Travelling by electric car

Long journeys are no longer taboo for electric cars. Their range has been extended and a few simple precautions could also make the journey easier

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Until satnav became part of the car package (initially as an option and then fitted as standard), it was normal to prepare for a journey before setting off, including mileage maps and time estimates. It almost brings a smile to your lips, but the reality is that in the age of electric cars, a minimal strategy – albeit using modern systems – is required as regards which roads to travel to avoid the worry of being left stranded. Starting with a premise: analysis figures show that an Italian driver travels on average between 50 and 60 km a day on roads that are mostly urban; this means that on a typical day, about 25% of the range declared by many latest-generation compact cars is used up.

On short journeys

But this does not make studying the journey to tackle unimportant, for instance your usual home-office commute. Contrary to what one might think, the shortest journey isn't always the one where your car consumes the least. For example, you need to take into account any differences in altitude: a journey that involves a long uphill stretch will lead to greater energy use, only a small part of which will actually be recovered during the subsequent downhill phase. It is therefore better to opt for an alternative route with a smaller difference in altitude, even if this means extending your journey by a few kilometres. In a week, you'll end up saving quite a lot of energy: you'll notice this immediately because on the dashboard of any zero-emissions model, the information that is never hidden is the residual range, which needs to be kept under control at all times.

The importance of Plan B

Even if there are models with a declared range of more than 500 km, a long journey at high average speed, with the air conditioning on, requires a different strategy: you can't aim directly for the final destination and you have to study the route you'll be travelling, planning stops at charging stations. If the journey is even longer and you are in no hurry, you can plan to split the journey up into stages, charging your car at the hotel overnight. One important tip: always set off with a Plan B: the charging dock you thought you would use as a mid-trip charging point before leaving might be occupied when you get to it or an occurrence which is not infrequent in Italy unfortunately, you might find a car with a combustion engine simply parked in that particular space. Planning ahead means dealing with unpleasant unforeseen events, although the latest generation of driver assistance systems are increasingly sophisticated. Just as the driving-style charts are quite handy, as they help you figure out whether you are driving your car while saving or exaggerating with the fuel, thereby running the risk of consuming more.

The choice of charging dock

When it comes to charging, a very common mistake, especially in the initial period of driving an electric car, is to use public charging docks. Those who can and do not have special subscriptions should charge their electric car at home, where the cost of kWh is not only known – as it depends on the conditions of the supplier – but is generally lower than at a public charging dock. If you do not have a home charging point, you should use your smartphone application which indicates the dedicated infrastructure, carefully avoiding the charging docks that are not included in your contract. When you link up to a socket that is not in your contract, the cost of kWh will often come as a nasty surprise. Another mistake, which can lead to considerable economic costs, concerns the unnecessary use of infrastructure for fast and ultra-fast charging: they are extremely convenient to speed up waiting times especially when you are travelling, but they are decidedly more expensive. A complete battery charge at an ultra-high power charging dock, for which you do not have subscription concessions, could make an electric car more expensive – on a mileage basis – than a traditional car.