After driving a Tesla around Northern Europe for five days last year, and steering a Renault Zoe around town for a week we thought it was time to see if a pure electric vehicle is really feasible in 2018.
So we kindly asked to borrow a Volkswagen e-Golf for a week. I’d then drive it exactly the same as one of my normal ICE powered cars. There needed to be as little compromise as possible.
As I’ve already mentioned I’ve spent a week and roughly 1,800 miles in a Tesla Model S. I’ve driven various other electric cars, the Leaf, Twizy an original Zoe and the latest longer range model. The only one that I’ve truly lived with, charged multiple times at varying locations is the Tesla.
It was easy, find a supercharger, plug in, and an hour or so later you’re back to 100% juice.
Taking a ‘normal’ EV out into the real world turned out to be a bit more of a challenge…
The first task was to drive roughly 106 miles to my parents in deepest darkest Lincolnshire. NEDC claim a real world range of 124 miles, so that’s doable with a bit of room to spare.
Now this is where the ‘weather’ factor comes into play. You see when I picked up the car at 15:30 that Friday the range showing on the dash was 168 miles. Perfect, with a gentle right foot I’ll easily make it.
Not so fast.
Switching the e-Golf on that night the range had suddenly dropped to 112 miles. You can blame that on the evening chill in the middle of winter. Something I totally didn’t account for. We had cold mornings in France whilst in the Tesla, but the range only really changed a few miles. Not dropping over 50 in one fell swoop.
Things were looking a little tight as we started our journey. My trusty co-driver started looking on Zap Map to find where the chargers would be on our route. There was one about halfway, and another three quarters of the way. After that there was nothing of the ‘rapid’ variety at all.
As it was a chilly evening the heating needed to be on. Setting it to a mild 22 degrees the car just wouldn’t heat up as I’d set it to ‘Eco’ mode. This restricts the power to the motors…and the heating.
Our only option to use a rapid charger was at Extra Services Peterborough. As our range kept dropping we ended up with just 38 miles left after 57 miles of driving. If the range had been accurate we should have had 49 at least.
Not wanting to end up stranded in the literal back country of Lincs I stopped at Peterborough.
Here was my first mistake.
You see after using a Tesla I presumed (wrongly) that a normal Type2 charger would be a rapid charger. So I get out, download the Ecotricity app – which was super easy to use and set up – and we’re off charging. Now the dash said it would take just over three hours to charge, yet the charger had a timer of 45 minutes.
Again, I presumed that this rapid charger would do it in 45 mins and the car was wrong. Not so.
After 45 mins and a Costa while I waited, I came back out to find just 17 miles of had been added to the e-Golf’s range. Great. We were now just about going to make it, but it was freezing both inside and out.
I plugged it back in for another 45 minutes.
Turns out that Ecotricity chargers only give you 45 mins at a time. Who knew that?! Not me.
Then I saw a tweet from The Motoring Podcast’s Alan, quizzing why I was plugged in to a slow charger. What?! How on earth he saw this from a dark pick of a Golf and a charger I’ll never know.
Turns out the charger next to the one I was using is the Rapid charger. Again, there were no visible signs denoting this, and they look identical. On closer inspection the connectors were different. On the far side of the rapid charger was a CCS connector.
But wait, there’s only a Type2 connector on the Golf?!
Wrong again. There’s a black plastic blanking plug below the Type2 connector that lets you plug in a CCS cable. Not that I could see this in the pitch black.
Plug removed and Rapid charging ensued. 30 mins later and we were fully charged. The charger told us we hit 100%. The e-Golf doesn’t show you a battery %, just estimated range and an ambiguous battery bar. Helpful.
With a massive 181 miles showing on the dash we were on our way. After a further 57 miles we reached our destination, with just 42 miles range showing. If the math had worked out correctly we should have had 124 left. Scarily inaccurate.
110 Miles In One Stint
Two days visiting family later and the e-golf had been charged up via the 13 amp socket overnight both days. I was now determined to make it back on a single charge.
(Yes, before anyone says the manual states not to use an extension lead. But what would a real world user do when they visit friends or family and have nowhere to charge, the only socket in the garage was on the back wall. The extension lead could handle 13 amps and it was checked on numerous times to make sure it wasn’t getting hot. There was no explosion, melted cable, fire or short circuit. So it can be done, although it’s not advised.)
— carwitter (@car_witter) February 10, 2018
132 miles range sat on the dash, we had to drive 110 to get home. It would be tight, but that claimed figure of 124 real world miles stuck in my head. The e-Golf could do this.
Setting off it was again a rather chilly 4.5 degrees out, so the heating was on for the first few miles. The range starts to drop as soon as the fans kick in.
With a little bit of warmth I put the Golf into ‘Eco’, the range stepped back up slightly. We now had surplus range of 20 miles. Not much, but better than a deficit.
39 miles down, 61 to go and our range held at 79 miles. We’re still good to go. Passing the Rapid charger we’d used on the journey up I’d resigned myself to running out about 10 miles from home.
It was also freezing in the car. Sat with coats on, the heating is next to useless when in ‘Eco’. ‘Eco +’ turns it off totally and limits top speed to 56 mph, we flicked in an out of this on longer A road sections stuck in traffic.
Even though the heating is off, cold air still comes barrelling through the vents. Vents closed, that problem is fixed. Wrong.
There’s a vent by both the drivers and passengers feet that doesn’t close. Driving along at 60 mph and you may as well have the door open. You can actually feel the draught pouring through onto your blocks of ice…I mean feet. It’s stupid.
Alas our e-Golf wasn’t fitted with the optional £850 heat pump, this mixes drivetrain heat with the ambient air drastically reducing the power consumed by the HVAC system. Why on earth this isn’t standard in what’s renowned to be a cold country, I have no idea.
With 85 miles driven we had 38 miles range left with 27 to still to go. It was starting to get tight.
Six miles to go and 12 still showing on the dash. I kept stoic as the cold ate away at my hands and feet.
Two miles now and the Golf flashes up that the battery is low and that ‘comfort’ will be restricted. Yeah, because it’s been total luxury so far.
A few seconds later and it flashes up ‘Battery Empty’, we’ve now got a Tortoise in the bottom right dial. Acceleration is markedly slower, it’s almost like driving a milk float pulling away from roundabouts.
As ever there’s a BMW stuck to the rear bumper, although this time he does have a point as I’m struggling to get up to speed on a single carriageway.
Two turns later and I’m home. Parking on the drive and there’s 6 miles range left. We’d made it, 112 miles in one charge.
Those NEDC claims are close enough. 117 miles and 124 miles is splitting hairs, we could’ve probably eked out more range if we hadn’t have tried to warm the car up in the first few miles.
But those ‘real world’ miles are still bollocks. You’ll only ever see that range in ‘Eco’ mode with no heating on. Who in their right mind wants to drive 124 miles with no heating on in winter. The UK is a pretty cold country, with maybe four months in a year where you wouldn’t want some sort of temperature increase in your car.
If you want to be warm, you need to have the e-Golf in ‘Normal’. Which we did for the journey up. We also drove 35 miles with the heating on low, arriving at our destination just 77 miles range left. It had eaten 105 miles of estimated range in 35. Not feeling confident we’d make it back home whilst being warm we had to charge before the return leg.
Realistically, the real-world range is somewhere around 70/80 miles with heating. That’s not a number you’ll find anywhere else.
It also goes to show how technology still needs to catch up for people to adopt EV’s en-masse. When a 15 year old £700 hatchback can drive you 300 miles in heated comfort, you’re unlikely to splash out £28k on a car that can get you 112 miles with Baltic internal conditions.
We’ve got a long way to go.
I’d also like to say that this isn’t slating electric cars at all, the next week was spent around town with the eGolf and it was an awesome machine. But if I owned this car, this is a real world scenario I encounter once a month. The test/article wasn’t designed to pick apart obvious downfalls, it was to push the VW to it’s claimed limit. Nothing more.