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EVROS 2021: Day 5

Vanarama took part in the inaugural Electric Vehicle Rally of Scotland (EVROS), a 5-day event which supported the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. Starting from the Scottish city on Monday, November 8, the 5-day route took around 20 electric vehicles (EVs) of all shapes and sizes all around Scotland, on some of the country’s most brilliant roads and through its most epic scenery.

The aim of the event was to show people that electric cars can be usable all-year round, even in more remote areas – thereby encouraging car owners to make the switch to an EV sooner than the Government’s proposed 2030 cut-off date for the sale of any new vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

Vanarama entered 2 teams into the event – Team 1 was made up of video reviews star Mark Nichol and Daryl West, Vanarama’s Head of Sponsorship & Social Media, while in Team 2 it was Matt Robinson, Web Editor Car, and Senior Videographer Toby Sullivan. This is the final instalment of our day-by-day account of how the guys got on.

Need a recap? Find out what happened in Day 1 , Day 2 ,Day 3 and Day 4 of EVROS.

DAY 5

Rather like Day 4, the final leg of the 1200-mile EVROS epic was really more about getting back to base in Glasgow as quickly as possible – monotonous miles rather than stunning scenery. But, once more, it panned out far more nicely and smoothly for Team 1 in the Polestar 2 than it did for Team 2 in the Stellantis cars – mainly because Mark and Daryl arrived at the finishing line, in the shadow of Rangers’ Ibrox stadium (the day after former manager Steven Gerrard moved south of the border to take up the reins at Aston Villa), first out of all the cars on the event. A rally win for Team Vanarama!

This was because at the start of Day 5, Team 1 went back to the Era Supercharge station at Blackburn that Team 2 had used the previous evening, with the 350kW unit really living up to its name in rapidly charging the Polestar’s battery. This meant the guys in that car only had to ‘top up’ their battery pack in Dundee, where they stopped for lunch, before pressing on for the finishing line and overall victory. Great work, lads!

For Team 2, however, it was a familiar tale of carefully managing battery charge on a smaller lithium-ion unit. The first hurdle to overcome was the fact that we had asked to be switched into a different car than the Peugeot e-208 we had originally been allocated for Day 5, mainly because Toby’s huge Peli case of camera gear/clothing and my own bags wouldn’t all fit in the Peugeot along with the necessary signage, charging cables and other sundry items which all cars on the EVROS had to carry.

EVROS-Day5-DS3

So we had been given a 2nd day in the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense, which had carried us through the wild drama of Day 3 and The Beast. Only, while driving the Citroen e-C4 into Aberdeen at the end of Day 4, we’d both clocked the dark and unlit form of the DS 3 sitting in a layby to the side of the A96, about 10 miles shy of the overnight hotel in the Granite City.

Turned out the driving team of the DS on Day 4 had suffered a catastrophic blow-out of a tyre very late on Day 4, so the car was undriveable. Worse still, they had been planning to charge near Aberdeen but had never got to a unit before the puncture occurred, so the car had a mere 21 miles of range showing on its display as it had been recovered to the hotel’s car park for the morning of Day 5.

We therefore had to wait at the hotel, while everyone else left and motored south for Dundee, so that a replacement tyre could be desperately sought out by the support crew. Props to Mark from Stellantis, here, who – having already done tireless work assisting us with a charging issue in Fort William on the night of Day 2 and also by staying with us in what is now coming to be known in the Vanarama office as the ‘Scourie Fiasco’ late in Day 3 – chased around frantically before getting us a tyre. We are indebted to you, Mark, we really are.

Thus, as we didn’t set off until 9.30am (once the new tyre had been fitted), there was no chance of us picking up Checkpoints 26-28 in and around Dundee, involving a 1-hour event scheduled for all EVROS competitors. We instead headed straight to Checkpoint 25, the Aberdeen H2 Hydrogen Filling Station, and spent the usual 40-45 minutes charging to get to around 80% - this time sucking down 37.67kWh for an 86% charge.

That meant the onboard display in the DS 3 said we could do 180 miles or so until we needed to stop again, but in typically Scottish driving rain and glowering conditions, a steady run at 62mph down the A90 towards Dundee saw the range tumbling faster than the distance we were covering, mile by mile. In the end, we charged on another high-output (110kW) unit at Kinross Services while enjoying a Burger King for lunch (our first hot lunch of the entire trip, incidentally, rather than sandwiches grabbed hastily in the car), taking in another 32.09kWh in 40 minutes and 18 seconds – this turned out to be our last charging session of the entire trip.

As already stated, we missed out the checkpoints in Dundee, so our next destination after the hydrogen filling station and Kinross Services was the distinctive Kelpies statues at Falkirk (Checkpoint 29) and then the impressive piece of marine engineering that is the Falkirk Wheel (Checkpoint 30) only another 5 miles down the road. From there, we plugged in a Glasgow postcode that was the final finishing line.

It was only 30 miles away but heavy traffic in the city made it something of a slog, yet we managed to reach the final car park for EVROS 2021 at a little after half-past-three in the afternoon – with only our teammates Mark and Daryl, and 1 other crew, finishing ahead of us. A podium finish and a class win, of sorts, given the 2 vehicles which beat us were both Polestars; we were the first ‘50kWh and below’ vehicle to cross the line!

EVROS-Day5-DS3

Of course, there was no official competition on EVROS (even though some teams seemed to think there was, bizarrely), with the sole aim being to reach the finishing line. And so, with a great sense of pride mixed with plenty of joy and no little relief, we did it. We drove a short-range EV and a longer-range one for 1200 miles, all the way around Scotland. In November. Beggars belief, really.

Final Thoughts

EVROS-DAY5-Polestar-Kelpies

EVROS 2021 was a truly eye-opening experience for both Vanarama crews involved. Both Mark and Matt have, in their day jobs as car journalists, driven plenty of EVs in the past, but maybe they would both admit they have to a large degree been shielded from using the public charging network to such an extensive degree as this November tour of Scotland required.

Naturally, we also understand that driving an EV – be it a longer-range, prestigious vehicle like the Polestar 2 or one of the smaller-battery Stellantis cars sampled on rotation by Team 2 – all the way around Scotland in very late autumn is something very few people will ever do. So it’s not a true representation of what an EV can offer to the right sort of end-user.

But it was clear there are still some notable limitations as to precisely what an EV can achieve, as well as an obvious need to invest heavily in the UK charging network and infrastructure. Far too many times across the 5 days of EVROS, our 2 teams arrived at chargers which weren’t working – fine, if there’s another vacant charger nearby in the car park or at another location in the same village/town, but a real pain if the next available unit is 15-20 miles away in another settlement altogether. Especially if you’re down to your last 9 miles of range…

It also showed that if you want to do any kind of road trip, or any sort of long-distance driving at all, then you really do need a big-battery EV – we think 64kWh is now the bare minimum threshold for this sort of thing, which means at least a Kia e-Niro or a Hyundai Kona Electric. Anything below this point is best reserved solely for urban and extra-urban short- to mid-distance commuting work, no matter if it’s classed as a city-car electric or not.

The truth is that while we on Team 2 absolutely adored every minute of EVROS 2021 and would do it again in the future, a 50kWh car is simply not capable of doing such a strenuous 1200-mile journey without needing a significant amount of extra time factored into proceedings in order to complete the run, when compared to a car running on internal combustion. This is not a reflection on the Stellantis cars – they were all fantastic to drive in their own ways, very smooth and enjoyable, and nicely engineered by the giant car conglomerate.

But take a look at our stats below and you’ll see we spent more than 8.5 hours charging, against 34.5hrs of driving: that means you have to add on roughly a quarter of the time you expect to drive to incorporate charging as well.

Such a figure also doesn’t include the time used to search out alternative chargers when we found defective units, nor the 90 minutes we spent in the darkness at Scourie trying to coerce a faulty charger back into life because we had no other alternative other than to get it working – we simply couldn’t move anywhere else to charge the DS 3 back up on Day 3, our battery was almost out. Even Mark and Daryl, in the Polestar, commented on how much time they’d spent sitting in car parks during the course of the week, simply in order to get their journey back under way.

In truth, if you do a lot of longer-distance or motorway driving, you really need to think very carefully about your charging options if you’re intending to use an EV as your main form of transport. If you’ve got a powerful home wallbox and a good DC connection at your place of work, it should be doable to run one day in, day out for many, many miles at a time. No bother at all.

But if you don’t have access to these things, or you can’t afford a 64kWh-plus EV, or you ever plan to do a longer road trip of more than 300 miles or so in a day, then we have to say an EV isn’t the right car for you… YET. Advancements in automotive battery tech and the charging infrastructure will come soon enough and will help immensely, but from what we experienced on EVROS then we have to urge caution to those thinking of making the jump to EVs if they’re not just going to use them as mainly urban commuter vehicles.

In Team 2, we spent absolutely every second of our journey right around Scotland almost constantly thinking about energy management and the next charging cycle; there was no time to consider stopping for a bite to eat, or looking too long at the scenery, or considering looping back to take in an interesting sight or landmark we’d just passed. It was all about conserving battery range and adapting our driving style to suit every possible situation and outcome – compromises that will simply be too much to stomach for many people who are thinking of making the switch from internal combustion to an EV.

There’s a huge conversation to be had about this subject and multiple different solutions are required, and – one thing’s for certain – we definitely feel better qualified now to advise you on the potential pitfalls and perils of owning an EV as your main form of transport. However, what we will also take away from EVROS 2021 is a lot of amazing memories and incredible moments, and for that – as well as the striking EV insight we gleaned from the event – then every single one of those gruelling 1200 miles was absolutely 100% worth the effort. See you in 2022, guys… but we’ll have at least a Kia EV6 or Hyundai Ioniq 5 next time, yeah?

Day 5 stats (Team 2’s DS 3 Crossback E-Tense):

  • Miles covered = 170
  • Average speed = 40mph
  • Driving time = 4hrs 15mins
  • Charging periods = 2 (Checkpoint 25, Kinross Services)
  • Total charging time = 1hr 25mins 18secs
  • Total charging energy = 69.76kWh
  • DS 3 Crossback E-Tense energy usage = 3.2 miles/kWh

Cumulative overall stats at the finish (Team 2’s EVROS Stellantis carousel):

  • Total miles covered = 1198
  • Overall average speed = 37.4mph
  • Total driving time = 34hrs 34mins
  • Total charging periods = 15
  • Total charging time = 8hrs 34mins 43secs
  • Total charging energy = 378.27kWh
  • Stellantis EVs’ average energy usage = 3.3 miles/kWh
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