Testing the real world capabilities of the 4 EVs on sale in India

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Mercedes-Benz EQC/Hyundai Kona EV/MG ZS EV/ Tata Nexon EV

There simply is no point in being stubborn and resenting EVs, and blaming it upon the fact that you are a staunch petrolhead. No matter how many Lamborghini posters you have pinned up, or how many eargasms you’ve had listening to a Ferrari V12 singing at full pitch, you need to accept that EVs are the future. Or rather they are the present because four of them have already begun deliveries in India. Yes, there is also the Tata Tigor EV, but that’s a compact sedan and well, we know how SUVs are treated so we left it out. Or to be honest, we couldn’t get our hands on one. Anyway, the four SUVs we managed to get, encompass the entire spectrum of EVs in terms of pricing.

On one side, we have the Tata Nexon EV, which is the cheapest and the most affordable one here. And on the other side, we have the uber-expensive Mercedes-Benz EQC. A fully-electric SUV from the manufacturer that gave us the first internal combustion engine. Karl Benz must have scoffed at the thought. Actually, he would have loved the idea behind it. After all, he was all for growth and technology.

Mercedes-Benz EQC/Hyundai Kona EV/MG ZS EV/ Tata Nexon EV

Then there are the two mid-size SUVs in the form of the Hyundai Kona Electric and the MG ZS EV. Nothing special about these two. Neither are they of incredible value like the Nexon nor do they feel as special as the EQC. But they offer a good balance, and quite practical as well. Both are white though and that’s boring. However, the point of getting all of them together was to see if they can be the only car in your garage. Do we have the infra, how is the charging like, how is the battery like. These were all questions we needed to find out, and the biggest one being that of range anxiety. You see with a petrol-powered car, if the range says 250km, you won’t be stressed at all. In an EV though, ain’t no number high enough.

You keep on glancing at the range like you did at your first crush, and that sort of leaves you with an added stress, and anxiousness, which is aptly termed – range anxiety. The biggest reason for this is the lack of charging infrastructure in our country and the painfully long charging times. Sure, a bit more planning will make all of this go away. But, things don’t always go according to plan. So is having an EV as the only car a good option? Or is it too soon to make the shift?

Mercedes-Benz EQC/Hyundai Kona EV/MG ZS EV/ Tata Nexon EV

To put things into perspective, and make it a real-life review, we decided on a short trip to a nearby farmhouse. Now, it is true that EVs are advertised and marketed to be city vehicles, and are to be confined within city limits, but if it is the only car in your garage, you would want to do a short outing once in a while. So, to have a good mix of both, we kept the starting point at the southernmost tip of Mumbai bustling with chaos. Getting out of ‘South Bombay’ or ‘town’ that too at peak hours on a weekday, is nothing short of defeating a ‘Level 10 Boss’. And the farmhouse that we geniuses had picked was all the way on the other side of Mumbai in Vasai. This meant crossing the entire length of Mumbai, and because we have magically cured COVID, the roads were packed as if it were normal times. Hesitantly we hopped into the cars and decided we would swap occasionally in order to experience what each of them had to offer.

I drove all of them, obviously, so let’s start with the cheapest one out there.

Kala Ghoda to Bandra – Smooth Sailing

Mercedes-Benz EQC/Hyundai Kona EV/MG ZS EV/ Tata Nexon EV

The Tata Nexon EV is the highest-selling EV out there right now and with reason. With only Rs 3.2 lakh over the petrol-powered variant, the Nexon EV makes for a compelling buy. You save a fortune on running and maintenance costs, and you also feel better about yourself doing your bit to help mother nature. It is also decently equipped with dual airbags, ABS with EBD, sunroof, 7.0-inch infotainment system, parking camera with sensors, drive modes, etc. There is a good amount of kit, and you also get the option of three variants to choose from. So, if you don’t need all that extra bit of kit, and just want a bare basic EV *ahem, stingy* you can go for the XM.

Mercedes-Benz EQC/Hyundai Kona EV/MG ZS EV/ Tata Nexon EV

However, what you will struggle with are battery and range. Because, like its low price, the Nexon also has a low range. Thanks to its 30.2kWh motor that develops 127bhp, performance is restricted. The claimed range is 312km, but on the semi-digital instrument cluster, it was a disappointing 200km. Now, that should be fine if your daily commute is around 25-30km both ways. In Mumbai though, and for every other city in India, this range means nothing. Google maps projected an ETA of over two hours with a good dash of red for a puny 60km stretch. Yes, in our cities, we don’t gauge distance by km, but time. That meant wasting precious amounts of charge sitting idle at red lights, bumper-to-bumper traffic, waiting for a cow to complete its nap, and navigating the slalom of barricades that Mumbai’s finest have laid all around. The Nexon then was looking like it would struggle, but in all fairness, I was glad to have it in the city chaos. The compact dimensions and the easy-going nature of the motor played in its favor and in no time we were across the famous Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

Out of the plush heritage of South Mumbai, and right into the warzone that is the western express highway. I wanted to jump into one of the other SUVs by now because as good as the Nexon was in terms of zipping around, I just couldn’t take my eyes off that range which had already come down to 165km. Yes, the motor has good poke and the light steering is very convenient. But even with the ‘Eco’ mode engaged, you will constantly glare at that range meter. I did select ‘Sport’ just for a brief moment on the Sea Link, and while it was more responsive and fun, it only meant that the range dropped faster. That said, even though the Nexon has the smallest battery and the lowest range. Charging times are quite impressive. Recharging the Nexon to 80% takes just 60mins, that is if you find a DC charger, and you need to use the conventional 15A plug at your house from 20% to full charge, it would make you older by eight hours. As we approached Bandra, the range had already dropped to 120km, and I was having visions of me calling a flat-bed or having to push it off the main road so I made the wise decision to switch and make the Nexon somebody else’s problem.