The truth about electric car charging and autonomy

A Tesla and Ionity station on July 30, 2022 at 8 am, the busiest day of the summer vacation (photo Éric Dupin)

Are you tempted by the switch to electric but still hesitating? Here’s what you really need to know about battery life and charging.

There are two types of electric motorists. Those who took the risk and those who would like to but still hesitate.

The overwhelming majority of those who drive electric today wouldn’t go back to combustion for the world, but they still sometimes struggle to convince those around them. And if those who sincerely want to become electric still don’t do it, it is often because of a brake where the rational and the legitimate compete with the prejudices and false information that still circulate on the subject. Just read the erudite untruths told on social media (LinkedIn in mind for the first time) by self-proclaimed experts to understand the immensity of the task.

Here’s a little souvenir for those who want to promote the switch to the tram in their entourage and for those who are still trying their luck, but are waiting to be convinced.

No, it doesn’t take 10 hours to travel from Paris to Lyon by electric car

There are two ways to travel a trip like the one from Paris to Lyon (or vice versa) by tram, this trip being an example, but it can be transposed to any trip between two destinations a little further away less than 500 kilometers . Or you decide to follow the stray paths and will enjoy discovering deserted departmental roads that wind through often superb landscapes.

In this case, given the speed limits between 80 and 90 km/h in almost all of Europe on the secondary network, it may be that, depending on your model, if you leave with the battery 100% charged, you will not even need to recharge on the way. Today, in addition to small city cars, most “road-ready” electric cars advertise a WLTP range of 450 to 600 kilometers. However, if the WLTP standard is subject to caution as to its accuracy in mixed use, it turns out that on the road 80/90 is perfectly realistic as long as the temperature is not polar. Well, in this use case, it will take you about 8 hours to make a Paris-Lyon, fee included if necessary, during which you’ll enjoy eating. Also, it may be that the recharge (up to 80% as recommended) ends before you have attacked the dessert.

If you decide to hit the road all the way, you’ll likely need to recharge after 300-350km, even if your car proudly claims to last 500km on a single charge. WLTP range is unrealistic at 130 km/h. In this case, a stop of around 40 minutes or two stops of around 20 minutes will be required depending on the car. This is, for example, what the Chargemap route planner indicates with a VW ID.3, with 20% battery on arrival. Take advantage of this too to combine your refueling stops with meal-coffee-pee breaks and you won’t even notice it. In this case, count a little more than 5 hours to make the trip. This is practically the same time as in thermals.

Yes, a range of 350 kilometers is sufficient (in the vast majority of cases)

The debate on autonomy vs. loading speed vs. density of charging points is apparently being resolved in favor of the last parameter, namely the grid mesh. Of course, it is always comforting to have a great deal of autonomy, but the arguments in favor of this criterion are increasingly tenuous, even questionable. On the one hand, because a large battery implies a lot of extra dead weight, a car that is more expensive, heavier, less agile and more energy consuming, but also wear of the parts that should support this weight (tires, shock absorbers, brakes, etc.). In the end, a less “green” car. The trend today is to work more on efficiency, and in particular on aerodynamics and weight and, above all, to be able to count on a very dense network of the charging network (which is also not necessarily very ecological, it must be admitted). Today, between Ionity, Fastned, Tesla, TotalEnergies and others in progress, on our famous Paris-Lyon motorway route, high-speed charging possibilities are already very numerous in both directions and allow you to power your car. every 250 km.

It might be a little less obvious if you decide to avoid the highway, but just use a good route planner like Chargemap or ABRP and you’re good to go. In the worst case scenario, you will have to stop at a station with lower speed terminals, but even with just 22 kW you should still recover about 140 km in a short hour, enough to finish the trip if necessary. Again, time for a meal break.

In any case, if we are still far from the 100,000 charging points promised by the government at the end of 2021, the deployment has been experiencing a dizzying acceleration for a few months since we went from 57,732 points in March 2022 to 69,428 charging points open. to the public at the end of August 2022, i.e. a +50% increase in their number in one year.

On the other hand, by mid-2022, 60% of motorway service areas will now be equipped with fast charging stations for a total of 800 charging points, a figure that has doubled in one year. If operators follow their roadmap, all bus stations will be equipped with broadband terminals by the end of 2022.

Just follow certain groups on social networks and more particularly this map that lists in real time the constructions and openings of the charging points of the various operators to realize that this is progressing quickly, very quickly.

Yes, we can top up the time for a coffee and leave for 200 km

Take the case of an “average” electric car like the Kia Niro EV, which isn’t known for being a lightning rod in terms of charging speed. If you stop at Ionity, Tesla or Fastned to recharge, it will take less than 25 minutes to charge to 20-65% or recover enough to travel 207 km. So these chip jumps might seem a little tedious to you if you’ve never done it, but this is a somewhat exceptional case because we usually reload 20-80%, which certainly lasts a little longer, but lets you recover around 280 km, knowing that it takes much less time with a car that accepts fast charges. Know, for example, that under the same conditions, it will take less than 12 minutes to recover the same dose with a Kia EV6 and… 9 minutes with a Tesla Model 3 Long Autonomy. There was barely time to find change for a cup of coffee and dip his Speculoos in it. And so hey, it is recommended to take a break every two hours, we can never say it enough, for safety and health.

No, charging stations are not saturated

It’s a sore point, let’s not lie to each other. But the overloading of charging stations (haha), if it is a reality probably during the few days of major migrations of the year (summer vacation departures, bridges and long weekends), remains an epiphenomenon for now. Certainly very unpleasant, even a little anxious, but rare. It can be bypassed if you have the possibility to choose your schedules. If you leave early in the morning and need to recharge, there’s a good chance that a station will be underused before 9am or after 3pm, while it can be saturated by lunchtime. It also depends on the stations and their configuration. With Tesla – some Superchargers now open to all brands – you have little risk of queuing given the average number of stelae per station, a number that is steadily increasing as some Superchargers now display between 20 and 30 terminals! It will be more complicated with an Ionity, whose average number of terminals per station is quite a bit between 5 and 6. So yes, clearly, you might have to wait a bit, but it will remain extremely punctual, and the wait shouldn’t be too long as in high speed terminals average charging time is about 20 minutes.

Home, workplace, destination… Charging points multiply and diversify

Of course, recharging isn’t just on the road during long trips. It is also billed daily or weekly for day trips. This is simpler and more complicated. Simpler because, with a few exceptions, the average daily distance traveled by a French driver would be 36 kilometers, even if this number should be taken with caution, as it can vary according to sources. With a car with a range of 350 kilometers and urban and suburban use, this represents approximately one recharge per week. There, too, solutions are multiplied, between charging at home and charging at work. Well, I’m describing an ideal scenario here, because in practice only 55% of French people live in single houses, and those who are lucky enough to have a parking space, a fortiori with a charging station, at their place of work are rare. We also know that the famous “right to take” in co-ownership remains long and complicated to enforce, which contributes to the persistence of white areas where recharge is impossible. Which could, in passing, become a real tie-breaker in the face of the electrification of the individual car. A new form of social fracture, in a way, that politicians should seriously take advantage of before it becomes too blatant.

There is also the case of recharges at destination, which are also developing strongly, namely in hotels, campsites and, in another way, in supermarket car parks, having these players well understood the competitive advantage they could derive from such a performance.

There remains the question of the cost of high-speed charging while traveling. This is the subject that has been making people cringe a little for a few weeks when we see the crazy spike in electricity prices, as we discussed in detail in our latest podcast. With a price per kWh that can reach almost 1 euro (at Allego, for example), the cost per kilometer for electric can reach that of thermal. However, not all operators have yet passed on these increases. This is the case with Electra, which still offers a kWh at €0.44, or Fastned at €0.59. Tesla saw its prices nearly triple in just over three years, from €0.24 to €0.69/kWh for its customers and 0.79 for non-Tesla customers. The Ionity, meanwhile, hasn’t moved since its last update, with a kWh at €0.69 as well. All prices shown here are subscription only. For those who, on the other hand, have the privilege of being able to charge at home, the tariff continues to be very advantageous as it currently stands at €0.1841/kWh. Even with an announced 15% increase in early 2023, driving electric while charging at home will remain a great deal.

To complete

Do not be afraid ! Contrary to what Cassandres on social media regularly announce, electric driving is becoming increasingly easier, even banal. All you have to do is refresh your driver’s brain and a little preparation (we’re talking 30 seconds, the time to enter your trip into a planner), and all restrictions are gone. All that’s left is pleasure.

It is up to us (you) to let us know.

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