Road tripping in an electric vehicle is not for the faint-hearted, but it can be done – with forward planning and a dash of luck.
If ever the term ‘city slicker’ applied to a type of car, it would be to electric vehicles (EVs).
Making any car go forward requires a vast amount of energy – either from burning fuel or from a potent battery. If the latter supplies the power, you had best have a strong supply of electricity at hand to charge it – something that’s not freely available in rural areas.
The sublime Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S can do more than 400km per full charge in city driving, but a mere 330km per charge on the open road.
With this in mind, I deliberately went looking for trouble – I wanted to see if the Jag EV could handle a road trip to the middle of nowhere and return the following day.
I set off from the hamlet of Klapmuts near Cape Town to a farm in the Klein Karoo, 355km away. I was going to rely on GridCars’ high-voltage fast chargers at Worcester (along the N1 highway) and Buffeljagsrivier (along the N2). These power supplies can charge the I-Pace to 80% full in about 45 minutes.
Worcester’s fast charger is only 65km away from Klapmuts, but I want to keep the battery topped up, so I make a short stop there. With the battery refilled, I travel to the charger at Buffeljagsrivier, on the N2, 125km away. I have coffee and roosterkoek while the car is plugged in, but later notice the power has tripped, and I ask the manager to switch it back on.
From Buffeljags to the farm is less than 200km – well within the Jaguar’s range. Arriving there at 8pm, I plug the charging cable into the domestic power supply, where the rate of charge is much slower. As if that’s not enough, the overnight temperature of 1°C slows the charging rate right down and I have to keep it plugged in until noon the next day to store a sufficient charge.
I depart to the east and retrace my steps, before turning north on a gravel road to the spectacular Seweweekspoort. This route, which ends in Laingsburg (on the N1), is mostly untarred, and the Jaguar displays excellent traction on gravel surfaces.
I find the GridCars charger in Laingsburg and feed the hungry electric cat. It needs enough juice to reach Worcester, 157km away.
Because I’m running late, I decide 200km of range “in the tank” will be enough. But the weather had other plans.
Between Laingsburg and Worcester, there’s a headwind, and the outside temperature drops sharply. The wind and cold chow energy ferociously and I worry that I won’t make it to Worcester.
But thank heavens for mountains. The long descent of the Hex River pass near De Doorns on the N1 adds a whole 30km of range to the battery, and I reach Worcester’s fast charger with 37km in reserve!
Why would anyone want an EV, given its reliance on charging infrastructure, mostly found in cities?
There are many reasons, but consider these three: EVs are more exciting to drive than fuel-powered cars, because all the torque is available instantly. Secondly, an EV’s running cost is super low, even though the purchase price is high, for now. Thirdly, as Eskom sputters like a stalling engine, a small but growing number of South Africans are making EV “fuel” themselves by harvesting electricity with solar panels.
Never paying for fuel again? It’s the stuff of dreams.
Price: R1.87 million