car, such as a longer braking distance than usual.
Car leasing company Drivalia started to wonder about how well-equipped company car drivers are for winter driving with a new fully electric car. The concern is topical because 49 percent of company cars ordered last year were already fully electric cars. Since electric cars, which are comfortable and quiet to drive, move differently in winter conditions than traditional combustion engine cars, it is important to get to know your own car.
Henrik Sundberg, CEO of the driving training center Premier Park, has also noticed challenges for drivers in managing the driving characteristics of fully electric cars. For example, the uncertainty and the need for practice is indicated by the fact that, after the track drive, you have to set aside plenty of time for the questions and feedback from the group members. The final discussions used to take around 15 minutes, but now, even an hour might not be enough to answer all the questions of electric car drivers.
– People have a surprising number of things to learn, but electric car drivers are also very eager and open towards their vehicles, says Sundberg. Drivalia has started a partnership with Premier Park to help people get more familiar with and feel safer when driving fully electric cars.
– With safe driving training, we want to lower the threshold for purchasing an electric car, and thus contribute to traffic safety. In the future, our service selection will include training on the safe driving of electric cars, which will be organized in cooperation with the driving training center Premier Park. Driving training is a meaningful way for drivers to learn by experimenting and testing themselves, and an easy way for companies to ensure that the new driving force is introduced in a controlled manner, explains Drivalia's Head of Corporate Business Tiina Märijärvi.
Anticipation as the basis of everything
Sundberg summarizes the biggest differences between combustion engine cars and electric cars in weight and efficiency. The drivers’ most important skill is anticipation.
– Electric car drivers should be aware that the car is clearly heavier than combustion engine cars and this affects the length of the braking distance. This is usually a surprise. Another is the efficiency of electric cars, they accelerate much faster, reminds Sundberg.
When practicing driving, we start with the correct way to brake, because it is related to both driving at intersections and the so-called elk avoidance, i.e. emergency braking, doing an evasive maneuver, and returning to one's own lane.
– Young drivers have driven modern cars during driving school, the driving style of which is more comparable to an electric car. Us older drivers have been taught the pumping braking method, which is not suitable for new cars. Now you have to press the brake hard immediately and keep your foot on the pedal. The most important thing is to slow down enough so that it is easier to make a successful steering maneuver and dodge, explains Sundberg.
During training, attention is also paid to the driving position, so that the distance between the seat and the pedals is correct, and the hands rest at a 90-degree angle on the wheel in the quarter to three position. This makes steering the easiest and fastest, even in dangerous situations.
– Anticipation is essential when driving any car, but when driving an electric car, its importance becomes even more important. Anticipation is important when estimating braking distances, maintaining safety distances, and following traffic. Anticipation also affects the operating range of the electric car because smooth driving saves battery power. You shouldn't drive too fast during the summer either, and during the winter, the speed should be proportional to the weather. Safety is increased by the fact that the car has good tires, be they studded or friction. Tires are the car's most important accessory, says Sundberg.
Fast acceleration increases the importance of the safety distance
Sales Manager Nestori Leppänen and Key Account Manager Panu Fält have been driving their new cars for about a year, and neither would want to change them back to combustion engine cars. Although neither of them has the possibility of home charging, they think that charging is effortless.
Fält has already experienced winter driving last spring, but for Leppänen, the last few months have been the first chance to drive the car in slippery and freezing conditions. Fält's car has four-wheel drive, which supports driving on slippery surfaces. Both have noticed that the braking distance is now longer. In addition to the weight, it is good to notice that the car's center of gravity is lower than usual because of the batteries. Cars also accelerate quickly, for example, when starting from traffic lights – you should not press the gas all the way down right away.
– Safety distances are on my mind a lot, states Fält.
– Actually, driving feels steadier when you have a heavier car. Winter driving did not reveal huge surprises for me, as I was already pretty used to my car, says Leppänen. Fält is fond of the fact that his electric car warms up quickly during the winter. It is safe to drive when the windows aren’t frozen. When it comes to range, it is good to remember that cold weather consumes more battery life, but the same phenomenon occurs in combustion engine cars as well.
– The biggest difference compared to previous cars is driving with one pedal, which I use to adjust the speed instead of braking. I use it all the time because it's great for city driving. Driving with one pedal has to be learned separately, and it requires real anticipation from the driver, Leppänen explains.
Both think that it is good to practice driving in driving training because it brings confidence to driving and increases safety.