Frequently Asked Questions

Bookings and lessons

How do I book a lesson with Bright Spark?

You can book a lesson by getting in touch by the ‘Contact’ page of this website. Bright Spark prefers to understand each learner drivers’ individual needs before making a booking, which is why there is no online booking option available.

Please be aware that you will be communicating directly with Bright Spark when making a booking and calls and messages cannot be returned when a lesson is in progress. Bright Spark will get back to you as soon as possible and appreciates your understanding.

When are lessons available?

Bright Spark is pleased to offer lessons over a wide variety of timeslots, ranging from mornings to evenings on both weekdays and weekends. It is important for Bright Spark to fit in around learner drivers’ busy lives and provide opportunities for them to gain valuable on-the-road experience in a range of road conditions.

Can I bring a friend, parent, mentor or translator along with me for the lesson?

Absolutely! If the person you are bringing along with you is there to learn with you or help you learn.  As you are approaching your licence test, you could even bring a group of your noisy friends along in the back seat as a distraction to better prepare you for real situations you will face when solo driving.

Likewise, Bright Spark can accommodate new parents who would find it easier to bring their children along on the lesson.

Bright Spark can even split the cost of a long lesson with you and a friend if you would like to learn together to venture to more challenging places, like a trip up to Melbourne to practice some hook turns and to share the road with trams.

Does Bright Spark offer automatic lessons?

Yes! Bright Spark’s fully electric, zero emission Nissan Leaf is an automatic. It has no gearbox and is incredibly simple and fun to drive.

Does Bright Spark offer manual lessons?

No. Bright Spark's fully electric Nissan Leaf is considered to be an automatic vehicle for licence testing.
Bright Spark has accreditation to provide driving instruction in both manual and automatic vehicles. Unfortunately, due to  insurance limitations, Bright Spark cannot provide lessons in any vehicle without dual controls.

Do I need a manual licence?

In short, no, unless you have a specific reason to do so. ‘My parents got their manual licence, and they think I should too’ is not a good reason with the world changing rapidly around us. Do you know how to use a fax machine, or a slide rule? Just because your parents may have used such things in the past does not mean that you need these skills today.

Specific reasons you may wish to obtain a manual licence are: 

  • The vehicle that you will receive the bulk of your minimum 120 logbook hours has a manual transmission.
  • You have an employment requirement to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.
  • You are interested in developing your roadcraft skills further after obtaining your licence, such as driving a heavy vehicle, driving off-road, driving while towing or riding a motorbike.

Even if you have no desire to own or drive an electric car in the immediate future, you will find that more and more modern petrol and diesel vehicle variants are not offered in a manual transmission. Almost all rental and fleet cars in Australia have automatic transmissions. Modern vehicles with automatic transmissions are now more fuel-efficient than their manual counterparts.

As much as Bright Spark has enjoyed driving and riding manual vehicles over the last 20+ years, the mix of vehicles on our roads has changed towards automatic and constantly varying transmission and will further change with the move towards gearbox-less vehicles with fully electric vehicles becoming more common.

Electric vehicle driving skills

Why drive electric?

One of Bright Spark’s motivations to be a driving instructor in a zero emission, fully electric vehicle is to help change incorrect perceptions about electric vehicles that exist in our community. While Bright Spark acknowledges that electric vehicles are sadly still unaffordable for many people, this presents an opportunity to give all learner drivers experience in electric vehicles, and transfer eco driving techniques to any vehicle being driven to reduce fuel usage and minimise emissions.

Electric vehicles are whisper quiet and are a calm and peaceful learning environment. They are so quiet that they have a noise generator that operates when the vehicle is at low speed to warn pedestrians of their presence! Electric vehicles are wells suited to learner drivers who may have anxiety about getting behind the wheel.

The Nissan Leaf has a mode called ‘e-Pedal’. When activated, this allows anxious learner drivers to slow or even stop the vehicle by using just the accelerator. This allows them to focus on other tasks like steering, lane positioning and observations and allows them to build their confidence more quickly.

Electric vehicles are fun to drive, even if you do not share Bright Spark’s passion for our transition to a clean, renewable energy future. The Nissan Leaf has a 110kW motor, with maximum torque at low RPM. Simply put, it can accelerate smoothly and quickly!

I already have my licence but would like to get some driving experience in an electric car. Can you help?

Sure! One of Bright Spark’s motivations to be a driving instructor in a zero emission, fully electric vehicle is to bring a greater awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles to the Geelong community. Geelong has had a strong history in automotive manufacturing and hydrocarbon fuel refining that we should be proud of. However, the world is changing, and Geelong needs to be forward looking to ensure it has a clever and creative future by taking action on climate change. Bright Spark sees renewable energy and electric vehicles as part of this future and wants to help drive this change.

Bright Spark has “Driver Under Instruction” plates that can be fitted to the Nissan Leaf, and can give anyone an opportunity to experience driving an electric vehicle. Eco driving techniques demonstrated by Bright Spark can be transferred to any vehicle being driven to reduce fuel usage and minimise emissions.

If you are not up for a drive and just want to get your head around how electric vehicles work, then Bright Spark is happy to have a chat while the Nissan Leaf is having a top-up charge at a public charging station.

My parents/driving mentor/extended family do not own or have access to an electric car. Electric cars are unaffordable for me to buy once I obtain my driver licence. Will the driver training I receive with Bright Spark be beneficial to driving in conventional petrol, LPG or diesel-powered vehicles?

The Nissan Leaf is one of the most ‘normal’ functioning fully electric vehicles on the road, ensuring a seamless skills transition between this vehicle and conventional petrol, LPG or diesel-powered vehicles that learner drivers may also gain experience in.

You will learn transferrable skills like steering, lane positioning, hazard assessments, observations, speed control, mirror and blind spot checks. These skills are transferrable to any vehicle you drive. Remember, you will not be driving the same car forever!

Electric vehicle types

Why does Bright Spark operate a Nissan Leaf? Why not use a Tesla?

The Nissan Leaf was chosen as it is one of the most affordable and available fully electric vehicles in Australia, with a history dating back the last decade. The Nissan Leaf is one of the most ‘normal’ looking and functioning, fully electric vehicles on the road, ensuring a seamless skills transition between this vehicle and conventional petrol, LPG or diesel-powered vehicles that learner drivers may also gain experience in.

The Nissan Leaf has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating and includes some amazing new safety technology like autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot alerts, top-down 360° camera view and artificial intelligence driver fatigue monitoring, as well as standard safety technology like reversing sensors, traction control, airbags and anti-lock brakes.

Tesla make some incredible vehicles, but they are too far removed from what most normal people will be commonly driving.

What happens if the battery in Bright Spark’s Nissan Leaf goes flat?

Electric vehicles require the use of the ABC principle… Always Be Charging. Every night, and every lunch break the Nissan Leaf gets a top-up charge to keep it on the road. The Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery has a range of up to 270km between charges, which is more than enough for a day on the road.

Bright Spark charges the Nissan Leaf overnight at home with a 6.6kW fixed charger, at various public charging locations throughout Geelong (including some 50kW fast chargers) and carries a 1.4 - 3.6kW portable charger that plugs into any normal domestic power outlet. The 270km range is completely replenished overnight by simply plugging it in for a charge. How great is that!

What is the point of having a fully electric vehicle that you must plug in to charge? Don’t Toyota hybrid vehicles “charge as you drive”?

Hybrid vehicles that do not have the ability to plug in to charge have petrol as their only source of energy. They implement a small electric drivetrain to charge the battery through regenerative braking and can generate electricity from petrol, when efficient to do so, to improve overall fuel efficiency. The electricity generated by “charge as you drive” assists the petrol engine during acceleration.

Hybrid vehicles that do not have the ability to plug in to charge can never be run on renewable energy. Bright Spark sees them as a type of transition vehicle to zero emission, fully electric vehicles, like a Nissan Leaf.

Electric vehicle charging and environmental impact

What happens if there is a failure in the electricity network?

Bright Spark has lived in Geelong for the last 15 years, and has experienced less than five power outages, none lasting longer than a few hours. Remember that petrol pumps at your local servo also require electricity to operate!

Will charging of electric vehicles cause electricity grid instability?

The energy use of electric vehicles can be managed by use of smart controls. Bright Spark uses the built-in timer in the Nissan Leaf to start charging during times of lower demand and cheaper electricity tariffs, generally between 10AM until 4PM, and then again 11PM until 7AM.

Bright Spark is often out and about on the road with learner drivers when the electricity grid is under higher demand levels and can naturally take advantage of charging when the electricity grid is under lower demand levels.

Since most of the electricity generated in Australia is from fossil fuels, does this mean electric vehicles are no cleaner than conventional petrol, LPG or diesel vehicles?

Electric vehicles can be run on 100% renewable energy if renewable generation is available. Even if all the electricity used to charge the Nissan Leaf is generated from fossil fuels, the overall environmental impact is still marginally lower than that of petrol, LPG and diesel vehicles. Electric vehicles have the added advantage of zero emissions in our local streets and cleaner air for us to breathe.

Bright Spark aims to minimise the impact its activities on our environment by aiming to charge the Nissan Leaf battery at times when the highest amount of renewable solar and/or wind generation is available and lowest amount of expensive peaking gas turbine generation is required.

Electric vehicles also reduce Australia’s dependence on mostly imported petrol and diesel fuels for transportation and increase our energy security.

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