Driving Instructor Interview
Rob Cooling, Apple Driving School

Rob Cooling Apple Driving School, Nottingham

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Rob Cooling talks about his passion; Electric Vehicles and how the industry is changing

Last month, we caught up with Rob Cooling just after the Instructors Network Seminar 2019. We spoke about the key advantages of Electric Vehicles (EVs), and how the industry is starting to move towards automatics over manual transmissions.

How long have you been an ADI?

Since 2006, I was a PDI in 2005. So 13 years now and I’m sure many more enjoyable years to come.

What did you do before becoming an ADI?

Sort of a graphic designer for a local company learning to build websites, design leaflets and computer work. This proved very useful when I became a driving instructor in terms of being self employed and building my own business.

Why did you become an ADI?

I had a strong desire to become self-employed in the early 2000s, I really enjoy working for myself and having control over my own business. I never enjoyed driving back then so it’s slightly odd I decided to become a driving instructor, I soon discovered that I love teaching and discovering electric cars has also brought enjoyment to my driving.

My passion now comes from supporting students with special/specific needs and generally those who have difficulty with learning to drive. I thrive from the challenge and trying to work through the diverse difficulties that arise, it forces me to be creative and understanding. I study thoroughly and I often seek help because it makes me realise how much more I have left to learn.

2018 was a turning point for EV’s with demand significantly exceeding supply, this has triggered huge waiting lists and massive investment from manufacturers reacting to demand.

What got your interested in EVs (Electric Vehicles)?

We took a family test drive in a Leaf in 2015, from that point we were determined to go electric. We delayed purchasing for a year while we investigated and got past the many myths that surround EV’s. My wife soon insisted we also replace our family car with an EV so now we have 2 of them. Once you’ve spent time with an electric car there’s no going back.

Our leases expire next year so we plan to invest in 2 new EV’s to last us the next 10 years, I prefer to keep my cars long term and high mileage. The running cost savings across 10 years for the 2 EV’s will add up to over £25,000.

EVs Charging

What do you think are the advantages of the EVs?

There are 3 different ways you can be attracted to EVs:

  1. Environmental benefits.
  2. Cost Savings. Look at the savings hiding behind the upfront costs.
  3. It’s a better product, once you’ve tried an EV or had one for a while it becomes very hard to return to an ICE (internal combustion engine) car.

Destination Driving - Unlike an ICE car an EV can refuel itself while you sleep, shop, swim or go about your daily life. The ability to charge at your destination is a huge advantage. 60% of the population have off street parking so can have a home charger, the other 40% will be reliant on a public network just like all ICE cars are.

Vehicle to Grid - An EV can be used to power your home or can be used by your energy company as a storage system for the grid in return for financial reward, electrification opens up dynamic new possibilities.

Extra cash - While you sleep the energy companies sell back the electricity to others at a higher price and you get a cut of the profit!

When do you think EVs will become mainstream?

EV’s have achieved exponential growth and 2018 saw $300 billion of investment from manufactures reacting to demand. The next few years will see the market rapidly expanding. By 2030 it is possible EV’s could represent 50% of all new car sales.

Although the cars are currently more expensive the running cost savings offset the higher purchase costs and you get a better product. Once EV’s are well established the government will rightly have to bring in a new modernised taxation system, most likely a mileage tax with different rates for different types of vehicle.

An EV charges itself on the driveway. 60% of people have off street parking, 40% of EV’s will rely on a public network just like all ICE cars do.

What is your student reaction to EVs?

It’s been very positive, most of my pupils will buy a petrol automatic which is fine. An EV is unlikely to be their 1st car but it will probably be their 2nd or 3rd car. I teach it as an automatic car, only focusing on the unique elements to electric when it becomes relevant or if the pupil expresses an interest. An EV can function just like any automatic allowing for transferable skills.

All my pupils get to try plugging the car in as a part of my 100 mile multi-motorway lesson.

I support many of my pupils post test in their own cars so I get to see them transition into a petrol automatic, the only real difference is sensation because the smooth grace of an EV contrasts against the roughness of an internal combustion engine.

For learners, before they get in a car for your first lesson what 3 things would you like them to know?

Focus early on the theory test, many pupils with specific needs have serious difficulties with the theory test. I often have to devote huge amounts of time to formal theory support.

Watch others driving, observe roundabout traffic flow when you are on the bus or just walking by a junction. A lot can be learned just through observation allowing the brain to process how traffic flows.

Use sports and computer games to develop rapid reaction speeds and hand to eye co-ordination, critical skills which if weak can dramatically slow the learning pace during lessons.

2 women enjoying their time at a DING outing

In the last 5 years, what do you think is the biggest change in the industry?

The rise of automatic which now represents over 40% of all new production cars and over 50% of all new leased cars. In the future we will see the driving test adapting to incorporate new technologies including autonomous elements. Across the next decade we will witness the sudden demise of the manual car which is looking unlikely to be in mainstream production after 2030.

In your experience, what are the top 5 traits of an ADI?

  1. Listening Skills
  2. Creativity
  3. Flexibility
  4. Patience
  5. Honesty

What’s your advice for new PDIs?

My greatest error as a PDI was using an overly rigid syllabus and a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This was partly to do with my training and it took me years to begin to breakaway from it. I have since moved towards an open, interactive and flexible approach. I am able to recognise when I am stuck and seek help.

Listen to the pupil, they are very diverse.

Rob Cooling specialises in Electric Vehicle tuition and teaching those with special needs. See Rob's GoRoadie profile.

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