Electric vehicle romance leads to myth-busting talks with seniors


The love that Margaret McDonald and Hugh Sykes have for each other is best described as electric.

The pair had lived houses apart in a retirement village on the NSW Central Coast for a few years.

But they weren’t aware of each other until a new electric vehicle (EV) drove through the front gates.

“I had heard all this village buzz that this man called Hugh Sykes had bought a Tesla,” Ms McDonald, 77, said.

“I was a bit miffed because I was no longer the queen of the village with the only electric car.”

The couple are concerned about climate change.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

She wrote him an email congratulating him and asked if she could see it.

“Men expect the love of their life to come knocking on their door,” Mr Sykes, 81, said.

“Anyway, she did.”

After being divorced for 40 years, Ms McDonald was convinced she would never marry again.

But the pair had so much in common, they got hitched in June, about a year after they met.

Couple kiss at alter
The pair got married at Avoca Beach.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)
The couple stand smiling in their wedding gear
They met in March 2021.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

One of the only speed bumps has been deciding which car to take to the ceremony and on trips away.

“[Hugh’s] car is white and mine is coloured, and he thought it was more bridal than mine,” Ms McDonald said.

Just married sticker placed onto a car
The newlyweds discuss which of their cars is best for certain trips.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

Not an ‘end to the weekend’

The newlyweds both bought electric cars because of their concerns about climate change.

Ms McDonald decided to purchase hers after the 2019 federal election campaign.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison said the then opposition leader Bill Shorten wanted to “end the weekend when it comes to his policy on electric vehicles”.

At a press conference on the Central Coast, former small business minister Michaelia Cash declared that a Liberal government would “stand by our trades” and “save their utes.”

Woman's reflection in the rearview mirror
Margaret likes to prove to other motorists that EVs are capable.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

“I thought, ‘I’m not going to listen to that campaign, I’m going to go out and buy one’,” Ms McDonald said.

“My favorite thing to do is to be at the traffic lights with a ute beside me and a tradie and the minute the traffic lights turn green I flatten it and I leave them for dead.

“As soon as I hit the speed limit, I have to sort of slow it down and they come racing past me, looking.”

Woman talks to residents from the driver's seat
Retirement village residents are inspired by the couple’s electric cars.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

Debunking myths to older people

The pair has started debunking myths about electric vehicles based on their own experience by giving presentations to seniors’ groups.

“You hear a lot of trash talk about electric vehicles,” Mr Sykes said.

“So, we thought, ‘Well why not give a talk on it?”

Couple talk infront of crowd
The pair deliver talks to older people about the benefits and myths of electric cars.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

Myths

Margaret and Hugh’s experience

‘Electric vehicles are just as bad for the climate because they’re charged by coal-fired electricity’

“They never think about what’s involved in getting the petrol to their car,” Ms McDonald said.

She said it’s “taken power to get that gallon of petrol” after it’s mined, refined and shipped.

With solar panels at home, she said she has only paid $57 in power while on long trips for the 30,000 km clocked up on the odometer.

‘They are also worse environmentally because of battery manufacturing’

“When you look at the cradle-to-grave environmental impact of the two forms of transport, the electric car wins hands down,” Mr Sykes said.

“With an electric car, you have to put a bit more effort in building the batteries but that produces a durable good which lasts for at least 10 years or so.

“The components of the battery can be recycled.”

‘There’s not enough range driving’ and ‘charging takes too long’

“It’s a macismo thing that you drive all day without stopping,” Mr Sykes said.

“People do have to stop to go to the toilet, they need to have a meal — when they do that they can charge.

“With the number of chargers we’ve got, you don’t need a range of much more than 400 km.”

“For older people, I think electric cars are terrific because they’re extremely convenient … and cheap to run,” Mr Sykes said.

“Also, the controls, when you get used to them, are actually simpler — you can’t stall them.”

Pair drive around
Margaret and Hugh say older people should consider purchasing an EV as their last car.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

Both Ms McDonald and Mr Sykes said governments still had a way to go to encourage uptake.

That included more purchaser incentives, charging stations, implementing fuel efficiency targets and improving vehicle emissions standards.

“Then everybody will take them up, we hope,” Ms McDonald said.

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