Because electric cars are so expensive, they are often purchased by families who own multiple vehicles. This presents us with an intriguing dilemma. If you are planning a long trip, say 300 miles round trip, are you using conventional or battery power?
The data I’ve gathered over three years of driving more than 20 electric cars for about a week each makes that decision an easy one. As soon as the speed of an electric car exceeds 100 km/h, the available range begins to decrease rapidly. Anyone planning a long journey uses the internal combustion engine (ICE).
Many electric vehicles are currently ridiculously expensive city cars. According to JATO Dynamics, an automotive industry consultancy, the average price for a new pure battery electric vehicle in Europe in the first half of 2022 was €55,821 after tax ($55,000). A huge increase in battery capacity is required, and the charging network needs to be more ubiquitous and user-friendly. A long-distance journey in an electric car can certainly end up in the slow lane, with trucks traveling at 85 km/h, freezing or sweating, with the air conditioning or heating off and silent.
The electric car revolution will stall without much cheaper vehicles and without moving away from the notion that electric cars can do everything a combustion engine can. This will only lead to heavier, unaffordable cars with larger and larger batteries that produce more carbon dioxide (CO2), defeating the goal of the exercise in the first place. For electric cars to reach the masses, small is beautiful. Consider an all-weather, secure, battery-powered 4-person golf cart priced at 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 in a hotel with four electric car charging stations. The drive would be about 90% express highway. In my driveway was Nissan’s newest electric car, the Ariya, with a claimed 250-mile range and a 63kWh battery, and my 1.4-liter turbocharged internal combustion engine, Suzuki Vitara. The petrol Vitara regularly claims 330 miles of range after filling up.
On the surface, this looks like a simple electric option. After all, a range of 250 miles suggests a relaxed scenario. Plenty 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 if I went electric, I was in for a nightmare journey. My home charger produced an average battery capacity of just 208 miles overnight. This is really no surprise. My website table shows that most modern electric cars are at least 20% behind the official WLTP orchestrated battery capacity claims.
Then there was the highway cruising performance. My data shows that when driving on freeways at an indicated speed of nearly 75 mph, an electric car’s range drops alarmingly. The UK motorway limit is 70 miles per hour. Most motorists assume that speedometer exaggeration combined with police latitude means that up to an indicated speed of 80 mph is safe from regulatory intervention. In mainland Europe the Autobahn limit is mainly 130 km/h (81.25 mph), apart from the unlimited sections on some German autobahns. (Read, Hyundai Ioniq 5 helps prove long-distance EV driving is possible, but that really suggests the opposite).
The Ariya’s range was reduced by about 33% from high-speed driving, bringing it down to 139 miles, and suddenly the car’s ability to reach the hotel — 130 miles — was beginning to look problematic. The hotel said its charging stations were subject to availability and given that the event I attended was likely to be unusually heavy with electric cars, this became an unreliable option. A haul charge after about an hour of driving was inevitable.
In the 3 or so years that I have been road testing electric cars, I have always used my home charger to refuel. My attempts at using local charging options hadn’t gone well, either due to out-of-order signs, not having the right app, or not reading the directions on sunny days. Before attempting this journey, I downloaded the BP Pulse app and started a test run. I had tried using this facility before but the two chargers were in use. This time they were free. The app didn’t give any instructions so I called the hotline who said to top up cash first. To someone used to the simplicity of driving to a pump, filling up and paying, this seemed bizarre. I was joined by an experienced EV driver who pointed out a credit card option. This Audi e-tron driver had pulled into the loading bay at a 45-degree angle because that was the only way he could connect to his car. The cables connecting the charger to the tank couplings were too short. I had to get the 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 20th Ranked 21st in Zap-Map’s annual UK quality survey. The fact that there are 21 competitors also shows that there are too many loaders in the UK, most of which have their own separate apps.
The connection worked and I pumped 200km of power into the Ariya in 30 minutes. Nissan claims it can do 165 miles in 30 minutes. I haven’t figured out how much that costs yet. My monthly credit card statement will give this away. The display on the charger informed me of the percentage of charge, the amount of electricity, but not the price.
This charging experience made me think twice about taking the electric car. I would probably stop after an hour or so. That would add at least an hour to my outward journey, assuming the bays were free and the transaction went smoothly. The charging industry has recognized its problems but has not yet demonstrated the ability to keep up with the ubiquity of quickly and efficiently refilling ICEs.
There are only two electric cars I’ve driven that could have made the outward journey without range anxiety. These are my table leaders Tesla Model 3 and Kia Soul with estimated high speed ranges of 239 and 205 miles. I could have reached the hotel if I slowed down to about 55mph and turned off the air conditioning, heat and radio, but that seems like a poor trade-off on a vehicle that costs about £46,000 ($51,500) after tax .
Given my Suzuki Vitara option, electric didn’t make sense. And the Vitara actually performs better than the 330-mile range offer on similar trips. The long range creates maximum efficiency and ups the miles per gallon by a notch or two and would save me at least two hours overall compared to the EV and eliminate range anxiety. No tough nut. In fact, a stomach problem meant I had to cancel the trip.
The Nissan Ariya 63 kWh Advance competes with 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 handsome beast, particularly with its sophisticated copper-black finish. But its electrical qualities are only on par with the competition, a disappointment considering this is the new kid on the block with a chance to harness the latest tech.
Prices start from £43,845 after tax ($49,0000). The Ariya is Available in two tiers, Advance and Evolve, but in three different battery and powertrain combinations with 2WD 63kWh, 2WD 87kWh and e-4ORCE 4WD 87kWh, with a claimed range of up to 329 miles.
Nissan Ariya 63 kWh progress
Electric motor – 214 hp
Torque – 300 Nm
Battery – 63kWh
Transmission – automatic
Claimed battery range/battery capacity – 250 miles (WLTP)
WintonsWorld Test Range/Battery Capacity – 208 miles (average of 3 charges, 16.8% shortfall)
Freeway range – 139 miles
Motorway Cruising Penalty – 33%
Cargo Capacity – Claim 165 miles/30 minutes – WintonsWorld test 125 miles/30 minutes
Drive – front wheels
Maximum speed – 100 km/h
Acceleration – 0-60mph 7.3 seconds
Price – £46,365 ($51,850) after tax and before subsidies