We all know those clickbait EVmaggedon headlines in the media, but what’s it really like going on a winter trip in an electric car or “EV”? If you’re thinking of doing your bit to transition from fossil fuels and prevent the end of human life on earth, you’ll no doubt have come across media stories recently. designed to scare you right back into burning more oily black stuff again. Most will include some of the top 5 fossil fuel lobbyist themes, sometimes all 5!
- EV’s can’t travel any long distance in cold weather – see below
- Range anxiety leaves EV drivers in a permanent cold sweat – See below
- That cold sweat is worsened after a couple of years because the battery will have degraded to something that wouldn’t power the Duracell bunny – See below
- On the rare occasions a charger works there will be queues of irate drivers before you (see below)
- DC Charging costs are more than petrol or diesel at the moment.See below
The last one is currently sometimes true, but if you stick around you’ll see it’s not exactly the whole story. So what’s it really like?
Older EV degradation Nightmare
My Tesla Model 3 is about 3.5 years old and has done just under 30,000 miles. Yes it’s had some battery degradation (around 10%) but it’s also become a lot more efficient since I began driving it so it’s barely down most of the time. Not sure if it’s me learning to drive it more efficiently or software improvements to the car since it was bought.
EV’s can’t go further than your local corner shop in cold weather nightmare
Newer Tesla Model 3’s come with an efficient heat pump as standard to help keep range good when heating the car and battery in cold weather. My 2019 Model doesn’t have a heat pump so winter range at around 1c on uncongested and faster Motorway & dual carriageway is just over 200 miles or 3 miles per kWh. That is about 20% lower than the roughly 250 miles or 3.7 miles per kWh at similar speeds at warmer temperatures over 12C. UK motorways are often even more efficient than that in summer because congestion often keeps speeds bellow 60 mph for most of a journey.
Trip Leg 1 – London to Exeter 169 miles
The trip had some challenges although none really related to driving an EV. Foremost was that we had booked 11am ticket slots at the Eden project in Cornwall, 241 miles from London, on a Friday to take advantage of my son’s February half term starting a day early, but could only leave London at 6pm the night before. That involved choices!
- Choice 1 – stop or no stop. The A303 has some very fast and handy chargers at Solstice park, Amesbury including Tesla 250kW, Gridserve 350kW at Greggs (yes honestly), Instavolt 120kW (that deliver about 70kW max) and some old 50kW BP units. Normally I would leave London partially charged and top up there while grabbing a coffee. With tight timings and an already late check in at the hotel in Exeter I decided to give my Tesla Model 3 a rare 99% charge in London so I could reach Exeter with no charge stops.
- Choice 2 – Mcdonalds on the A303 or nice gastropub in a nearby village. Dinner was at the Lord Poulett Arms in Somerset 129 miles from London. It had no charging.
After a lovely meal we got back to the A303 for the final leg to the Exeter Tesla Superchargers at Moto Exeter
- Range anxiety! – um.. zero? car predicted how much charge I would have at Exeter and as expected, I had 14% or about 30 miles remaining range on arrival.
- Charging queue nightmare! – um.. no. Between the 16 Tesla chargers and the 16 350kW Gridserve chargers there were 5 cars charging. In fairness it was 10:30pm!
- Charging cost Nightmare! – 44p for the Tesla owners so definitely cheaper than petrol or diesel.
- EV’s won’t charge in cold weather nightmare – um… sorry but the Tesla preconditioned the battery so I actually got 256 kW at 1c..my fastest charge speed to date in any weather!
Charging at Moto services in Exeter
169 miles from London..Tesla Superchargers- Around 30 mins
14% to around 85% charge – cost £26.68
Trip Leg 2 – Exeter to the Eden Project and Fowey – 89 miles
- After a good nights sleep in Exeter we had a brief explore and a coffee before heading to the Eden project 258 miles from London.
- Charging nightmare! – There are chargers available at the Eden project (in the banana carpark) but we didn’t need them so.. no charging! That wasn’t so hard was it?
- The Eden Project. Fabulous.. don’t forget as well as the 2 Domes there is another building with a strange device that blows smoke rings.. it’s very big! Volvo were offering free test drives in C40 and XC40 EV’s. Just needed a driving licence to jump and drive off.. very very strong regen in one pedal mode (choose on menu before you begin). I like strong regen! Btw tickets give you a pass for return visits for a whole year!
- Range anxiety! – ummm.. nada. none..In Fowey topped up when we got back to our hotel each afternoon and disconnected before dinner to leave them free for others.
- Fowey was 258 miles from London. We had used 85kWh so 330Wh/mile.
- Tips for long journeys in electric cars
- If it’s cold weather and you are plugged to a charger, pop onto your phone app and defrost and warm the car before you unplug. That’s a whole lot of energy that won’t come out of your battery…giving you a bit of extra range
- If range anxiety is ever a concern, remember that getting a comfortable steady speed at around 70mph (or less) is more efficient than accelerating hard to get past a car that’s doing a similar speed to you. Yes many EV’s can overtake with ease at 90mph+ even on an incline, but it will hit your range and efficiency and maybe your licence hard. 40-60mph “A roads” can be the most efficient and provide a big range boost, especially if you use regen down hills.
- If you plan to stay at a hotel or holiday home, it isn’t essential, but it really helps to book one with electric car charging on site.Why? Onsite chargers often save you from having a charge before you arrive, or during your stay and you can often get a full charge before you leave. Their are 9,358 UK hotels listed on booking.com and 1,099 (or around 12%) have chargers. The less chargers there are locally, the more it makes sense to charge where you stay. Some hotels have cheaper or even free charging as well.
- if you visit an area with extraordinarily poor charging options, like the Dorset Jurassic coast between Exeter & Weymouth, charge as fully as you can before entering the area and, if staying long, acquaint yourself with local charging options and top up whenever the opportunity arises even at supermarkets or town centre slow AC chargers. Graze when you can, don’t wait till you need.
- If you are planning a trip at a “superpeak” time like bank holiday or christmas eve then
1 charge more fully before you leave
2 where possible avoid slow chargers at busy locations like the single 60kW Gridserve motorway units or Instavolt chargers that only typically deliver half their promised speed to most (400V) EVs or older V2 Tesla 125-150kW superchargers which also slow down to a very slow 60kW at busy times
3 where possible use make use of the fastest biggest hubs (175kW or more) with the most chargers (6 or more). Even if there is a queue it should move faster.
4 familiarise yourself with nearby alternative options that might not be busy if things are really bad incl very expensive options.
- Use our Finding electric car chargepoints guide will set you up to use WattsUp, our favourite app for finding faster DC chargers. A quick glance at the map will tell you if there are a lot or a few chargers near where you are heading. After all there is always a chance the hotel charger won’t be available. Also it’s always worth checking if there is a “charging hub” on your route for a hassle free stop with good facilities.
Trip Leg 3 – Fowey to Saunton 126 miles
- Charging cost & queue nightmare – um..no..While at the hotel in Fowey, the chargers were always available and cost just £2.72 which was a bargain over the 2 days. I think it was meant to be around 20p per kWh but was probably billed even less.. either way, much cheaper than we pay for our own electricity at home.
Etiquette– When using hotel chargers do please unplug as soon as you have finished your charge or before breakfast if charged overnight. A guest may arrive at any time after a long journey and really appreciate it!
- Range anxiety! – none.. with no charge stops we had over 100 miles of range on arrival in Saunton even after an extra hour of extra very hilly driving to a cliff top walk and back.
We took a scenic coastal route and stopped at the beautiful Hartland key which has been used a lot as a filming location, most recently the 2019 film Rebecca.
Efficiency improved a lot on the A and B roads in warmer temperatures up to 14C, although figures varied wildly depending on whether journeys began or ended at sea level or high up a hill!
384 miles from London. We had used 120kWh so 314 Wh/mile.or 3.18 mp/kWh
Hotel charging at Saunton cost £18.40 and was always available with 2 well marked bays. We did have to download a Smappee app but it all worked well – Apple Pay option would make it even better though.
Trip Leg 3 – Saunton to Tetbury & Membury 174 miles
- This was a real mix of super steep A & B roads including crossing Exmoor (including one with a 25% gradient where I actually had to touch the brake pedal), then a bit of M5 and M4 then Tetbury area for lunch. Afterwards back to the M4 via Circencester and the A419. After lunch, we needed a quick 15-20 min charge at Membury services Superchargers.
- Charging Nightmare – um no..half the chargers were available and they were Tesla so it all worked perfectly.
- Range anxiety nightmare! – I’m not a journalist so I’m probably not the person to ask whether “only 57 miles of range” on arrival counts as “cold sweat” or “butt clenching!” but if you have any knowledge of your EV at all it doesn’t even register.
Tetbury Membury Supercharger M4 Cost £19.52. Because we got there during the 4pm-8pm peak rate it will have cost around 55p per kWh.
558 miles from London having used 172 kWh or 308 Wh/mile
Trip Leg 4 Membury services to SW London 68 miles
- Charging Nightmare! We didn’t need any charges after Membury so no not really
- Range Anxiety Nightmare! um… well we arrived back with 103 miles of range so what do you think!
- Charging back up to 80% on the lamp post across the road from me…Cost £7.58
The full round trip stats – after 626 miles
626 miles / 189 kWh with a full trip efficiency of 302 Wh/mile or 3.31Wh/mile.
Cost for all charging £74.90 so around 40p per kWh. While I could have used the many leading charging networks if needed, many cost double what I paid so a Tesla and hotel combo worked well. It works out at £119.64 per thousand miles or 11.96pence per mile in a high performance EV that can accelerate 0-60 in around 3.3 seconds, has bags for space for passengers and luggage and has only cost about £115 to service over nearly 30,000 miles. It also underlines a key point about charging costs, that peak costs are for the moment very expensive, but even away from home, there are ways to keep them lower on average, than an equivalent petrol or diesel car.
We’re not saying there isn’t sometimes a learning curve doing longer trips in an electric car but this trip showed how easily the supposed EV nightmares can be overcome. At the same time EV’s are better to drive, faster, cheaper to run and can charge while you’re doing other things.. so often taking less time.
Both hotels had a pair of chargers which along with Exeter and Membury meant 6 out 6 worked flawlessly apart from one that tripped out early a couple of times in Fowey which may have been a billing issue.
Yes peak travel times might present other challenges (see tips for long journeys above) but as long as you know where the decent charging options are you can usually manage issues easily enough. It’s not like no one has ever queued for petrol or diesel either.
In nearly 30,000 miles we’ve only had to queue about 5 times for chargers and one of those was in Siena in Tuscany!
The real nightmare for many journalists would be if they had to present their editors with stories like this about easy journeys that went as planned just like the vast majority of EV trips where there was absolutely no degradation nightmare or winter range nightmare or charging queue nightmare or range anxiety nightmare. If you’re not convinced we’ve previously done 5 EV day trips totally 2,888 stress free miles. Check them out here
If you do have any questions contact us on twitter.@myurbancar