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Ford Mustang Mach-E charging Bob Gritzinger
Higher-output EVGo charger out of service at this location.

Two Divergent Drives Reveal BEV Pluses and Minuses

A weeklong experience in a Ford Mustang Mach-E and a 653-mile trek in a Kia EV6 reveal some of the positives and negatives of the battery-electric-vehicle revolution.

With battery-electric-vehicle demand appearing to soften, it makes sense to report on two widely divergent BEV drives in recent months to help explain some of the headwinds facing the market.

A recent trip to Colorado provided ample opportunity to enjoy the highlights of the ’23 Ford Mustang Mach-E, including Ford’s superb BlueCruise active cruise-control system and its spacious interior. On the downside, as many BEV drivers experience, we were chasing charging to keep the “tank” topped off. More on that later.

Side note: Wintry, icy conditions above 10,000 feet (3,048 m) dashed our plans to drive the Mach-E to the 14,115-ft. (4,302-m) summit of Pikes Peak to assess the amount of electrons burned driving up compared with the amount of power regenerated on the trip back down the mountain.

Our $68,370 Premium model featured twin-motor all-wheel drive and a 91-kWh battery good for an EPA-estimated range of 290 miles (467 km), or about 2.7 miles/kWh. We started with the battery nearly maxed out and a full complement of miles available. The 80-mile (129-km) drive down to Colorado Springs and some local errands drove range down to 147 miles (237 km).

En route, the vehicle’s BlueCruise 1.3 Level 2+ hands-free active cruise control performed flawlessly. The system stayed in operation consistently, kept the car solidly in its lane and performed lane changes with a flick of the turn signal, as advertised. The system is simple to activate and provides ample information via the images on the 10.2-in. (25.9-cm) instrument cluster.

Given the aforementioned plan to summit Pikes Peak, our objective once in Colorado Springs centered on making sure the battery was fully charged to make sure we’d have ample juice to make the drive to the park entrance, and then up the mountain. That’s when we discovered the limitations of driving a BEV, even in a relatively eco-minded state such as Colorado.

Checking the apps for charging near our hotel proved fruitless (and the hotel offered no options), so we settled on an EVGo 50-kW outlet at an REI sporting goods store a few miles up the road. Alas, the faster charger was out of service, so we were relegated to relying on a functional 6.6-kW unit at the same location. We plugged in with 147 miles of range left (53% charge) and returned 5 ½ hours later to see the results: 33.9 kWh charged, raising the range to 225 miles (362 km) at 89% charge. Cost: $8.71.

A second, 4.3-hour, 25.8-kWh charging session at the same location pushed the battery to 100% and 293 miles (472 km) of range, at a cost of $7.41. That’s about 10 hours of charging, total, at a cost of about $16 for about 180 miles (290 km) of range.

With regular unleaded running about $3.10 per gallon in the area, getting the same value would’ve required a 35-mpg (6.7 L/100-km) gas-powered vehicle to achieve the same cost/mile ratio.

So, while efficiency was a high point, limited charging options and the length of time to “fuel” were significant challenges. Range anxiety is real, even when you don’t need to travel a great distance.

Kia EV6: North Carolina to Michigan

Living with a BEV on a longer trip was especially challenging, noted Bill Bieser, vice president-OEM/Automotive Partnerships for GenZ EV Solutions. The Florida-based company offers customizable, innovative EV infrastructure design, engineering, installation and maintenance solutions to simplify the transition to electric vehicles for businesses and their customers.

Bieser shared his real-world experiences driving from his base in Charlotte, NC, to Detroit in a rented Kia EV6:

Embarking on my journey, I rented a BEV with a range of approximately 240 miles (386 km) when charged to 80%, boasting a fast-charging profile exceeding 200 kW. Covering over 650 miles (1,046 km) one way, I encountered various charging stations and experienced the nuances of the charging process.

My first stop at an Electrify America site, approximately 163 miles (262 km) from the starting point, revealed a mix of positive and frustrating aspects. Although the site offered typical traveler amenities, such as a convenience store and fast-food options, only four parking spots were available for charging, and the lack of a canopy proved inconvenient during unexpected rain.

Opting for a ChargePoint site in Gallipolis, OH, for my second stop presented challenges. The 62.5-kW charger delivered an average of 51 kW during my session, and the lack of public restrooms or any other amenities at the government building supporting the site added to the inconvenience.

At a subsequent stop at a Walmart parking lot with an Electrify America site, I found a Ford F-150 Lightning blocking a 360-kW charger even though it had completed its session (pictured, below). While helping another EV driver, I noticed unexpected charging rate fluctuations, adding a moment of confusion to the consumer experience. Furthermore, the charger was positioned about 300 yards (274 m) from the store.

Bill BieserEA Columbus Walmart

A fourth charging stop at a BP in Newport, MI, offered a more favorable experience. The 240-kW Red-e charger required no app, just a credit card tap, and I reached 85% state of charge in under 24 minutes. The proximity of amenities to the charging station made this my best charging experience of the day.

Upon reaching my destination, several observations stood out:

•           The 653-mile (1,051-km) trip took about 14 hours, approximately 2 to 2½ hours longer than in a gas-powered utility vehicle, with unexpected charging-based routing adding around 5 miles (8 km) to the distance.

•           Charging stops lacked expected amenities like canopies, trash services or windshield cleaning facilities.

•           The need for multiple apps (four in total) complicated the charging process.

•           Gaps in charging infrastructure planning, particularly in Ohio, led to unavoidable stops at suboptimal locations.

•           Charger errors occurred twice, contributing to a sense of frustration.

While progress is evident, with technological advancement promising improved charging experiences, the lack of site amenities remains a significant gap. As electric vehicles become more prevalent, it will become imperative to provide conveniences such as restrooms, waste disposal, windshield cleaning and weather protection.



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