One Finite Planet

The Electric Vehicle Road Trip Problem.

First Published:

The Problem: Road Trip ‘Fast’ Recharge Sucks.

Electric vehicles currently suck on road trips, demonstrated by Marcus Brownlee in this video, in the US with his 2 day road trip, driving the:

  • Audi Q5 gas ICE vehicle takes 18 hrs 39 minutes
  • Tesla Model S ‘plaid’ takes an extra 1 hr 32 minutes.
  • Ford Mustang Mach E (EV) takes an extra 6 hours 35 minutes.

This proves 2 things. Even when all goes well, there is a significant time penalty (1 hr 32 minutes), but when all goes wrong, there is a huge and unacceptable time penalty.

The huge extra delay for the Ford Mustang Mach E was caused by:

  • Faulty electric vehicle chargers, and use of the Ford app which did not correctly locate appropriate chargers.
    • Using a better app vastly reduced the time penalty on day 2.
  • Less non-Tesla chargers, particularly in the USA.
    • Tesla is opening their chargers up to no Tesla cars, although plugs in the USA are a problem.

Both these problems can be overcome over time, but right now the experience is real, and even then a road trip would still be sub-par compared to an ICE vehicle, which hardly sounds like progress.

You would save some some money, but particularly in the USA where gasoline prices are some of the lowest in the world, not that much on a road trip:

  • Audi Q5: $84.79
  • Tesla Model S ‘plaid’: $66.35
  • Mach-E: $61.25

The Tesla is particularly impressive given it has more acceleration than any road going Ferrari or Lamborghini etc, yet those vehicles would be far less economical. At the other extreme, there are some countries in the middle east were gasoline is even less expensive than the USA.

The Counter Point: Local Trip ‘Sleep’ recharge doesn’t Suck.

For local trips, people who can park their car with access to a mains electricity socket, can charge at home. Charging at home can be a genuine step forward in comparison to needing to visit gas stations, and road trips in practice are rare.

Further, highway economy of ICE vehicles is better than urban economy, while the reverse is true for EVs. So the road trip was also the Audi at its best economy, and the Tesla and Mach-E at their worst. Conversely, local driving is more economical in EVs, and worse economy for the Audi. Electricity is also less expensive at home, as fast chargers buy the electricity from the same grid and must charge a premium for the use of their real estate and infrastructure.

Even in the USA, when not on road trips, the Tesla and Mach-E would have fuel costs of only half of they Audi. Plus servicing, and other costs are reduced. Almost all of the time not only do the EVs come out ahead on time and convenience, they also offer big savings.

This means, at least for those with a recharge socket at home, EVs overall would still be logically be better.

However, that pain on a road trip would be really annoying. All the convenience with ‘every day’ trips, still does not compensate for a road trips being a step back. For real success, there needs to only be steps ahead, and no steps back.

Solutions For Road Trips.

I have posted that in 2021, EVs simply don’t add up yet, but by 2025, that will have turned around.

Will that time penalty also have turned around?

Simpler, The Mach-E problems: OK, six months and fixed?

Today, in the USA, people have to deal either buy a Tesla, or face the situation face by the Mach-E. Reviewing the Mach-E problems:

  1. Faulty electric vehicle chargers, and use of the Ford app which did not correctly locate appropriate chargers.
    • Using a better app vastly reduced the time penalty on day 2.
  2. Less non-Tesla chargers, particularly in the USA.
    • Tesla is opening their chargers up to no Tesla cars, although plugs in the USA are a problem.

Both of these problems for non-Tesla owners could be solved soon, as Tesla is opening their chargers to all. The problem is the USA is that unlike most of the world, Teslas in the USA use a proprietary charging plug. This could delay Tesla charging stations being an viable option for cars without that proprietary plug. Outside of the US, this problem is already far less significant, as you would see from videos by people such as Bjorn Nyland.

So in the US, this problem should be solved, outside the US, it is solved.

Even With A Tesla, The ICE Experience is better: For how long?

The biggest problem with the test, as pointed out in a comment to the video by @JerryRigEverything that received over 200 replies: “I think you should have let the EVs charge to max at the hotel. Since that’s one of the perks of an EV. Most hotels have at least one destination charger that’ll work with either plug.”

Reality is hotels do not yet all have destination chargers, but as EV numbers grow, they could become essential. Batteries do not get refuelled, they have energy added, which means as opposed to needing an exact fuel, their energy could come any source, but the trade-off is that batteries are best recharged while sleeping (link to be added). Recharging overnight on road trips is the way to offset that even rapid charging may always take a few minutes longer than refuelling, but as charging does not need supervising, it can also happen overnight, saving a recharge stop during the day.

One recharge saved is not enough to eliminate the 1hr 32 minutes to recharge the Tesla Model S plaid, but a Lucid Air, or even an efficient, less high performance car such as a Hyundai Ioniq 5, the the combination of the overnight charge and faster recharges, could cut that different down to less than 15 minutes. Realistically, while it seems hard to see that last 15 eliminated, with a trip of one more day, or a different combination of rest/meal stops while driving, given the EV can charge while you rest and the ICE vehicle must be attended while refuelling, the time difference could certainly be eliminated.

Conclusion and Where Next.

In practice, the EVs still need longer range, the fastest road trip recharging available today, and destination charging at hotels before they can surpass ICE vehicles on road trips. They need the best, and latest of everything available in 2021.

How long before what is the best available today is the average available? I think 5 years is enough. Which means if you are buying a new car to keep for a while, a trade of while on road trips for the first 1 or 2 years could be worth it given the benefits outside of road trips.

Well….as long as you have a place to plug in when parked at home. And you are buying a new car.

Next includes how to solve if you can’t plug in when parked at home, and how long to wait for competitive used cars.

One Response

  1. EV’s are not the solution to the long term problem of DECLINING RESOURCES!
    EV’S are EXPENSIVE, they take too darn long to charge & then there is the incompatable plug problem which can be solved.

    With so many parts of the world suffering energy shortages, just HOW can we expect to charge even MORE EV”s?

    The drought in California has shut down one of their most important source of electricity, Oroville’s resavor is so low, they had to shut down it’s generators, more generators will soon suffer the same fate, shut down.

    Another problem is RESOURCES!
    Electric cars are still DEPENDENT UPON RESOURCES INCLUDING OIL, COAL & NATURAL GAS! We cannot replace declining resources with an resource dependent technology.
    It’s expected that by 2025, lithium & cobalt will be in short supply.

    Thanks to automation & outsourcing, millions of us lost our good paying jobs, low wage workers struggling to just pay the rent AND eat, cannot afford to buy an EV, being RENTERS they also can’t put solar panels on their LANDLORDS roofs & low rent apartments won’t have EV charging stations either.

    EV’s will simply be another toy for the RICH, they cannot replace our current transport system.


Table of Contents


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