A Long Journey Looms. Do you take the ICE or the electric car?

Because electric cars are so expensive, they are often bought by multi-vehicle families. This poses a fascinating dilemma. If you are planning a long trip say 300 miles there and back, do you use traditional power or battery?

The data I’ve collected over three years of driving more than 20 electric cars for about a week each makes this decision easy. Once the speed of an electric car exceeds 60 mph, the available range starts to disappear quickly. If you’re planning a long drive, tap the internal combustion engine (ICE).

Many electric vehicles are currently ridiculously expensive city cars. Automotive consultants JATO Dynamics reported that the average price of a new battery-only electric vehicle in Europe was €55,821 after tax ($55,000) in the first half of 2022. A huge increase in battery capacity is needed and the charging network needs to become more ubiquitous and user-friendly. Long-distance trips in an electric car may well end in the slow lane with trucks doing 55 mph, freezing or sweating with the air conditioning or heating off and in silence.

The electric car revolution will stop without much cheaper vehicles and the abandonment of the idea that electric cars can do what an ICE car can. This will only lead to heavier, unaffordable cars with ever larger batteries that produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) and defeat the purpose of the exercise in the first place. For electric cars to reach the masses, small is beautiful. Consider a waterproof, safe, 4-seat turbo-chart-cart Golf priced around $10,000.

I recently planned a trip from near Worthing on the south coast of England to near Castle Combe in the Cotswolds, a round trip of about 300 miles with an overnight stay at a hotel that has four electric car charging points. Traffic would be about 90% high speed highway. In my driveway was Nissan’s latest electric car, the Ariya, with a robust 250-mile range and 63 kWh battery, and the Suzuki Vitara with a 1.4-liter turbocharged ICE. The petrol Vitara regularly claims a range of 330 miles from a fill-up.

On the surface, this looks like an easy electric option. Besides, 250 miles of range suggests a relaxed scenario. Plenty of range on hand to get there, plug in at night and come back the next day. But after driving the Ariya for a week, the raw data suggested I was in for a nightmare trip if I went electric. My overnight home charger produced an average battery capacity of just 208 miles. This is really no surprise. The table on my site shows that most modern electric cars fall short of the official WLTP orchestrated battery capacity data by at least 20%.

Then there was the highway cruising show. My data shows that driving on highways at a posted speed close to 75 mph, the range offered by an electric car takes an alarming dive. The UK motorway limit is 70mph. Most drivers assume that the exaggeration of the speedometer combined with the police margin means that up to the indicated 80 mph is safe from official intervention. In continental Europe, the autobahn limit is mostly 130 km/h (81.25 mph) except for unlimited sections on some German autobahns. (read Hyundai Ioniq 5 helps prove long-distance EV travel is possible, but actually suggests otherwise).

Range in the Ariya was reduced by high-speed driving by about 33%, which drops it to 139 miles, and suddenly the car’s ability to get to the hotel – 130 miles – began to look problematic. The hotel said its charging stations were only available on a first-come, first-served basis, and given that the event I was attending was likely to be unusually heavy for an electric car, that made it an unreliable option. En route charging after about an hour of driving was inevitable.

During the 3 or so years I’ve been testing electric cars on the road, I’ve always used my home charger for top-ups. My attempts to use the local charging facilities had not ended well, because either there were no signs, I didn’t have the right app, or I couldn’t read the directions on sunny days. Before attempting this trip, I downloaded the appropriate app from BP Pulse and started a test run. I had tried to use this feature once before, but both chargers were in use. This time they were free. The app didn’t give instructions so I called the phone line who said I need to top up with cash first. This seemed strange to someone used to the simplicity of driving up to a gas or diesel pump, filling up and paying. I was joined by an experienced electric car driver who showed me a credit card option. This Audi e-tron driver had entered the charging bay at a 45-degree angle because that was the only way to connect to his car. The cables connecting the charger to the refueling nozzles were too close. I had to get Ariya as close to the charger as possible and then use a lot of force to almost force the connection. BP Pulse was recently awarded 20u position from 21st in Zap-Map’s annual quality poll in Britain. The fact that there are 21 contenders also shows that there are too many charging functions in Britain, most of which have their own separate applications.

The connection worked and I pumped 125 miles worth of electricity into the Ariya in 30 minutes. Nissan claims it can last 165 miles in 30 minutes. I still haven’t found out how much this costs. My monthly credit card bill will reveal this. The indicator on the charger told me the percentage full, the amount of current, but not the price.

This charging experience made me think twice about getting the electric car. I would probably stop after an hour or so. This would add at least an hour to my trip out, assuming the bays were free and the transaction smooth. The charging industry has recognized its problems, but has yet to demonstrate the ability to match the ubiquity of fast and efficient ICE recharging.

There are only two electric cars I’ve driven that would have made the trip out without range anxiety. These are my top Tesla Model 3 and Kia Soul with an estimated high speed range of 239 and 205 miles. I could have made the hotel if I had slowed down to about 55mph and turned off the air conditioning, heater and radio, but that seems a poor compromise in a vehicle that costs around £46,000 after tax ($51,500).

Given my choice of Suzuki Vitara, electric made no sense. And the Vitara, on similar journeys, actually outperforms its 330-mile range offer. The long range creates maximum efficiency and raises the mpg a notch or two and would save me at least two hours total compared to the EV and eliminates range anxiety. One without reason. In the event, a stomach bug meant I had to cancel the trip.

The Nissan Ariya 63 kWh Advance competes with the likes of the VW.ID4, Ford Mach-E, Tesla Model Y, Kia EV6, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Mercedes EQA, Skoda Enyaq and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

The Ariya stands out from the crowd as a beautiful beast, especially with its excellent copper and black paint. But its electric qualities are only comparable to the competition, a disappointment given that it’s the new kid on the block with the opportunity to sport the latest technology.

Prices start at £43,845 after taxes ($49,0000). Ariya is It’s available in two grades, Advance and Evolve, but in three different battery and motor combinations with 63kWh two-wheel drive, 87kWh two-wheel drive and e-4ORCE all-wheel drive and 87kWh, with a claimed range of up to 329 miles.

Nissan Ariya 63 kWh Advance

Electric motor – 214 hp

Torque – 300 Nm

Battery – 63 kWh

Gearbox – automatic

Battery range/battery capacity – 250 miles (WLTP)

WintonsWorld test range/battery capacity – 208 miles (average of 3 charges, 16.8% deficit)

Highway cruising range – 139 miles

Motorway speeding penalty – 33%

Charge capacity – claimed 165 miles/30 minutes – WintonsWorld test 125 miles/30 minutes

Drive – front wheels

Top speed – 100 mph

Acceleration – 0-60 mph 7.3 seconds

Price – £46,365 ($51,850) after tax and before subsidies

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