Driving 620 miles is quite the task on a good day. And when Skoda asked whether or not I’d like to drive that distance back from Inverness to my home near Chichester on the south coast in their new Enyaq iV electric car, I didn’t really give it a second thought – of course, I’d want to give it a crack.
Because recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of static about electric cars. Now fortunately as part of my job I’m able to try out new EVs quite frequently and, for the most part, they’re coming on leaps and bounds. But it’s always that word – range – that gets voiced by someone whenever they ask about an electric car I’m driving.
I can understand why, of course. That feeling of running out of fuel is never nice, but it’s compounded in an electric car because there’s no jerry can solution – if you run out, it’s pretty much game over.
But that’s exactly why I wanted to drive back from Inverness, in order to see not only how the Enyaq would perform but also how the charging infrastructure would do. And let’s be honest, if you can do over 600 miles in a day, then most journeys needn’t really be an issue.
So we kick things off during a misty morning a few miles outside of Inverness and a bright red Enyaq iV 80 stands a-waiting to get going. This is the 77kWh battery version – a smaller battery is also available – and has a claimed range of 332 miles. That should, theoretically, mean a two-stop trip. But as we all know, theory and practice are two very different things.
Now Skoda wasn’t able to completely charge the Enyaq prior to departure, but even so, a range of 270-ish miles was showing on the car’s futuristic screen. Plugging my home address into the navigation causes it to calculate not only the distance but the available charging locations. Now under normal circumstances – and in a ‘normal’ car – the journey should take around ten hours. But factoring in some time to charge and stop while also taking pictures for the feature meant that I was already looking at quite a lot of seat time with the Enyaq.
I head out and try to just relax into the journey. It can be all too easy to get hellbent on range with an electric car and, from prior experience, I’ve found it far more calming to just crack on and treat it like any other car.
But very quickly I spotted a problem and it’s got nothing to do with the car, nor the infrastructure – but the route. You see there’s a common conundrum with EVs – do you take the shortest route via motorways and blitz through your range, or go slightly off the main route and retain some additional battery? I opt for the latter and turn off the A9 to womble my way along the tourist route. Not only is it nicer for pictures, but a more pleasant drive in general.
Cascading down through places like Aviemore and Dalwhinnie does little to dent the Enyaq’s range and even though at some points I can see the A9 flanking me, I think that elongating the car’s charge is a worthwhile tradeoff.
I pass through Pitlochry with its tables packed with walkers and holidaymakers and begin to really enjoy the journey. As I’m sure is the case with many people, I’ve been largely confined to a 30-mile radius of my own home for some time, so to be out and about feels fantastic – even if I’ve still got 526 miles left to go.
Soon I’m passing through Dunblane – a mere 137 miles into my journey – and notice that there’s a 50kW charger at the town’s Hilton. The 50kW is the bread-and-butter of EV driving now; a lower-powered 7kW charger might be fine for an overnight stay, but it’s next to useless for my needs as it simply doesn’t add charge quick enough. In truth, this is more of a ‘comfort’ charge as I’ve still got plenty of range and could crack on. But after nearly three hours on the road, I stop, have a little walk, and give the car a 24-minute charge, delivering 18.6kWh for the princely sum of £4.64. I connect via the BP Pulse app, which works with zero hassle. So far, no drama.
I’ve now got enough charge to carry on to the superfast Ionity chargers at Gretna Green some 100 miles away. It’s at this point that I can resist the allure of the motorway no longer, so join the M80 at Stirling for the long haul down. I’d started off in reasonable conditions, but soon had to resort to driving with the lights on as the rain is so bad. Friends from home tell me they’re basking in near 30-degree heat. Scotland, eh?
Rounding Glasgow, I carry on past the car’s originally planned stop at Moffat, which I’d researched and found to be sited in a camping area. However, given that my charge at Dunblane had moved things along, I decided to press ahead and continue to Gretna Green which soon moved into view.
At this point I was starting to need some charge, so the 350kW chargers were quite welcome. As I arrived, three other cars were already charging but with four connectors I didn’t think that this would be much of a problem. Until I tried to charge that is.
Plugging in resulted in an error message saying that the charger didn’t have enough power available. I can only assume it was because the other cars were charging at maximum speed, but it really should be able to cope with the number of cars, right?
One of the vehicles moved off and – wouldn’t you know it – I could start charging. It had taken two failed attempts. Whatsmore, each attempt had taken a £67 pre-authorisation from my current account. I can understand a few pounds like operators do for petrol, but £67? By the end of my charge, over £200 was out of my account from pre-authorisations. Of course, it went back in – over a week later, I’ll add – but this really isn’t the way it should work, in my view.
Oh and then there’s the expense. At 69p per kWh, the Ionity is one of the most expensive chargers out there. Sure, you get a quick charge, but given the average cost of home energy is around 14p per kWh, it’s quite ridiculous. I left the car on for half an hour – delivering just over 44kWh – and it cost £30.91. To be honest, I drove away feeling a little annoyed. If EV adoption is meant to be promoted, then charging the same as petrol or diesel really ain’t the way to go about it.
I put it behind me and got stuck into the M6. I knew that there was a charger in Knutsford – a 50kWh – close to family who I could see for a short period while I waited. So onwards the Enyaq carried, delivering decent range and, in fairness, not depleting all that much battery on the motorway.
An electric car is a relaxing way to travel once you’re on the move. It’s quiet, comfortable and refined while the removal of the distant engine noise leaves you to just enjoy the quiet ‘bubble’ around you.
Before long I’ve rattled past Penrith and it’s when I travel alongside the turn-offs for Kendal that I realise quite how far I’ve yet to travel. Thankfully the motorway gods look upon me and give me a delightfully traffic-free M6 – something I only very infrequently experience – and before I know it I’m bearing down on Knutsford.
The charger is handily located outside the Legh Arms and, to my relief, the Tesla parked there moves off almost as soon as I arrive. This one is a charger operated by Osprey and costs 31p per kWh. I meet up with my family for a soft drink at the pub and end up leaving the car on the charger for just over an hour. In total, the charger delivers 49.56kWh for £15.36. It only ends up highlighting the madness of the Ionity’s cost; for only half an hour extra wait time, I’d saved around £15 for the same amount of energy. It’s just madness.
From there, I feel as if I’m on the home stretch. I take the M6 toll road to make things easier and I’m soon skating down the M40 and onto the A34 towards Winchester. Naturally, the bottom of the A34 is closed, so I have to divert here, there and everywhere. At well after midnight, it’s starting to get to that point in a trip where you’d just like to be home.
But one last charge is needed. I could’ve just got there, but it would’ve been tight. So I finish with a flourish at a tiny charger outside Winchester. The car suggests I stay there for an hour but I ignore it and do a quick charge in order to get home. Run by Geniepoint – another supplier, I know – the charger delivers just over five kWh over eight minutes and costs £1.87. It’s a tiny, minute charge but I’m not in the mood to stand near an empty service station any longer. I get 20 miles of extra range and head home.
So some 15 hours later, of which 12 were spent driving, I rock up to my front door. Given that the regular time would take over 10 hours – and I stopped with relatives, took photos and generally dawdled along the way – I wouldn’t say it was that bad in terms of time. You could certainly go quicker if you were more sensible with your charges and stopped less.
But what did I learn? Well, you can do long journeys in EVs, certainly. The infrastructure is really getting there, but there definitely needs some pricing regulation put in place as operators seem to be free at the moment to charge whatever they like. In total, the journey cost £52.87. Yes, I’ll agree that a super-efficient diesel could do the same distance for less money, but I’m taking £15 off the total as if I’d properly researched the price of Ionity, I would’ve stopped for longer and spent less. A trip of 620 miles for £38? I don’t think that sounds bad at all – and as far as long-distance drives go, EVs are well up for the challenge.