Roadtrips are always fun! We usually imagine doing them in petrol or diesel vehicles, but never with an electric car because that can be quite a challenge. But we at TopGear Magazine are not one to shy away from a challenge, and that is precisely why we ventured out on a short road trip with six of the EV cars sold in India ranging from Rs 12 lakh to much over a Crore.
We must admit that testing EV cars isn’t as easy as testing internal combustion motors. Each vehicle packs a different battery configuration and delivers different performance and range figures. Owing to that, we had our work cut out for us and opted for a pre-determined route from Mumbai to Pune and back in just one day. So basically, cover a distance of nearly 300+ kilometres in just 24 hours.
Our plan was to charge to 100% before we flagged off to Pune. Given the small battery packs some cars had on offer, we knew that completing this journey with a few vehicles would seem like a herculean task. Naturally, we had charging station set up in our midway mark where we could juice up these vehicles a little before heading back. This would also give us an idea of how each EV performed during the drive, the range metrics, regeneration and charging calculations while allowing us to understand the charging infrastructure that is still under development in our country.
Now that we had the location set, we had to get our fleet in order. At our disposal were six of the electric vehicles sold in India. Starting off with the most affordable of the lot, the Tigor EV. Moving along to our next pick, the MG ZS EV and then to our trusty long-termer, the Hyundai Kona EV. We hate to admit that we couldn’t source the highest selling EV in the country, the Tata Nexon EV, but we didn’t let that deter us from our objective. But that’s not all; it was not just these affordable EV’s we had in our stable. To top it off, the Audi e-Tron, Jaguar I-pace and the Mercedes Benz EQC were the ultra-luxury EV SUVs that joined us on this exciting yet anxiety packed road trip. Each car belongs to a different segment and attracts buyers accrodingly; this was not going to be a comparison of the EVs but an understanding of how to live with an EV daily.
Our drive started early in the morning, with all the team members gathering at Navi-Mumbai for a quick photo-shoot. This dented the range by 30 kilometres on the EQC, Kona, and the ZS EV, which started their journey from Andheri. We soon headed towards Pune with enough juice in all cars to begin the test. The drive was going to be primarily on the expressway and through some bumper to bumper city traffic as well. The uphill ascends, and descent on the Mumbai – Pune Expressway was determined to drain our charge. All in all, a perfect scenario to test these EV’s and put them through their paces. Like we mentioned before, our plan was to reach Pune, charge all the vehicles at a designated location we had selected and basically understand how many kilowatts it took for these cars to charge within a set time of 70 minutes.Even though most of our team members had driven an EV before, this was going to be an enthralling experience for everyone, as covering long distances in a single go with limited range was not something everyone was convinced about. This is where the range anxiety kicked in.Keep in mind that driving styles drastically differ from person to person, which affects the range of these vehicles. Also, combining all the tech these EVs pack in them makes it hard to ignore that they all squish a lot of energy even if luxuries like the AC are switched on.
Now let’s understand how these EVs performed out on the open roads. First up was the 5-seater compact sedan, the Tata Tigor EV, which was the smallest and had the smallest battery pack of 26kWh, which, when fully charged up, showed a range just shy of 231km. This is the most affordable of the lot, but it didn’t feel like it. It packed enough punch to keep up with the others even on the uphill sections and did feel quite refined compared to its petrol counterpart. At the midway mark, we were left with only 40 kilometres of range remaining, which even after charging for 70 minutes on Lion Charge’s 7kW AC charger extended the range to just 89 kilometres. That is why we sadly had to leave the Tigor EV behind on charge with one of our teammates (who definitely wasn’t happy about it!). There’s not much to crib about the Tigor EV as it is an entry segment EV, but the Nexon EV, which apparently can be seen more often on the roads, still remains the most value for money offering.
The Hyundai Kona boasts of having a 39.2kWh battery pack. Being a long-termer in our garage, we all had a soft corner for the Kona and cherished driving it. Before starting the trip, it had a range of 313 kilometres, which after reaching Pune, had dropped to 132km. After leaving it on charge, it showed a range of 220 km. Its most significant talking point is the three-level regenerative braking, as it considerably impacted extending the range of the Kona on our way back. For the most part, the Kona does do everything we asked it to do flawlessly. Unfortunately, it could never sell good numbers simply because it is a CBU, which rendered it a pretty pricey affair for what it offered. That being said, we are pretty sure that after it gets its much-needed makeover, it can capture the Indian market.
Compared to the Hyundai Kona, the MG ZS EV has a bigger battery pack of 44.5 kWh. When fully charged up, MG ZS EV showed us a range of 280 kilometres, and after reaching our destination in Pune, the range left was just 92km. Like the others, this too was charged for 70 minutes; the range increased to 180kms, which was enough to make it back. The MG ZS EV stands as quite the bargain for everything it has to offer, and word is that there’s an update on the horizon with more features and a subtle redesign on offer.
Onto the luxury SUVs, the Audi e-Tron started with a range of 377 km after a full charge and dropped to 177 km after making it to our destination. After charging the 95 kWh battery for 70 minutes, the e-tron’s range shot up to 218 km. Owing to the range of 400+ km most of these luxury EVs boast of, we weren’t really alarmed about these cars not making it back to Mumbai.The Audi e-Tron certainly is the biggest of the bunch and does feel sluggish compared to the EQC and the I-Pace, but it feels like an excellent overall package otherwise for all the tech and space it offers.The Jaguar I-Pace was the only car with enough charge to make it to Pune and back without breaking a sweat. With its 90 kWh battery and comparatively lighter weight, the I-Pace was the quickest in this test and boasted a range of 413 km when we began. Upon arriving at our destination, the I-Pace promised a range of 239 km and, after a quick 70-minute charge, went up to about 297 km, which was quite impressive.
Our experience with the Mercedes-Benz EQC wasn’t as smooth as the rest. Its 85kWh battery pack, when fully charged, showed us a range of 285kms. But after our journey to the charging station in Pune, the range remaining was just 102kms. Even after leaving the car on charge for 70 minutes on Lioncharge’s 22kW AC wall charger, we could only extend the range by 39kms. Due to that reason, the driver of the EQC had to baby the car back to Mumbai and rush to the nearest 50kW DC fast charger they could find.
Our mega experiment proved that road trips are entirely possible with an EV car in India if you have done all your homework beforehand. But if you expect it to be a fun road trip, you still might be better of with an internal combustion engine in the current era. Because in all honesty, the only car that didn’t give us any range anxiety was the Jaguar I-Pace, but that was the most expensive vehicle of the bunch, and we did have to leave the Tigor EV behind because it supported only 3.9kWh charging on the AC charger.
We must point out that the cost of charging an EV would variate depending on what kind of
charger you use. For instance, the charger we were using was costing us Rs 18.50 per kWh, bringing an average charge cost to about Rs 130 to charge for 70 minutes. Furthermore, if we were using a 50kWh DC charger instead, that would have topped up nearly every car in our test but again costs about Rs 22.35 kWh, which is still a whole lot cheaper than filling fuel in an internal combustion vehicle.The recent obsession with EV’s has taken the world by storm. With the Indian government
gaming up with new regulations and FAME subsidies to promote and spread the wide adoption of electric vehicles, every automaker is queuing up to cater to the widely growing demand for EVs. Even though, as it stands, the EV infrastructure is at a rather primordial phase, for anyone looking to save money on daily costs and primarily commutes inside the city, EV can still make quite a case for itself. With the continued growth of the EV ecosystem, you can only imagine a 300+ kilometre road trip like ours would be possible on even something such as the Tigor EV.We hope that this experiment of ours has helped shed some light on your EV buying experience, and if you liked our road test, then do check out our video on our YouTube channel for the same.
Charger Credits: Lion Charge Chargers
Location Credits: International Tech Park, Kharadi, Pune