A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be loaned a Tesla Model S 60D for a long weekend. Alongside thinking the car was all the Tesla anyone needs (want is a totally different prospect) and my views on AutoPilot, my final thoughts about the car are to do with the range.
Up until now my experience with electric cars has been of the 70-ish mile range variety. I own a 2011 Nissan Leaf and have driven similar ranged cars such as the e-Up!, the e-Golf, Smart 4Two EV and even a Twizy a few times.
I am happy with a range of 70 miles on a car. It works for my everyday driving needs: It gets the other half to work and back and gets me where I need to go at the weekends. But in the last few years, due to a slight range drop, I have had to start renting a petrol car for longer trips. Not a huge deal but something I would ideally like to avoid.
The next big step in EVs, and I mean big, is the increase in range. Fairly soon – maybe even before the end of this year – consumers should be able to buy EVs with a range of at least 150 real-world miles for the same price I paid for my 73 mile EPA-rated ranged car.
I am not angry about this. I am not jealous. I am happy I got on board when I did. I helped show there was a market for these cars.
But what was it like going from a 70-ish mile range car to a 200-ish mile range car?
Quite simple, a revolution. And one that wasn’t easy to get my head around.
The first trip I made in the car was from London to Lancaster. That’s a trip of about 240 miles. As usual my EV driver instincts kicked in and I was in ‘eco’ mode. Were we leaving with a 100% charge? Were we going to be warm enough without heating on? Where could we stop to charge?
All of those issues were eased when I realised that even if somehow the whole Tesla SuperCharger network was down, a stop at one of the many many CHAdeMO chargers in the UK would make the trip a breeze. And unlike in my 70-ish mile car, I wouldn’t have an option of just one or maybe two stops. I could choose when I stopped to charge.
It felt like the car could drive forever. It was an odd feeling to pass 70 miles in the car and realise that the car’s battery wasn’t even half way depleted.
To put the car’s 200-ish mile range into perspective in the UK, if you measure mainland UK as the crow flies, it measures just over 600 miles from the top of Scotland to the southern most point of England.
Land’s End to John o’ Groats, the route to take if you want to drive the length of the UK, is about 850 miles depending on the exact route taken.
A 200-mile ranged car in the UK can cover about a quarter of the distance from North to South.
And that quickly becomes evident when driving an EV with a long range in the UK. It is a breeze. Just jump in the car and go. It is unlikely that where you need to go will be unachievable with the range and the charging infrastructure as it is today. Both of which are still improving over time.
After 5 and a half years of driving my, what I guess will now become known as, short-ranged EV, making the change was hard.
On the last day of driving the car I had to drive from my home, to a family member’s, then to a friend’s, back to the family member’s and on to London. A journey that wouldn’t be possible in the Leaf in the time I needed it done even with the rapid charging network.
I spent about 20 minutes working through the problem like I usually do. I could stop here to charge. Or detour there to rapid charge. Maybe my friend won’t mind me nabbing a trickle charge at his. And so on. Until it dawned on me. The car could just do the journey. Even without starting fully charged.
My mind has adapted so much to the range-cautious nature of owning a car that can only go about 70 miles that the idea of 200 miles is foreign to me.
It is becoming clear to me that we are fast approaching a mass adoption point. Maybe not a ‘majority adoption’ point but a point in time where car buyers who usually wouldn’t consider an EV may agree to take one on a test drive when cross-shopping. 200 miles, especially in the UK, is getting to the point of not needing any mental shifts when it comes to charging.
A salesperson can honestly say ‘Drive as you would a normal car but use these chargers to charge while grabbing a coffee – the car will be done before you are. And don’t forget, when you wake up every morning it will have a full tank.’
The next few years will be exciting indeed.
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