Road Trip – MG ZS EV (LR)

Map of charge stop locationsIs an extended road trip an achievable reality in Australia, in the new age of electric vehicles?

We are about to find out!

We will be travelling from Hervey Bay in Queensland to Kiama in NSW – about 1400 km over 6 days – in an affordable MG ZS EV, albeit with a Long Range battery (72 kWh).

Under ‘normal’ (ICE) circumstances this trip would be a regular, mostly unremarkable road trip – something we have done many times over the years. However, undertaking the journey in an EV adds a degree of re-charging adventure – especially for someone who hasn’t previously travelled a long distance in an EV.

With a one week break from home duties, the plan is to visit friends and family along the way. Rather than driving long stints to explore the limits of the vehicle’s range, we hope to be re-charging in the towns where we are staying each night.

There will be no mollycoddling the EV to extend the range – we will be travelling at the local speed limits – 100 / 110 kmh on the highway – and (given the weather conditions on the NSW North Coast in late summer) I expect that the Air-Con will be running flat chat all the way!


Itinerary

Our itinerary is determined primarily by the location of the people / places we will be visiting, rather than battery range or charger locations – though this will obviously be a consideration. We will be sourcing re-charge opportunities around those locations, using the PlugShare app.

Follow the links below for information about our charging experiences on each leg of the trip…


Pre-trip Planning

DC charging stationWith the exception of Day 6 (532 km) we probably won’t need to top-up the battery charge en route between accommodation stop-overs.

Having said that, I am sure we will find ourselves hooking up for a quick charge if we spot an opportunity along the way – Charge when we CAN, not when we NEED to.

Planning is important…..

Prior to departure we have used Google Maps to check the distances between towns that we will be visiting, in conjunction with the PlugShare app to check the location of charging stations in (and between) each of those towns. Of course, no such detailed planning would be considered if driving a petrol or diesel powered vehicle – but in 2024 this is the EV reality.

Most days we will be travelling well within the range of the vehicle’s battery. I am figuring on a ‘safe’ maximum range of 300 km between charges, given that it is likely that the battery will mostly be charged to a maximum of 80% – though we can dial it up to 90 or 100% if required.

With a charge of 80%, the car software estimates we have a range of 341 km in Normal mode, and 358 km in Eco mode. I estimate that in reality these distances will be at least 30 – 40 km less than that when travelling at a constant 110 kmh on the highway.

Dash image of range at 80%

So, if starting the day with 80% charge, and after driving for a couple of hours our range is down to around 150 km, we will be keeping an eye open for a top-up charge. While not wanting to stop too often, or unnecessarily, we don’t want to push it too far either, especially when we are not certain of charger availability at the next destination. Plus, we don’t mind checking out the charging infrastructure options along the highway for future reference, and getting a first-hand picture of general charger locations and availability.

Day 6, the final day of our journey (532 km) will be our biggest charging challenge of the trip. Since the car simply doesn’t have the range to travel over 500 km, even if charged to 100%, we will have to charge somewhere along the way. At least once, possibly twice. After the first five days we should have a reasonable understanding of the accuracy of the vehicle’s range estimator when travelling at highway speeds, and a realistic handle on how far we can comfortably travel before re-charging. We don’t want to leave it until we NEED to re-charge.

The Day 6 plan (at this stage) is to leave Port Macquarie with an 80% charge, then re-charge to 90% at Karuah (Chargefox), which will go close to getting us home. However, there is always the possibility that the Karuah chargers may not be available, or we use more energy than we expect – there always has to be a Plan B!

Travel planningWe will keep our options open for a charge near Newcastle (if Karuah is not available) and top-up at Ingleburn or Pheasants Nest on our run down the M5. We will be heading across Picton Rd from the M5 to Wollongong, where there are still more charging options (if required), on the way to Kiama. All part of the EV journey planning!

Charger availability is always the huge unknown factor in these considerations – we know where all the EV chargers are located ….. none of this would be such a big planning issue (or ‘an adventure’) if we knew that those chargers would be working and available when we arrived! (For example, there are six CCS charging outlets on each side of the highway at the Ampol outlets at Pheasants Nest, which we should feel comfortable about, but will they be available when we arrive?)


  • Follow the daily itinerary links above for a ‘live’ diary of our day-to-day charging experiences on the trip.

Post-trip Review

For those who are interested, the daily itinerary links above provide details of the charging environments we experienced on each section of our EV road trip. We hope this may be helpful for others planning a similar EV expedition.

For those with a more casual / general EV interest, here is a summary of our thoughts following the trip….

  • MG EVThis trip was certainly much more comfortable, and achievable, in a car with a ‘long range’ tag.
    • Our car has a 72 kWh battery, with a comfortable range of 300 kms on a regular 80% charge.
    • We can extend this range significantly by charging to 95-100%, but the last 15% is very slow to recharge, and we don’t want to be doing this if others are waiting to use the charging station.
    • At 80% State of Charge the car predicts a range of 350km. But we didn’t want to push it too far to test this prediction, especially at constant highway speeds. For our planning purposes we stuck to 300 km as the ‘safe’ limit. As it turned out, we didn’t see our estimated range drop below 100 km – but we didn’t push our luck, and topped up the battery when the opportunity was available.
    • The trip would have been far more of ‘an adventure’ in a car with a 45-50 kWh battery and a highway range in the order of 200 kms (dependent on a 95% charge) – doable, but definitely challenging.
  • Generally speaking, the MG ZS EV was a pleasure to drive.
    • The car is smooth, quiet, and comfortable, with plenty of acceleration/power.
    • My only few quibbles are…
      • The poor quality of the external cameras (the reversing camera in particular is a shocker compared to previous models);
      • The lack of a speedometer option with a ‘visual / dial’, non-digital display;
      • Settings such as Mode (Eco / Normal), screen brightness, ACC distance settings, etc, resetting to factory defaults every time we restart the car. (Painful!)
      • The access to some functions only through the display screen, (like turning the radio on), rather than via easy-to-find physical or main screen buttons, is another constant annoyance – hopefully something we will get used to over time.
  • Energy efficiency iconWe didn’t make any special concessions in our driving techniques to try to eek out a better rate of energy consumption…
    • We drove how we would normally drive a regular ICE vehicle – 110 kmh on the highway, using cruise control to keep to a set speed (so no braking re-gen down hills).
    • It was hot weather, so we had the air con running all day, every day.
    • Our overall rate of energy consumption for the whole trip was just under 19 kWh / 100km. Driving locally near home (which still involves some regular highway driving) we are down around 15-16 kWh / 100km.
    • I haven’t been able confirm the accuracy of the State of Charge percentage and the estimated km range, though the vehicle’s displayed calculations are definitely affected by the mode and air con settings.

Comparison of the effects of Mode and Air Con on EV Range

  • Some days we drove in ‘Eco’ mode, others in ‘Normal’ mode.
    • While I didn’t do any careful measurements or calculations, in the big scheme of things I don’t really think it makes too much difference to the actual range when driving on the highway.
    • Eco mode may be more beneficial when stop-start driving in an urban environment.
  • DollarsYou wouldn’t do this trip in an EV rather than an ICE vehicle, just to save money.
    • Driving our EV around town is a real dollar saver when we can charge at home for 8c/kWh (ditto if you are charging from your solar panels), but these savings are quickly eroded when you are paying 70c/kWh (or more) at commercial charging stations.
    • Any cost savings are further eroded when you consider the higher upfront cost of an EV, compared to an equivalent ICE vehicle.
    • The trip was still considerably cheaper fuelled by electricity rather than fossil fuels, but not the spectacular cost savings we achieve when charging at home.
    • A 7kW home wall connector is essential if you own an EV. It makes day to day charging an achievable and cost-effective reality, and it won’t take long for the installation cost to be recovered in energy savings if you have an EV electricity plan with cheap off-peak charging rates.
  • The reliable availability of chargers at, and in between, highway destinations is certainly a cause of some anxiety. An extended road trip requires a level of forward planning that wouldn’t be required if driving an ICE vehicle. (Let’s not forget that it has taken around 100 years for our fossil fuel distribution and refilling infrastructure to be developed to its current status.)
    • A couple of Chargefox stations we encountered on this trip were out of order, and we have regularly seen Tritium charging stations with screens not working. (Still accessible through the provider’s app, but annoying.)
    • How often do you see petrol bowsers out of order? And if they are, there are another 4 or 5 alternative bowsers available.
    • We were lucky to be travelling during the week, outside of holiday time, so we weren’t troubled too much by demand for the charging facilities by other EV owners. The availability of charging stations in coastal areas would be a greater concern at weekends or during holiday times.
    • Apps such as PlugShare and Google Maps are essential tools in EV journey planning, especially if you are not familiar with the local area.
  • EV iconOn a road trip where you are driving all day, you will spend a significant amount of time stopped at charging stations, unless your overnight accommodation is equipped with a charging facility that can charge your car while you sleep.
    • As someone who usually tends to drive non-stop between destinations on a trip like this, I found the charging rest stops to be quite relaxing! Take a book to read, or wander around the local townships.
    • The least attractive charging stops are those in traditional service stations, or in industrial environments with no ‘social’ facilities, such as nearby cafés, coffee shops or shopping opportunities.
    • I expect that ‘destination chargers’ will become a critical attraction for EV owners when booking travel and holiday accommodation.
  • Hopefully, at a bigger picture level, our road trip in an EV was more ‘sustainable’, and friendly to the environment, than undertaking the same trip in a car powered by diesel or petrol fuel.

Road trip energy costs

Total cost of electricity for the trip: $138.08
Total distance: 1464 km
Cost per 100 km: $9.40

Estimated cost of petrol for the same trip: $254.50
Total distance: 1464 km
Cost per 100 km: $17.60
(@ 8 litres / 100 km / 2.20/L)

Cost for same distance if charging at home rate: $22.14
Total distance: 1464 km
Cost per 100 km: $1:51
(@ 8c/kWh)


So, while an EV is very cheap to run around town, charging at home @ 8c/kWh,
maybe not so much for a road trip where you are paying nearly 10 times that @ 60-70c/kWh!


Day 1: Hervey Bay to Noosa >>>


Overview > Day 1 to Noosa > Day 2 to Gold Coast > Day 3 to Coffs >
Day 4 in Coffs > Day 5 to Port > Day 6 to Kiama