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Electric Vehicle Driving Instructor Rob Cooling | Q&A

Posted August 28, 2018 by Emma

Rob Cooling from Apple Driving school has been a driving instructor for thirteen years. Rob made the switch to electric cars back in 2017, his only regret is not doing it sooner! Here's his EV story:

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a special needs driving instructor in Nottingham, I teach pupils with specific/special needs and learning difficulties. I’m very involved in the promotion of EVs within the driver training industry. Just in Nottingham, we have gone from 0 to 7+ electric driving instructors within 18 months.

How long have you been a driving instructor?

13 years. I started as a PDI (driving instructor in training) in 2005 then qualified in 2006. In 2011 I switched to teaching pupils with special needs and have become very passionate about that aspect of my job. When autonomous cars take over and I stop being a driving instructor, I hope to continue my pursuit of supporting individuals with specific learning difficulties.

Have you always taught using EVs?

I wish I had! I love teaching driving but never had a particular passion for actually driving, prior to my Nissan Leaf. I’m slightly annoyed that I coped for 20 years in manual cars when I could have been thriving in automatics. I test drove a Leaf in 2015 and took the plunge in early 2017. I just wish I hadn’t delayed so long because it’s been a thrilling journey since then! My fuel bill has dropped from £240+ per month to less than £70 per month, so the savings practically cover my lease costs. However, even if electric was more expensive than petrol/diesel I would still choose an EV because electricity is simply a better way of making something move. The driver training industry is experiencing dramatic change, with a rapid increase in demand for automatic from the new generation learning to drive. The old nonsense stigma surrounding automatics has died away and it’s a very refreshing and upbeat transformation.

Do you only teach using EVs?

Yes, and I will never go back. I use a 30kWh Nissan Leaf for my driving school and a 40kWh Leaf as our family car, which we recently took on a 500-mile journey to and from Exeter. I’m very lucky because Nottingham's charging infrastructure is excellent and constantly improving. I rarely need to rapid charge as my daily mileage doesn’t tend to exceed 100 miles, so my Pod Point at home does 95% of my recharging.

Why learn to drive in an EV?

It’s an exciting taste of the future. It’s unlikely (but not impossible) that the pupil’s first automatic car will be an EV, but more likely that their 2nd or 3rd car will be electric. Transitioning from an electric to petrol/diesel automatic is no issue but it leaves the pupil with a desire for an EV. I tested this first hand with my pupils when I was briefly loaned a petrol automatic while my Leaf was being repaired following an unfortunate rear end shunt. Pupils adapt easily but the noise/vibration of an ICE car is a surprise when all you are used to is the smooth and quiet grace of an EV.

Do you think we'll all be driving EVs in the future?

It seems inevitable. Although I’m not interested in the other options myself (hydrogen) I’d support anything which acts as a stepping stone to a better environmental relationship with our planet. I suffer from asthma and I’ve always been worried about the poor air quality my children were breathing every time I walked them to primary school past the long queues of stationary traffic. Time to be done with that and clean up the air we breathe.

Does age come into it? With the view toward EVs?

Not exclusively but yes. The new generation learning to drive are more keen on the modern technology that makes EV’s such a wonderful upgrade from the patched-up 19th-century tech that is an ICE car. The sudden and expanding shift away from manual cars and towards automatic/electric reflects this (40% of all new cars are now automatic, due to clear 50% in the next few years). A manual car is fantastic for someone who has a passion for that technology and there is nothing wrong with that. But, for everyone else who learns to drive to simply travel efficiently then automatic is now making much more sense. The previous generational stigma towards automatic is finally failing and it is cruel to belittle someone for choosing to learn in an automatic. Because of this ridiculous stigma, a lot of people have spent decades struggling or coping in a manual car when they could have been thriving in an automatic. Redundant and unnecessarily complex technology should be allowed to pass away except by those who have a keen passion for it (like with steam engines).

Rob Cooling is a driving instructor at Apple Driving. You can follow Rob and Apple Driving on twitter via @ads_robcooling.