Have we mistyped electric vehicles that are only suitable for city use? The 570 km journey from Mumbai to Goa on the MG ZS EV will answer Nikhil Patia.
The plan is simple. Ruman and I are going to Goa to reunite after a long delay with friends from all over the country. This is a route I have traveled many times before, but what makes this journey even better are my chosen wheels. I got the MG ZS EV with full power during the holidays and this is the perfect opportunity to see how good (or bad) it is as a long distance engine. The ZS EV has a certified range of 419 km on full charge, and we have also done our standard range tests that MG performed well, but today’s trip will be consistent. The trail has range-shopping climbs, winding gorge roads, and then there’s the little thing in the payload – 200kg + room and me and our luggage. Talking to EV owners helped me find a convenient way to get to the charging stations on the way. ‘Comfortable’ is a functional word. I have no plans to hypermail, and the whole idea is to drive the ZS EV as a ‘normal’ car. The only downside is that the car will be in eco mode and I will be careful with the throttle inputs as well. Today Iyakal is not driving, sir.
It’s early in the morning on a Nippy December day, so it’s still dark so it’s past 6am to 3am. If you pay overnight at the office, you will be charged 100 percent (full charge approximately Rs. 320), so all systems will work. It was an easy and quick drive to Ruman’s house and I rolled MG towards him like an experienced wallet. He did not notice. This is partly because of the silence of the ZS EV and partly because he did not expect me to come to the partial starting EV. Ahem, I may have explained that part in previous conversations with him about the trip.
Lonavala juice climbs as fast as it charges. The ZS EV with the 44.5kWh battery pack has no problems.
To my happy “breakfast” he murmured, “Why are you bringing EV?”, “Shall we get there tonight?”, “Where do we charge?” … and so on. He’s not an EV guy, that’s for sure. Fortunately, the Grinch will soon fall asleep, and I have time to drive quietly. It was dawn before coming to the Mumbai-Pune expressway. The first section of the expressway runs smoothly, but I notice a significant drop in range when climbing to Lonavala. It is a well-known fact that EVs do not like to fight gravity, but in terms of range we are still clear. The relatively large 44.5kWh battery pack of the ZS EV is no cause for concern.
The silence of the ZS EV made the road journey from Mumbai to Goa much happier for Ruman and Nikhil.
By the time Ruman reappears it is bright, and sleep has certainly made his mood better. He woke up saying he had not slept so deeply in the car for many years, but immediately dismisses it as the reason I was driving so smoothly. He says the quietness of the car did the trick. I’m not arguing that the ZS EV is really quiet. Of course there is no engine noise, but the general level of sound is very interesting. The silence inside amplifies the sound of Roman’s stomach churning, prompting him to stop eating. According to my original plan it would be a one-time stop, but we make a gentleman deal to park near the charging station. “Hello MG” summons the onboard assistant, and when the system recommends stopping at the nearest MG showroom, Ruman has a specific Wada Pav location in mind. The mental map indicates that it is near the Tata Power Charging Station, so it is time for No. 1 to stop soon.
The range was ready across the first blank screen. Fortunately, there were no panic attacks.
On the way to Ruman Deep Fried Delight I charge the ZS EV on a Tata Power 25kW DC Charger for 15 minutes. The 136km journey from Mumbai to Datwade on the outskirts of Pune used 47 per cent charge and the 15-minute top-up added 13 per cent to the range. The good thing is that the whole process of charging is easy and the Tata Power utility is easy to use. Rs 115 is deducted from my prepaid wallet; There is no physical charge. Ruman goes back with victory and we are back on the road.
It is best to use stops for charging and vice versa.
The NH4, which serves as Pune’s arterial road, is crowded most of the time, but we are now well and truly in traffic. Regular route points like the Katraj Tunnel seem to be farther away than usual, and even the narrow but steep Kampatki Ghat above the road is a perfect crawl. Self note – Depart early next time. The speed increases as we return to the plains, and there are enough extensions to make more use of travel control. I like that the ZS EV has enough zip even in Eco mode. The ZS EV operates within its 80kph speed limit.
Tata Power Charging App is convenient to use.
Our stop for lunch is at the Amroy Resort on the outskirts of Satara. It’s a nice place, but it’s a designated stop because it has a 25kW DC charger. At our 45 minute charge, the ZS EV gets 39 percent battery (up to 54 percent), which conveniently takes us to our next stop in Kolhapur, 108 km away. Kolhapur is the last major city on the highway and before that we will stop at Nibbani, so it is necessary to charge here. We look good time from Satara and come to the sprawling MG Kolhapur dealership on the highway. The car is paired with a 25kW DC charger and we will have a coffee or three for the very welcome MG Cafe. I have a tab about the tariff level through the Tata Power processor, after a good hour of coffee and conversation, 82 percent of the charge will finally see us. The 66 per cent charge is Rs 576.
While the ZS was charging, our men drank coffee at the MG Cafe.
I saw Ruman walking around all day and finally asked if he could drive. It will get to his point very soon, but I can tell he is enjoying himself. “I can get used to this acting!” He teases. I sit in the passenger seat on the Ghana processor that uses the onboard e-SIM based internet. The light and temperature drop as we gradually climb the heights, and it’s a great moment to introduce Ruman to ZS’s party trick – “Open the Sunroof” voice command. The panoramic sunroof recedes, giving me an unobstructed view of some of the mesmerizing controls above.
With a little planning and timely stops, you can make the road trip on your EV. The more things the better.
The shutdown from NH4 in Nifani is at the end of the day, but also marks the start of ‘Home Stretch’, says Rum Experience Rum. At the next 140 km, we will pass through Amboli Ghat, cross Sawantwadi and finally attack Goa. The downward journey is better to charge, the regeneration plays more time. We lose a little bit in the indicated range, and it feels like driving for free. Ruman also liked how the ZS works, and also gives a word of praise for ground clearance. There are some bad potholes along the way, but the ZS EV has not touched anywhere. Knowing that the Ruman has extra protection of the ESC and six airbags while safe driving is guaranteed.
As the roads narrowed and things went slower we knew we were getting closer to our ultimate goal. Goa is decorated for Christmas and is so beautiful. The final twist takes us over the next few days to Villa Siolim by Am Stays and Trails. Our jaws fall out of sync as we drive through the gate. The 75-year-old bungalow looks like a gallery, and behind the main door are five rooms, a swimming pool, a pool table, and a … you get the essence. This is actually even better than what I saw in the pictures, but is that the reason it was on my radar? It has a 7.2kW Wall Box Charger! The small but important detail makes it an asset of interest to anyone with an EV. This is the reason why we do not panic when the fee is finally reduced below 10 percent.
Villa is as beautiful as the Siolim by Amã Stays & Trails, which is compatible with EV with on-premises charger.
You can too
Before we all get comfortable, there is one thing to do. Charge the car. That’s what makes me think. The journey is not difficult! According to a quick calculation, we spent over Rs 1,000 on the way to ZS. We spent over Rs 1,300 on charging, including the full fare for the return to Mumbai. Of note, a petrol SUV costs Rs 4,500 for the same journey, while a diesel SUV requires more than Rs 3,200 for fuel. There is also a satisfaction in traveling in a Zero Emission vehicle. In total, the journey is less than 15 hours, including food and charging stops of 2.5 hours. The numbers suggest that we would have been fully charged from 230 to 250 km depending on the terrain and weight.
Going beach-hubping in a Zero Emission vehicle was very satisfying.
The main feature of the trip is that with a little advance research for stops, road travel on the EV is not really a big deal. Things will get better as more (and faster) chargers come out on our highways. Limit anxiety? I am hopeful that it will soon become an outdated concept.