Christmas day was EV day for me. A day I took my first road trip in an electric car to put the worry of range anxiety to the test. There were no worries when I set off from Mumbai at 5.30am in the plush Mercedes EQC for the 280km drive to Mahabaleshwar. After an overnight charge topped up the 80kWh battery to 100 percent, the range showed 350km – enough of a margin. That took away the stress of driving as did the super silent and comfy EQC, which is the epitome of low pulse rate travel. I felt nice and smug about not having to queue up for fuel, but halfway through the drive, I wished I could have fueled up somewhere.
Traffic jam in Katraj tunnel reduced smooth progress to a crawl.
Range anxiety hit me like a sledgehammer when the range dropped in one fat chunk crawling up the Lonavla Ghat. This part of the expressway is always jammed with slow moving trucks but traffic was particularly bad on Christmas day, and at that end of the expressway, range was down to 180km and I still had 140km to Mahabaleshwar. 40km of range was still a decent cushion until Murphy raised his ugly head again.
An accident in the Katraj tunnel created a huge tail back, so instead of cruising through the tunnel using as much regen as possible to put some juice back into the battery, it was back down to a bumper to bumper crawl. Range down to 136km and 104km to go. Would I make it?
Terrain has huge impact on efficiency.
Some serious ‘hypermiling’ with no air con, ‘one-pedal’ driving with max regeneration got me to Wai, with 50km of range left for the 32km drive up the ghat to Mahabaleshwar. So far so good. Then all that hard work went out of the window on the steep climb to Panchgani, which did the EQC’s battery in, gobbling 30km of range in just 11km. I crawled up to Panchgani with 20km range left for the last 21km. That’s touch and go, or rather go and stop. And stop dead because there’s no way you can move an EV with a dead battery.
A makeshift 15A socket and extension wire saved the day.
Plan B? There wasn’t one. What to do? Phone a friend. And that friend is Shahram Javanmardi, the owner of Prospect Hotel, who saved the day by offering me a 15A plug just outside one of the cottages of this lovely boutique hotel. It’s no fast charger and in fact an excruciatingly slow way to charge the battery, but at least it charged. I was so relieved just seeing the ring around the EQC’s charging port pulse a bright green to indicate that electrical juice is indeed flowing into the battery. The on-board comp said it would take around two hours to give me an extra 14km (yes, it is that slow!), which I figured would be enough to get me to Mahabaleshwar. I had no choice but to hang around for two hours. But it was two hours well spent, enjoying Shahram’s hospitality. I couldn’t turn down his offer for Christmas lunch (Prospect Hotel has the best food in Panchgani) and wolfed down delicious salli mutton, fish cutlets, and strawberries and cream, a tad faster than the EQC was sipping volts.
Enjoying a mega lunch at Prospect Hotel while EQC gets charged.
With 34km of range left, the last 21km were quite uneventful. On downhill sections, I eked out a few km and finally reached home in Mahabaleshwar with 16km to spare. So, technically, I could have made it even without a pit stop in Panchgani but I wasn’t going to take that chance in a Rs 1 crore plus car. This was my longest drive to Mahabaleshwar – nine and a half hours, including the two-hour stop at Prospect. Worth the effort? Absolutely.
Charging an almost depleted battery.
I now have the bragging rights of being the first to drive an EV from Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar and bring the first EQC to this eco-sensitive hill station. Besides, there’s a special, no-guilt feeling of driving something clean and green. The Mercedes EQC, with its battery fully recharged (which took a day and half!), felt right at home in this green zone. A big bonus was not having to queue up at the solitary petrol pump in Mahabaleshwar, which is always overcrowded.
The return journey was less eventful and I made it back to Mumbai on one charge. And quite easily too.
Peace of mind comes with a full charge.
I left Mahabaleshwar with the Mercedes EQC charged to a full 100 percent, but the range showed only 289km for the 277km run home. Was I worried? Not a bit. I knew that the Wai ghat, which was my foe on the way up, would be my friend on the way down. Terrain has a massive impact on an EV’s range. The uphill drive to Mahabaleshwar was a battery killer, but driving downhill gives you extra momentum to recoup lost energy through regenerative braking. On the long downhill stretches, constant regenerative braking won me back 20km of range. So, when I reached the main Bengaluru- Mumbai highway 40km later, the all-important range indicator read 269km and for the remaining 237km of the journey. The cushion got wider as I descended down the Khambatki Ghat or Lonavla tunnel. Gravity saved the day!
289km range enough for return trip.
Without the stress of range anxiety, I could enjoy the shockingly quiet EQC, which stoically glided down the expressway with zero fuss. Averaged 64kph and 3.8km / kWh to reach home in a comfortable 4 hours and 20 minutes, with 23km of range to spare. I don’t think I’ve felt so refreshed and relaxed after a long drive.