We Ain’t a Goin’ No Damn Where

  • July 20, 2023

Normally, when a new car is dropped off for me to test drive, it arrives ready to drive. The electric car they just dropped off is ready to wait.

That’s because there’s no place to charge it up fully before it arrives – and even if there were, it would no longer be fully charged by the time it arrives, because a lot of charge is used up getting the EV from where the closest “fast” charger is (which for me is about 30 miles down the road) and also because the driver who brings the vehicle doesn’t have the time to wait – again – for another charge.

He already had to stop (and wait) at least once to recover enough charge just to make it to my area – after using up most of what he had getting not-quite-there. The press pool – the hub where most of the new cars sent to journalists like me are kept – is located in the Northern Virginia area, which is about 240 miles away from me.

Most EVs can’t go that far on a single charge. The few that can will be almost out of charge by the time they get to my area.

But they still haven’t gotten to my place.

If it were a non-electric car like the ’23 Challenger I got to test drive last week, the driver could fill ‘er up in less than five minutes at the gas station that’s less than five miles down the road from my place. That’s why the new vehicles sent to me to test drive and write about have always arrived ready to drive – with a full tank of gas.

Not so with electric vehicles.

I get to wait while it charges – which can take as long as two days, if the only way there is to charge it is by using a standard 120 volt household outlet.

This is all most homes have, by the way. At least, it is all they have in their garages.

They probably have a 240 volt outlet inside – in the kitchen (for an electric stove) or the laundry room (for the electric dryer). But that is too far from the garage – where the electric vehicle would be – to reach a cord from the car to the outlet, allowing for “faster” Level II charging.

Which only takes 8-11 hours.

But you can’t charge that “fast” if the cord can’t traverse the distance. And even if it did could, you probably wouldn’t want to – because if you plugged in the EV to the stove/dryer outlet you could not use the stove or dryer while the EV was plugged in. Having to unplug your appliances to plug in another appliance on a daily basis would get old very fast.

So you’ll need to have an electrician come out to wire up a Level II (240 volt) outlet in your garage or somewhere close enough for the power cord to reach. That will cost you anywhere from $500 to $2,000 or more – depending on how much work the electrician has to do. It may be considerably more involved than just running the wires from the electrical  panel to the (new) outlet in the garage if the panel needs work. That will probably be so in older homes with panels that can’t handle adding another 30-50 amp circuit.

You’ll have to wait for the electrician, too.

And, of course, pay him to do the work.

People with the necessary knowledge could maybe wire up a Level II circuit themselves. But if they do it wrong and there’s a fire, they’ll be paying for that, too – as the insurance mafia will likely deny the claim if non-code/sketchy wiring is found to have caused the fire.

The good news is if the EV catches fire in your garage and burns down your house, the damages will probably be “covered.”

At any rate, I plugged in the EQE – to a standard household outlet, which is all I’ve got in my garage – and after roughly 14 hours of waiting, the EQE had recovered about 37 miles of range. This being the equivalent of about how far you’d be able to drive a typical non-electric economy car after having poured about a gallon or two of gas into its tank – which takes maybe two or three minutes.

It takes the same two (maybe three) minutes to pour that gallon or two of gas into a non-electric car in winter, too.

But in winter, it takes a lot longer to recover the electric range-equivalent of that because of the cold. Or rather, because the electric car is burning up charge while you’re charging up just trying to keep its battery warm enough so that it can be charged.

Either way, it’s not much charge – for people who need to be able to drive farther than a couple of miles down the road and back.

For me, 37 miles is (roughly) one way; it’s another (roughly) 37 miles to get back. That’s about 80 miles of actual driving distance – in a car that says it can go 145 miles but in my experience as well as that of many who’ve actually driven EVs in the real world, it is likely to be at least 10 percent less than that, if it’s warm.

And if it’s cold, it will likely be a lot less (20-40 percent less is my experience). This is a problem if you haven’t got time to wait for a charge, which you’ll be needing to do more frequently, because you haven’t got much to start with.

If you have to wait for it at home, you’ll be at home more often, too.

Which is of course the point of all this, you see.

Well, one of them.

. . .

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