One of the biggest hurdles electric vehicles face is punters overcoming range anxiety. The thought of being stranded out in the middle of nowhere with no charge is pretty daunting.
But, if you replace the electric car with a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE), being stranded in the middle of nowhere without fuel is equally as daunting.
We wanted to put the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace SE to a realistic range test, which was a trip to the snow. The planned drive was from our base in Richmond, just near Melbourne's CBD, through to Falls Creek – a distance of just over 400km.
In this particular instance, the distance is actually a false economy because with an elevation of around 1500m above sea level, most of the drive involves climbing uphill – this is an issue for both electric and ICE vehicles.
Compounding the range issue for an electric vehicle is cold weather. In winter, the range of an EV reduces due to the extra power load required to keep batteries at their optimal temperature band.
With the car loaded with gear and a couple of passengers, our plan was to drive from Richmond to Melbourne's CBD to pick up passengers and then head onwards to Euroa, where we would meet the rest of the CarAdvice gang for a coffee and lunch.
Euroa is around halfway between Melbourne and Falls Creek, and features a set of high-speed ChargeFox chargers. Capable of 350kW of DC charging, the I-Pace maxes out at 100kW on a CCS Combo Type 2 plug. They're handy because of their location, but also because charging is free for I-Pace owners for the first five years.
We pulled into Euroa and plugged up for a charge while we had a coffee, met up with the other CarAdvice staffers heading to the snow and had a feed. During this time, I was able to monitor the charge rate through the ChargeFox smartphone app to get an idea of how long we had left.
While the I-Pace is capable of charging at 100kW, our charge rate only peaked at around 60kW. Earlier versions of the car needed a software update to enable faster charging – they are now capable of peaking at 100kW during the charge cycle.
After juicing up the I-Pace and our stomachs, we hopped back in and hit the road for Falls Creek. We had a slightly longer freeway run before we veered off towards Falls Creek.
It's worth pointing out at this time how well the semi-automatic steering function worked on the freeway. It's confident and copes well with the turns you'll find on a freeway – some systems, like those found in a Mercedes-Benz, tend to struggle with making decisive moves and will default to switching off as opposed to soldiering ahead confidently.
Leaving Melbourne, we had a range estimation of around 380km (keeping in mind the range is reduced in winter, with a WLTP range of 470km). Our short charge at Euroa pushed the charge back up to around 320km from around 140km.
The rest of the drive to Falls Creek was a fun one. Once the freeway driving is done, you're met with stunning country roads and winding corners. This is where the I-Pace really comes alive – it's incredibly agile despite its circa 2200kg mass.
As the driving became more enthusiastic and the roads started to get steeper, I became a little worried. I was driving to Falls Creek with our new CEO and didn't love the idea of running out of charge 20km from Falls Creek.
We both took a keen interest on the amount of range left as we got closer to Falls Creek. To our surprise, even with the temperature dropping towards freezing, the range remained almost perfectly accurate.
It seemed that the freeway run at 110km/h sapped the most energy out of the battery, while the country run uphill towards Falls Creek was dead-on accurate.
We hit the Falls Creek village with 90km of range remaining, which was almost exactly the 320km range achieved at our Euroa top-up, minus the 222km drive from Euroa.
The best part about driving an EV to Falls Creek is the free destination charger located in the carpark. While all other cars need to clear out of there at night, EVs can stay plugged in overnight while they charge.
We plugged the I-Pace up and let it charge overnight. The other added benefit is when the car is eventually shifted to the lower carpark where it gets caked in snow, switching on the cabin heater 30 minutes before departure melts all the snow off the car – win.
So, range anxiety. Is it a thing? Yes, it's a thing. But, what I've learned from this experience is to plan ahead and trust in the systems. It took all of 10 minutes for me to have a look at the route, briefly check out elevations, and estimate what kind of charge we would need at Euroa to make the entire trip.
Understanding the added strain cold weather has on range also meant no surprises on the run to Falls Creek.
The I-Pace really is a ripper of a car, and it's made even better each time you line up a corner and experience the slingshot torque that's instantly served up.
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