I’m assuming you’re all aware of the Renault Z.E Assistance number that we can call if our Twizys break down or run out of electricity right? Has anyone ever used it? I have, and it was a disaster from start to finish.
So back when I bought my Twizy in June 2012 I was given a sticker with the assistance number on it. I stuck it to my windscreen just in case I ever needed it, and that time came last Friday night in central London.
I was meeting some friends for dinner and had planned where I was going to park my Twizy in London. I drove there easily and thankfully the electric spaces were empty on the street and the charge points were available. I parked the Twizy and the instant I did so I realised something quite horrifying. I had forgot my Source London membership card. Therefore I was at a charge point, but I couldn’t charge it. I only had 4 bars of power left and that just wouldn’t be enough to get me home from London. I needed to charge it. I wanted to kick myself. I’d been away for a couple of weeks prior and had taken all the unnecessary cards out of my wallet and forgot to put the Source London one back in when I got home.
I decided to ring the assistance line to see what their suggestions were and they had trouble understanding the problem at first. I explained quite clearly that I was at a charge point but I didn’t have the necessary card to use it, and their first response was “If you’ve broken down we can pick you up and take you to the nearest charge point”, followed by “We can only help if you’ve broken down”. I then politely responded with “Well if I can’t charge my car and it won’t get me home, then I’ve broken down, haven’t I?”.
He then agreed and said they could get a recovery vehicle out to me and for me to ring back when I actually wanted to go home (This was at the beginning of my night out). I felt a bit more relaxed after that and went to enjoy a nice evening.
It got to 9.30pm and I knew it would take them up to an hour to get to me so I decided to ring them and arrange for the recovery vehicle to pick me up. Again, the woman on the other end had trouble understanding at first but we finally got there and she said somebody would be with me by 10.30pm.
I slowly walked back to my Twizy and was waiting around 30 mins before he got there at roughly 10.30pm. Call me stupid, but I was expecting a Renault Z.E Assistance van to turn up, you know, an EV specialist recovery vehicle. Maybe with a Source London card that i could use, or a way of charging my battery slightly to get me on my way. How wrong I was. Turns out they had just outsourced this electric vehicle assistance to a company called C&S (http://www.csmotorgroup.com), a company with no experience with electric vehicles whatsoever. That wasn’t the worst part though. There had been a breakdown (no pun intended :P) in communication between the two companies and C&S got told it was a flat battery. They had sent someone out to jumpstart me…
I had just waited an hour in the cold and rain, for somebody to turn up who couldn’t help me at all. He then spent the best part of the next 20 minutes trying to get through to his HQ to tell them what the real problem was, and that I’d need a recovery vehicle (which is what i told them in the first place). He said that would be another hour. By this point my friends were already home and I was left in C.London on my own with nothing to do. The pubs were all shutting up as it was nearly 11pm and I had nowhere to go except wait around for another hour in the rain and cold.
So I waited…and waited…and waited. Finally I got a call at 11.40pm by the new driver saying that he couldn’t find the road name in his sat nav and asked if I had a postcode. I didn’t unsurprisingly. I spelt out the name of the road a few times and then he eventually found it and said he would be 14 mins. Then my phone died. I’m sure I waited a lot longer than 14 mins and I was growing anxious in case he couldn’t find the road and was trying to call me. Thankfully he eventually pulled up though and was gobsmacked when I told him it was the Twizy he’d be recovering. He said he wasn’t expecting something so small and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to secure it properly as the straps on the back of his truck are designed for normal sized cars.
After politely conversing with him about the Twizy for 10 minutes, and letting him take photos we finally got it on the back of the truck and strapped down. It was now gone midnight and I rang them at 9.30pm. My house is only a 30 minute journey from C.London at that time of night.
I jumped in the truck and he switched his sat nav on. He explained that these were new sat navs that they’d just installed the previous day and that they had a special truck mode on so that it didn’t route him under low bridges or through width restrictions. I bet you can guess what happened next.
We set off, and straight away the sat nav told him to turn left and head south of the river when I would have turned right and stayed north to travel along the embankment and eventually pick up the A13 heading towards Essex. For anybody that knows London, I was just west of Regents St and north of the river in Mayfair area. We decided to trust his sat nav anyway, and before I knew it we were down by Elephant & Castle. For anybody that isn’t aware, this is a ridiculous way for me to travel home and eventually added an extra hour onto the journey. It kept routing us all around South London before it wanted to take a big recovery vehicle through the Rotherhithe Tunnel which is too low and has width restrictions to enter it. So it’s now 1am, I’m tired, I’m frustrated and we’ve just wasted an hour to get to a tunnel we can’t go through. I then told him to ignore his sat nav and I directed him to the Blackwall Tunnel using Google Maps (He had a phone charger in the truck). It didn’t help that this guy was a f*cking imbecile who couldn’t drive and didn’t actually know his way around London.
We eventually got back to my house at about 2.30am. Remember, my house is a 30 min journey from C.London at night and I rang them at 9.30pm.
I was so thankful to get home and started to relax only for a horrible grinding noise to make me suspicious that the night was not yet over. That grinding noise was the trucks gearbox, and that gearbox lowered the back to let cars off. The gearbox had gone, and he couldn’t get my Twizy off his truck. He said he would have to call another recovery truck and said I could leave him my keys and he would pop the Twizy back on my drive once it was all sorted out. I politely refused and said I would be going to bed and he can call me once the other truck was there.
Thankfully it wasn’t too long and no sooner had I got undressed and into bed was he ringing me to come back out. All in all it must have been about 25 minutes until the other truck was there. They backed the second truck up to the first one and I had to drive my Twizy onto the second truck. They then lowered that one and I was finally home and dry. Well…not that dry as it was pissing it down, but you catch my drift.
3AM. Three o’clock in the bloody morning, and I was finally home.