Wednesday, July 27, 2022

We bought the most boring electric car



Most of the current electric cars are either very fast, very fancy or very cute. Ours definitely isn't any of these.

We would have loved to get a cute small one like the Honda-e. We certainly didn't want an SUV. There are some electric dream cars out there, like the Rivian R1S, but this isn't available yet and also out of our price range. 

Because of our large collection of dogs, we needed something with enough space for them. Ideally something robust and easy to clean as the dogs are currently nibbling at everything they get their hands on. 

Range is not so important as most of our trips are local.  A round trip to Barcelona or the beach is maybe 100-150 km. If we do a longer tour, we can use our Land Rover Defender or rent a more suitable car.

ë-Berlingo

In the end, we settled on an ë-Berlingo. The Berlingo is a very common car in Spain. There are family and van versions driving around everywhere. It is also rebranded as Opel Combo-e Life, Vauxhall Combo-e Life, Peugeot e-Rifter, Toyota ProAce City Verso Electric, Fiat e-Doblò and probably more in the future. They are all the same cars, only with a different front and slightly different configurations. 

There are two different lengths, the M and the XL. We went for the XL, which has slightly more boot space and is 20 cm longer.

Buying 

If you are spoiled by buying everything online, having lots of option that you can easily configure, you will be very disappointed with buying a car. 

I obviously first went to the online configurator. There are a lot of options that conflict with each other and are different in different countries. 

I wanted to select every option, but this was not possible. This is what I got in the end:

  • version XL with Feel pack 
  • Dark grey
  • Green interior 
  • 16" wheels 
  • wireless mobile charging
  • two zone a/c for the front
  • grip control (for different surfaces ... pretty useless)
  • children pack (shutters for the rear windows and a mirror to watch the "kids")
  • parking sensors, 180 degree rearview camera, automatic parking system
  • blind spot notification 
  • GPS navigation system

This is what I wanted, but couldn't get:

  • tow-bar (apparently not available in Spain)
  • head up display (just for the M version?)
  • wireless mobile charging (wasn't delivered because of the lack of chips)
  • adaptive cruise control (just for petrol/diesel cars?)
  • a/c for second row
  • middle console  (just for M version?)

Anyway, the car is still good enough without some of these questionable toys. 

And then you have to sign a 100 pages long contract to buy the car. With a pen.


 

Charging

We don't have a charger at home at the moment, which is quite annoying. 

This means going to a public fast charger once in a while. We have our favourite, but I charged at a few others while travelling.
 

The car buying experience might have been annoying, but not quite as annoying as the charging infrastructure. I now have about ten different mobile apps installed for different networks. The machines and the apps all have a pretty bad user experience.

I don't understand why I can't just go to a machine and pay with my credit card, like with everything else in the world too. 

The network in Spain can definitely be improved too.

Carrying

This car is made for carrying stuff. I used it for a bicycle trip already, and we did a few trips with all the dogs.

I added a separator between the loading space and the rear seats and rubber mats everywhere to make it more suitable for the mess the dogs make.

 

It is getting in the way when loading a bicycle, but it isn't too bad. With more bikes, it probably makes sense to remove the separator. 

I think you can easily fit three bikes and luggage while still having enough space to sit three people. 

The rear door is annoyingly big, and two normal doors would have been more practical. At least you can open the window separately from the outside.

Driving

This only the second electric car I have driven myself, after a quick spin in a Zoe.

It is not a fast car. It is fast enough and comfortable enough for my taste. If you drive faster than 100 km/h you will use a lot more electricity. 

Compared to the Land Rover Defender, it is pure luxury. 

I always hated manual gears and see them as something which should have been replaced by automatic gears a long time ago. Electric cars bring this to a whole new level. 

Running it so far is at least half of the costs of the Defender. This doesn't factor in maintenance costs yet. 

Real life range is 230 km on an 80% charge or 270 km on 100%. This changes quite a bit on terrain. Driving to the mountains reduced it, coming back from the mountains felt like it would last forever. 

The multimedia screen and digital gage cluster works well. As a nerd, I would love more customisations. Though this probably would reduce the reliability. 

The build in navigation system is pretty awful. You would expect an electric car to have fully integrated routing with support for charging on the way. You would be wrong in this case.

I use Google Maps via Android Auto most of the time, which works better and also has no support for routing with charging. There are some third party solutions out there, I am going to try for longer trips.

Summary

This car is pretty perfect for us. It has all the space, was reasonably cheap, and is basic enough to not worry about all the dirt the dogs and bikes bring in. It is also more reliable than the Defender. 

Once we have easy charging at home, we are probably not going to worry about public charging any more for 95% of the trips.




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