We drove to Cornwall in
(Pocket-lint) – Two years ago we packed the Audi e-tron – one of the first big electric cars on the UK’s roads at the time – and drove to Cornwall to get a glimpse of the challenges that take longer distances for EV -Driver.
This time we packed a family – and a dog – in the VW ID.4 and set out to repeat the trip we had taken two years earlier. Same route, same destination and a completely different experience.
Let’s talk about range
The big advantage that the VW ID.4 has over the previously used Audi e-tron is that its 77 kWh battery delivers a range of almost 300 miles. The Audi e-tron struggled to offer well over 200 miles with its larger battery.
So why the difference in range?
The VW ID.4 is smaller, lighter and initially designed as an electric car – while Audi specifically designed the Audi e-tron as Audi first.
As a result, the e-tron offers more power, a more dynamic drive, Quattro all-wheel drive and a higher-quality interior – much of which increases the weight and reduces the potential for efficiency. The e-tron is a wonderful car to drive, but cannot keep up with the ID.4 in terms of efficiency.
Of course, this is a different world than filling a tank with diesel and knowing you have 600 miles in the tank and that’s still a problem for a lot of people.
Fear of range doesn’t really exist: it’s a fear of being charged
That concern is mitigated by having a decent charging network. Starting from Surrey, with a journey of 244 miles, the journey to Cornwall was within range of the ID.4. But knowing in Cornwall that there were no loading facilities, we had planned to stop for at least one load on the way.
On long, clear freeways, the ID.4 slipped into adaptive cruise control and didn’t dump its charge like some EVs, it even delivered a respectable average, so we decided to stop after about 250 miles and a couple of hours on the road. to fill up before the last stage.
That was a random stop because there was a single 120 kW Electric Highway charger at the stops we stopped at. This charger is listed on maps – however, Google lists it as a 50kW Type 2 while the normally reliable zap map didn’t have the correct details either.
That underscores two things: First, that the map information from these chargers is currently insufficient – and access to this information in the car is not good. VW shows charge locations on the map – and also lists the charge speed – but when you’re driving something like Waze, you have no information at all.
Waze, a map service that prides itself on its up-to-date information, lets you choose whether to drive an electric car but doesn’t give you the option to choose electric as the fuel type, which is insane.
Finding charging stations in the VW ID.4 is not difficult: you go into the map and there is an icon for electric charging stations, but it is not an exhaustive list and this remains one of the problems with living with an electric car.
We’d rather have a tap in UI button to go straight to the chargers rather than going into search to find them.
However, the VW ID.4 did support the 120kW charger we found, so it’s a great way to recharge and get back on the road with minimal delay.
Apps still don’t help with the experience
The physical upgrade of chargers is slow: there are more 50kW chargers in useful places, gas station forecourts, supermarkets, pub and restaurant parking lots, and they are really useful. Get a 50kW charge while you do the weekly grocery shopping and you’ll be rewarded with a full charge when you get back to your car.
Future Electric Cars: Coming battery powered cars that will be on the streets for the next 5 years
As we noted a few years ago, dealing with a fragmented network of chargers is a very real problem that still lingers. While Tesla owners could report complacent as well as how good the Supercharger network is (and that’s true), the same problem applies to all EV owners when they are far from a convenient charger on a familiar network – even Tesla drivers.
There are a large number of charging services to deal with, but the bigger change recently has been the move from promoting membership to paying on the charger. You didn’t need the aforementioned Electric Highway Pump to use the app, you just tapped your payment card.
We’ve seen similar moves by BP Pulse – formerly BP Chargemaster with the old Polar Network – where it is becoming more and more common to tap into your card to pay your fee.
But a lot of these services have poor app design and often load slowly – Geniepoint we’re looking at you – while some, like Pod Point, let you charge easily but make it more puzzling as to how you actually end up charging.
In some cases, at the end of the charging process, we drove away from a Pod Point charger without knowing if it actually knew we had left. The only reassurance is the email receipt that arrives later.
What has changed in the last 2 years?
It is clear that things are moving in the right direction. For those who want to drive longer ranges, there are more options for cars on the road, such as the VW ID.4, Skoda Enyaq iV, Tesla Model 3, Kia e-Niro, or Hyundai Kona, all of which have larger batteries and sit a middle price range for electric vehicles.
But it’s the charging networks that make the real difference. While more useful charging points have emerged, change has been slow on one of the UK’s most important networks – the Electric Highway.
Electric Highway has been acquired by Gridserve, with the promise of swift replacement of old chargers and expansion to electric hubs at these key highway locations. That could mean a completely different situation as early as next year – especially since Cornwall Services is on the list for a big expansion in our case and it could make Cornwall much more accessible for electric cars.
But there is still a lot to be done: Access to sensible information in cars is inadequate, and third-party services like Google Maps and Waze should do more to put electric charging at the forefront of their offerings so that it is ready for the future. Electric cars are still in the minority on the roads, but 2030 is getting closer and there is still a lot to do.
Writing from Chris Hall. Originally) released on .