The French are overwhelmingly reluctant to go on holiday in an electric vehicle, but the evolution of the car fleet leaves little doubt: on the road to holidays, you will come across more and more often an electric car. The Tesla Model Y, Dacia Spring or Mégane E-Tech, to take some of the best-selling models this year, represent 12% of new vehicle sales in 2022. And the multiplication of "watted" models, with slightly more affordable prices, growing ranges and the charging network that has finally crossed the 100,000-unit mark have convinced more motorists even if the fleet remains embryonic (0.64%).
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But the mistrust of the French is explained, as driving electric forces us to forget the habits forged by cars with combustion engines. Especially when taking the long road of the holidays with the trunk loaded and the air conditioning or heating on.
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Our tips for a long electric car ride
Going on holiday, summer and winter, is often synonymous with a well-loaded car. And there is no miracle if you own or rent a battery-electric car: as with a combustion vehicle, the extra mass affects energy consumption. The worst being a roof box that will deteriorate aerodynamics. Thermal comfort on board also counts. And who says was said perhaps air conditioning on board, as the systems have now become democratized.
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Obviously, leaving Lille or Paris to go to the Côte d'Azur differs from everyday travel. Not all electric models are equal over long distances, as manufacturers develop models whose preferred terrain differs. The cheapest on the market, the Dacia Spring, available from € 20,800, is, by its autonomy (230 km maximum, or 180 km in real conditions of use) clearly intended for urban use or for short daily trips.
Conversely, the electric cars most suitable for long journeys are those with large and expensive batteries, including the most expensive: Tesla Model S, Mercedes EQE and EQS, BMW I7 or the very recent I5, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 6, Kia EV 6 ... sometimes promise up to 600 km of autonomy.
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AUTONOMY AND CONSUMPTION: PREPARING AND ADAPTING TO LONG JOURNEYS
As for the consumptions praised by the manufacturers of thermal cars, the autonomy evoked for electric models is to be taken with tweezers. Carried out according to a European WLTP protocol, these consumption measurements and the figures put forward can, in fact, be very far from reality. Especially since in an electric car, the autonomy is, even more than with a thermal, totally correlated with the use you have of your vehicle.
To put it simply, an electric car does not like long trips at high speeds on the highway. On the other hand, it will be more sober in the city. In question, the energy contained in the battery that melts like snow in the sun and does not regenerate by driving at a constant (high) speed, while it will recover energy with each braking and deceleration in urban course or downhill mountain pass.
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According to Renault, whose Mégane E-Tech is the best-selling model in its (compact) class in France, before a long journey, it is advisable to charge your battery to 100%, unlike everyday trips, for which charging to 80% increases battery life.
Outside temperate periods (between 15 and 25 ° C), we can "prepare" the vehicle before leaving, which will allow both to have a good thermal comfort (neither too cold nor too hot) but also to heat the traction battery. This gives its best autonomy performance when it reaches between 35 and 45 ° C (by rolling and regenerating, the battery warms up "naturally" by gaining between 15 and 20 ° C compared to ambient temperatures). This preconditioning is programmable, either in the vehicle or generally via the manufacturer's application. To preserve autonomy, it must take place about 30 minutes before departure, vehicle connected.
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During long journeys, reducing speed on motorways also helps to preserve its autonomy: up to 60 km of real autonomy on a motorway route by driving at 110 km/h instead of 130. Which, moreover, can make it possible to reach his vacation spot without taking a break to recharge. It all depends on how far away you are.
The counterpart is clear: the journey takes longer. But during large holiday departures, heavy traffic and repeated traffic jams being commonplace, driving slower has little impact.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
The most recent models, such as the Mégane E-Tech, offer trip planners that, depending on the distance to be travelled, make it possible to define the charging points or, on the contrary, for a journey without the need for charging -250 km for example-, to increase the speed on the motorway and to connect on arrival.
To use the on-board trip planner, you must start navigation to your final destination. The software calculates whether you will need to recharge or not, with a range forecast based on many parameters: type of roads and therefore travel speeds, outside temperatures, use of air conditioning / heating ... If the holiday destination is not reachable without refueling, the system offers steps with a focus on recharging that will allow you to reach your final destination as quickly as possible: for example, several stops at fast charging stations up to 80% battery capacity rather than a very long stop to reach 100%. The use of the scheduler is also essential to start the preheating of the battery. By scheduling the stop on a DC (direct current) terminal, the vehicle will automatically start this preheating 30 minutes before arrival on the terminal.
In addition, do not lose sight of the fact that the charging time varies depending on the power of the available terminals and the capacity of your electric car. But even on a very powerful terminal, "refueling" will always be more time-consuming than with a thermal one. Finally, even if the network is developing at high speed, the mesh of charging stations remains less dense than that of our good old gas pumps.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO CHARGE YOUR ELECTRIC CAR?
The cost of charging works like an aggregation service: a single card for several operators avoids the multiplication of cards and subscriptions. The tariffs are those of the operators with an additional cost of around 10% covering the costs of aggregation.
But there are also subscription offers for fast charging in partnership with the Ionity network, the largest in Europe with that of Tesla, which is gradually opening up to other brands: without subscription with a cost of 0.71 € / kWh equivalent to the standard tariff. Ionity active formula: 7.5 € / month subscription and 0.55 € / kWh recommended for customers who recharge around 200 kWh per month on fast charging stations and finally intense formula: 17.5 € / month and 0.35 € / kWh suitable for customers who recharge more than 250 kWh on DC terminals per month.
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It is also possible to make a payment by credit card directly without subscription or specific card depending on the operator. This is becoming more and more widespread, especially for DC fast charging stations on motorway networks: Ionity or Total Energies, which is becoming a major player in electric vehicle charging, especially in our territory. In any case, there is reason to fear an increase in electricity tariffs and, consequently, a cost of using the electric car that could increase in the coming years.
The pitfalls to avoid for a long journey in an electric vehicle
Wasting time at charging stations
This is a fact to be taken into account. Certainly, electric cars accept increasingly large loads and charging stations deliver more power. But, "refueling" will always require more time than with a thermal. In addition, as the fleet grows, there will inevitably be more cars to load. It is also not uncommon for this recent technology to encounter problems of youth with, sometimes, broken or defective charging stations.
Running out of battery
This is the ultimate stress when driving an electric vehicle. It is not uncommon to see recovery trucks carrying very recent electric models, which suggests that the driver could not reach the charging station before breaking down. To reduce this risk, manufacturers equip their models with load planners, which are very useful during long journeys.
Weight is the enemy! By making a parallel with a hike in the mountains, it is obvious that the same person who climbs "empty" will tire less than with a backpack of 20 kg. It's exactly the same in the car: the more you charge, the more you consume. A truth that applies to our dear electrics as well as to our old thermals. Whenever possible, try to fit everything into the cabin and trunk(s), modern electric cars generally offer ample storage space.