Electric vehicles are arriving on the roads faster than most drivers anticipated: Tesla is a household name in many countries, VW has announced an electric campervan, and Detleffs has a prototype for a solar-powered motorhome. If you want to go for, say, a tour of France on an electric compact car, is it really conceivable today?
Spanish newspaper El Pais took five electric compact cars from major manufacturers to a road test. The tested vehicles were Renault Zoe, Volkswagen e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq, BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf. From a traveler’s point of view, the tests revealed some crucial real-life information about electric vehicles. It also proves that measurements and numbers achieved during a real road tour are different from numbers measured in manufacturers’ labs.
The newspaper wanted to find out which one of the five electric vehicles is the best one for general-purpose family use. The winner was the VW e-Golf.
The test drivers liked the overall experience with the VW e-Golf: it is a complete car that is spacious, quiet and easy to drive. It is also priced high: together with the BMW i3, the e-Golf competes in the highest price level of the five tested vehicles. Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe are priced the lowest with the Zoe also having the longest range (the difference to others is minimal when road travel is considered).
For road travelers, the El Pais road test discovered two important things:
1. The ranges manufacturers specify for their e-cars are way too optimistic for real life tours on the road.
2. The tested small cars lack power when the speed goes over 60-80 km/h.
The manufacturer claims the BMW i3 has a range of 300 km, but the car managed only 201 km in the road test. The Hyundai Ioniq survived 215 km instead of 280 km specified. The Nissan Leaf should have traveled 250 km in a single charge, but went only 172 km. The Renault Zoe lasted 282 km instead of 400 specified by the manufacturer. The VW e-Golf traveled 233 km, not 300 km as specified.
The difference between manufacturers’ specifications and real life is vast – about one-third shorter range than advertised. Especially, when planning to make a road tour on an e-car, correct information on the range is crucial. 200 km on a single charge doesn’t take you far, but if you can trust it, you can plan your daily routes and activities.
A factor that El Pais mentions as a potential energy consumer during the road test was warm weather that caused the use of air-conditioning in the vehicles. It is not, however, an excuse for manufacturers because air-conditioning, heating, lights, charging gadgets and other power consuming features are must-have things during road travel.
Driving along highways, autobahns or expressways is part of road touring, which also means speeds of 100 – 130 km/h – depending on where you are driving and how comfortable you are driving at high speed. The fact that these small e-cars lack power beyond 80km/h is a feature that doesn’t suit well to the nature of road travel. It is also a safety feature, but of course, it is possible to avoid autobahns , and cruise along main roads at 80-100 km/h and see the countryside and villages.