Wow, what a big month! We took delivery of our shiny new Jaguar I-Pace SE and clocked almost 2000 kilometres over Christmas travelling to see family and friends all over Victoria.
This will be a fairly comprehensive update (so apologies for the long read), but I wanted to cover off a few important points, such as how do you charge the I-Pace at home, how do you interact with it remotely, how does it drive over longer distances, and what kind of issues have we had so far?
Before we get to how it coped with long-distance drives, I wanted to run you through one of the biggest hurdles we hit when looking at an EV in an apartment – how to charge it.
EVs in an apartment setting
Most apartment buildings have power points throughout the car park for maintenance of the car park, but relying on those to charge an EV permanently wouldn't work given that most are in inconvenient places and that using a 10A plug to charge an EV would take too long.
When talking about charging an EV, I like to use an analogy that involves a bucket (stay with me here). Pretend the bucket is your car's battery and filling it with water is the charge your car needs to move. Whether I use a garden hose or a fire hose, either way I fill the bucket I'll need to slow the flow of water near the top of the bucket to make sure it doesn't spill over the edges.
Translating that to a car battery, it fills at a very fast rate to around 80 per cent before the charge rate tapers off all the way through to 100 per cent full.
Filling a bucket of water with an eye dropper is like using an occasional-use charger (the 10A plug that works on any domestic socket) that draws around 2400W of power. It will take forever, and in the case of the I-Pace it's almost a 48-hour job to fill the battery from empty.
So, you want a solution that's quicker and more readily available than just a power socket. This is what we had installed at home in our parking space.
Our apartment building is around 15 years old, so it was built well before consideration was put into charging infrastructure for electric cars. We used a company called JetCharge to help facilitate the installation, so I'll run you through the process and how much it cost us.
JetCharge first visited our building to perform an inspection of the building's switchboards and to determine how much capacity was available on the switchboard for us to charge an electric car. After determining there was ample capacity, the JetCharge crew set out to find out which route the cable and conduit would need to take to reach our parking space.
Accounting for voltage drop (effectively the ability for a steady rate of current to be delivered over a cable covering a set distance – the longer the cable, the more voltage that is dropped across it and the less current you can draw), the team plots a route and calculates the maximum current that can be drawn from that part of the building.
Our cable run was around 60m with a 32A RCD (residual current device) installed upstream. Installed within our parking bay was a Schneider EVLink Smart Wallbox that's capable of single-phase or three-phase charging at rates of 7/22kW respectively, along with a 40A isolator.
To accommodate other future EVs on the switchboard, the charge rate was set to 19A, single phase for a maximum charge rate of 4.56kW. The wall box costs $1500, while the installation was $1480 and a yearly subscription to ChargeFox is $360.
ChargeFox is the network established by JetCharge to monitor power consumption on each node and then charge the end user for their power use.
How exactly do you pay your bill? Well, this is the clever part. You draw power from the body corporate's power supply, with your consumption metered by the wall box. The wall box then communicates with the ChargeFox network to bill you, the end user, with ChargeFox then passing on the billed power usage to your body corporate.
For the residents of the building, the power consumption or installation of charging infrastructure doesn't cost a cent, it's all up to the end user. So from that point of view, it's a versatile and handy installation. It lives in our car park, which only we can access and we can charge the car at our leisure.
The I-Pace offers two types of charging. It accepts either a Type 2 plug (AC), or a CCS Combo Type 2 plug (DC). It has an onboard AC charger that can accept single-phase charging at 7kW, while the combo plug accepts up to 100kW DC.
How long does charging take? It's a bit of a redundant question, because what we have found is the car is only plugged up once or twice a week, and we will generally hook it up for an overnight charge if we know there is long travel coming up.
But, if you were to charge the car from dead flat to around that 80 per cent mark, it's around a 24-hour charge. Plug it up at 8pm and it'll be at 80 per cent by 8pm the following day. The reality of the situation is the car will be plugged up at around 20 or 30 per cent capacity and be at 80 per cent by the next morning when we come down to drive away.
So to answer the question – can you live with an EV while also living in an apartment building? Yes, absolutely.
The biggest hurdle we faced was the body corporate committee. It wasn't that the committee didn't support EVs – there was just little understanding of the process and how it would be compensated. Once that was explained, the rest was a walk in the park.
There are a couple of caveats here, though. If your body corporate only purchases general power, you will be pumping black- and brown-coal-generated electricity into your car. Additionally, while there was plenty of switchboard capacity for around 10 EVs concurrently charging, if half the building decided they wanted to get on the EV bandwagon all of a sudden, the main switchboard would need a capacity upgrade to cater for the supply.
The Jaguar Remote application
While the I-Pace has proven to be great fun so far, what I'm really loving about it is the phone application.
The Jaguar Remote application allows you to control the vehicle remotely, with functions such as location monitoring, remote lock/unlock, remote climate control, remote theft tracking and remote start/stop/schedule charge. But, the best part is the journey logging.
This part of the application lets you see how many kilometres your last journey was, how much energy you regenerated, and more importantly how much energy you consumed.
It's not quite as quick as the Tesla application, yet it offers virtually all of the same functions, but with better journey management.
What's the I-Pace like on long-distance drives?
There has been a bit of negativity around the I-Pace's range recently, and I wanted to really push the car to its limits in terms of driving range to assess what it's actually like.
Jaguar claims a WLTP combined driving cycle range of around 470km. Over Christmas, we had a fair bit of driving to do and I wanted to see how far we could go on a single charge.
Our Christmas involved driving over three days from Melbourne to Geelong, then to Ballarat and finally back to Melbourne.
The total distance (door to door) we covered was:
- Start range: 441km
- Melbourne to Geelong: 84.5km
- Driving around Geelong: 44km
- Geelong to Ballarat: 98km
- Ballarat to Melbourne: 127km
- Total: 353.5km
- Finish range: 75km
Almost all of our driving during this period was highway driving, which is arguably the worst-case scenario for EVs because current is constantly being drawn from the battery system and it rarely has a chance to regenerate energy like you can at lower speeds.
We also drove realistically, with climate control set to automatic at 23 degrees the entire time, including the hotter days around Christmas.
This wasn't quite enough for me, though. With 189km range remaining on the display, I wanted to drive out to the newly opened fast-charger site at Euroa with my wife on a 42-degree day.
It would be a test of the I-Pace's driving range, but also my marriage, if we didn't make it. From our home, the Euroa charging site is 171km away. With an average speed of over 100km/h (as the road moves to 110km/h just outside of Melbourne), plus a stinker of a day, I knew we'd be pushing our luck.
To put an EV's range calculation into context, it can only predict your range based on your last bit of driving, plus the ambient conditions and your requested cabin temperature. As we hit the highway and picked up pace and the cabin heated up, the range started tapering off slightly to a point where I became a little hot under the collar.
Around 20km out from our destination, I entered the vehicle's low-power mode, which turns off the vehicle's infotainment system and throttles back the air-conditioning. We rolled into the fast-charger site with 8km of range left and a disgruntled wife. But, we made it. That's the point, isn't it?
Issues so far?
We've run into two issues so far with the I-Pace that are worth mentioning.
On occasion when the car is plugged in to charge, it sits stuck on Initialising with no progression (this is the stage before it begins accepting charge from the socket). At first we thought it could have been a fault with the charging unit, but after some troubleshooting we discovered it was actually the Type 2 socket locking mechanism that was preventing charge.
Prior to the car accepting charge from the cable, it needs to lock the cable into position. This lock was failing to sit within the end of the cable and as a result stopped it from charging.
We ran into this at the Euroa site with the car on eight per cent charge and it was pretty frustrating. This has now been fixed by Jaguar with a new charging slot installed.
The second issue was related to the heat and fast charging. When the charger finally cranked on at the Euroa site, the car was sitting in the 42-degree sun while charging at a rate of 50kW.
When we hopped back in the car, it simply blew hot air out and refused to cool the cabin. We drove it for around 70km in the heat without air-conditioning until pulling over at a service station to allow the car to sit for 10 minutes. After this, the air-conditioning came back on and everything was fine.
This was explained by Jaguar as a battery-preservation mechanism. We charged the battery from eight per cent using a 50kW charger, which generated a great deal of heat within the battery system. Immediately after, we drove out of the parking lot and onto the freeway at 110km/h, which also causes a large amount of heat to be generated within the battery system.
To prevent it overheating and to keep the battery within its operating temperature range, the car will redirect up to 100 per cent of the vehicle's air-conditioning system to cool battery components. A vehicle firmware revision addresses this issue by allowing the air to also cool the cabin.
As I mentioned in the introduction, it's been a hell of a first month with the I-Pace. And, despite the issue with charging, we really, really like the car. In future instalments I'll run you through how the car handles and performs after a few runs through my favourite mountain roads.
More importantly, my wife, who is not even remotely a car person and regularly drives the car, is really enjoying it. She finds the technology easy to use and the car easy to drive – both of these things were my biggest fears with taking this car on as a long-term loan vehicle.
She has also had plenty of people stop her in the street to ask her about the car. It definitely turns heads.