A Long Journeys Looms. Do You Take The ICE Or Electric Car?
“My data shows that driving on motorways at an indicated speed close to 75 mph, the range offered by an electric car dives alarmingly.
Because electric cars are so expensive, they will often be bought by families owning multiple vehicles. That poses a fascinating dilemma; if you plan a long journey of say 300 miles there and back, do you use traditional or battery power?
The data I’ve collected over about 3 years from driving more than 20 electric cars for about a week each makes this decision easy. Once the speed of an electric car nudges over 60 mph, the available range starts to disappear quickly. If you are planning to drive more than 150 miles, despite what the headline claims may say, reach for the internal combustion engine (ICE).
Electric cars are currently ridiculously expensive town cars. Auto industry consultants JATO Dynamics said 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 power is required and the charging network needs to become more ubiquitous and user-friendly. Long-distance travel in an electric car may well end up in the slow lane with the trucks doing 55 mph, freezing or sweating with the air-conditioning or heating switched off, and in silence.
The electric car revolution will grind to a halt without much cheaper vehicles, and an abandonment of the notion electric cars can do everything an ICE car can. That will only lead to heavier, unaffordable cars with ever-bigger batteries producing more carbon dioxide (CO2) and defeating the object of the exercise in the first place. For electric cars to reach the mass market small is beautiful. Think of a weather-proof, safe, 4-seater turbo-charged golf-cart priced around $10,000.
I recently planned a journey from close to 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 boasting 4 electric car charging points. The drive would be about 90% high-speed motorway. On my driveway was Nissan’s latest electric car, the Ariya, with a claimed range of 250 miles and a 63-kWh battery, and my 1.4 liter turbocharged (ICE) powered Suzuki Vitara. The gasoline Vitara regularly claims 330 miles range after a fill-up.
On the surface, this looks like an easy electric option. After all, 250 miles of range suggests a relaxed scenario. Lots of range in hand to get there, plug-in overnight and return the next day. But after driving the Ariya for a week, the raw data suggested that a nightmare journey awaited if I opted for electric. My home charger overnight produced average battery capacity of only 208 miles. That’s actually no surprise. My website table shows most modern electric cars fall short of official WLTP-orchestrated claimed battery capacity data by at least 20%.
Then there was the motorway cruising performance. My data shows that driving on motorways at an indicated speed close to 75 mph, the range offered by an electric car dives alarmingly. The British motorway limit is 70mph. Most drivers assume that speedometer exaggeration combined with police leeway means that up to an indicated 80 mph is safe from official intervention. In mainland Europe, the motorway limit is mainly 130 km/h (81.25 mph) apart from the unlimited sections on some German highways. (read Hyundai Ioniq 5 helps to prove long-distance EV journeys are possible, but which really suggests the opposite).
The range on the Ariya was slashed by highspeed driving by about 33%, which brings the range down to 139 miles and suddenly the ability of the car to reach the hotel – 130 miles – began to look problematical. It didn’t like uphill driving. The hotel had said that even though it had 4 charging stations, its policy was first-come, first served, and given the event I was attending was likely to be unusually electric-car heavy, that became an unreliable option. An on-route charge after about an hour’s driving was inevitable.
Home charging is best
During the 3 years or so I’ve been road-testing electric cars, I’ve always used my home charger for fill-ups. My attempts at using local charging facilities hadn’t ended well with my attempts foiled by either out-of-order, not having the right app, or not being able to read the instructions on sunny days. Before attempting this journey, I downloaded the appropriate app from BP Pulse and launched a trial run. I had attempted to use this local facility once before, but the two chargers were in use. This time they were free. The app gave no instructions so I called the hotline which said I should top up the app with cash first. This seemed bizarre 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 pointed out a credit-card option. This Audi e-tron driver had driven into the charging bay at a 45-degree angle because this was the only way to make a connection with his car. The cables connecting the charger to the refueling nozzles were too short. I had to inch the Ariya as close as possible to the charger, then use much strength to almost force the connection. BP Pulse was recently awarded 20th place out of 21 in Zap-Map’s annual poll. The fact there 21 contenders shows there are simply too many charging operations in Britain, most of which have their own separate apps.
The connection worked and I pumped 125 miles worth of electricity into the Ariya in 30 minutes. Nissan claims it can take 165 miles in 30 minutes. I still haven’t found out how much this cost. My monthly credit card bill will reveal this. The readout on the charger informed me about the percentage of the battery filled, and the amount of electricity, but not the price.
This charging experience made me think twice about taking the electric car. I would likely have to stop after about an hour and that would add at least an hour to my trip, assuming the bays were free and the transaction smooth. The charging industry has acknowledged this problem but hasn’t yet demonstrated the ability to match the ubiquity of the ICE fast and efficient refill.
There are only two electric cars that I’ve driven that would have made the outward journey with no range anxiety. These are my table-topping Tesla Model 3 and Kia Soul with an estimated high-speed range of 239 and 205 miles. I could perhaps have made the hotel if I’d slowed down to about 55 mph, 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).
Suzuki Vitara option
Given my Suzuki Vitara option, electric made no sense. And the Vitara, on similar journeys, actually performs better than the 330-mile range offering. The long-range creates maximum efficiency and raises the miles per gallon a notch or two and would save me at least two hours overall compared with the EV and eliminates range anxiety. A no-brainer. In the event, a stomach bug meant I had to cancel the trip.
The Ariya stands out from the crowd as a handsome beast, particularly with its nifty copper and black paint job. But its electric qualities are only comparable with the competition, a disappointment given it is the new kid on the block with a chance to sport the very latest technology.
Prices start at £43,845 after tax ($49,0000). The Ariya is available in two grades, Advance and Evolve, but in three different battery and powertrain combinations with two-wheel drive 63kWh, two-wheel drive 87kWh, and e-4ORCE all-wheel drive and 87kWh, with claimed range of up to 329 miles.
Nissan Ariya 63 kWh Advance
Electric motor – 214 hp
Torque – 300 Nm
Battery – 63 kWh
Gearbox – automatic
Claimed battery range/battery capacity – 250 miles (WLTP)
WintonsWorld test range/battery capacity – 208 miles (average of 3 charges, 16.8% shortfall)
Highway cruising range – 139 miles
Highway cruising penalty – 33%
Charging capacity – claim 165 miles/30 minutes – WintonsWorld test 125 miles/30 mins
Drive – front-wheels
Top speed – 100 mph
Acceleration – 0-60 mph 7.3 seconds
Price – £46,365 ($51,850) after tax and before subsidies