7GRAZE

Is 200km range for an urban EV a charging nightmare or just good sense?

David LINKLATER

2022-05-13T07:00:00.0000000Z

2022-05-13T07:00:00.0000000Z

NZME

https://communitynews.co.nz/article/281930251574558

Driven.co.nz

Owning or driving a battery electric vehicle (BEV) requires a different mindset and there’s no point denying it. You have to think in a different way about “fuelling”, which understandably creates range anxiety. How far a BEV can go before it’s flat and how long it takes to recharge cause a lot of angst among those considering the plunge into a BEV (or “the future” as we sometimes call it). Big range brings great comfort on the surface. Many BEVs can now cover well over 500km, making them equivalent to an internal combustion engine (ICE) car. But some carmakers are also standing firm on the argument that urban BEVs don’t need big batteries, and that it’s more ecoappropriate to use smaller power packs — much less environmental impact in the manufacturing process, less weight to carry in the car. According to figures from the Sustainability 2019 study by open-access publisher MDPI, with the CO2 accumulated in manufacture taken into account, in broad terms a small battery passes the “breakeven” point where it makes less environmental impact than a petrol engine in half the time of a large one — around a third of the way to its end-of-life point. The Honda e, Mini Electric and Mazda MX-30 are all urban BEVs with small (32-35kWh) batteries, offering a range of roughly 200km. On the surface, that doesn’t sound like a lot; it might be sufficient to make many freak out. But the average Kiwi daily commute is 29km, and if you do happen to be on the open road, there are DC fast-charging stations every 75km on main highways. This is where the mindset thing comes in. With an ICE car it’s feast and famine: you fill the tank, empty it, then fill again. With a BEV, you graze. Plug in wherever and whenever you can, little and often. If you charge at home overnight, you’ll start most days with a full charge anyway. That’s the theory. Here’s the practice: a normal working week in a Mazda MX-30 Takami, with a personal commitment to be in a more BEV state of mind (state of charge?). Monday I collect the MX-30 at 100 per cent charge from Mazda in Mount Wellington, Auckland: 210km range showing. Straight to Titirangi to collect DRIVEN multimedia journalist Andrew, who’s returning another test car. LynnMall Shopping Centre calls for lunch, and we grab a free AC charge while we eat. Okay, the car’s still at 86 per cent, but you don’t turn down a quick boost when you can get it. There’s another 30km of workrelated running around in the afternoon and by the time I’m home, the MX-30’s at 76 per cent. At this stage I’ll point out that the car is truly taking one for the BEV team as our test vehicle doesn’t have a portable charging cable; Mazda NZ is giving away a home AC Wall Pulsar Plus ($2000 worth, although you pay for the installation) with every MX-30 instead. I don’t have the benefit of that for my week, of course. Tuesday Normal commute to work, so by the time we’ve done another 19km the MX-30 is down to 66 per cent. Loads left, but there’s a ChargeNet AC station a fiveminute walk from work that offers free charging and free parking for four hours if you’re a member. I leave it there for a couple of hours until morning coffee: back to 100 per cent. Early evening 18km commute home via the supermarket; my local has a ChargeNet 50kW DC station, but with 89 per cent remaining there’s no point. Wednesday and Thursday Two office days, normal commuting. After 40km of backand-forth (71 per cent) I charge on Thursday afternoon, in anticipation of tomorrow’s outing. Friday To Abbeville Estate near Auckland Airport for a media event. I arrive early to beat the traffic (normal MO) and time for a coffee nearby. The free Vector 50kW charger at the Airport Shopping Centre has a spot available. Wasn’t part of the plan, but a 20-minute charge gets me back to 82 per cent. Saturday/Sunday Weekend running means I let the MX-30’s charge fall to its lowest level so far: 35 per cent. So a Sunday visit to the supermarket also means a paid fast-charge back to 80 per cent, at a cost of around $20. And the week is done. Full disclosure: I’m on board with the environmental and realitycheck arguments around smaller batteries for BEVs. I also like thinking about how to charge and when; I like managing my car use. But even putting that aside, this week was easy. Although I charged a lot, I never put time aside specifically to do it. Remember, I also didn’t have home charging to fall back on. I did 375km in my week (equivalent to around 20,000km per year) and could actually have done it all with two full charges to 100 per cent, but that wasn’t the point of this exercise. As an aside, I only actually paid for charging once in my five visits to stations. That can’t last forever.

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