On 1 November Thilo Wirth rented a Renault Zoe from Cambio car sharing service for a trip from Cologne to Miehlen, Germany. The Zoe is Renault’s version of the Nissan Leaf, a mass-market electric vehicle (EV).
In a gasoline or diesel powered car, the 128 kilometer (~80 miles) trip is a short hop. Not so with the Zoe EV. The Zoe has a 22 kWh traction battery. (Unlike Nissan, Renault reports the usable battery capacity.) Driving conservatively on flat ground with no wind, 22 kWh should give the driver an 142 km (88 mile) range.
Wirth is my second cousin. He and I have been corresponding about EVs since we leased a 2015 Nissan Leaf. He’s ridden a Zero electric motorcycle across Berlin and driven a Leaf from Koblenz to his parent’s home in the dorf or village of Miehlen. So he’s had some experience with EVs. However, he hadn’t driven an EV from Cologne to Miehlen before. Koblentz to Miehlen is half the distance of Cologne to Miehlen.
When Wirth typed in his destination into the Zoe’s navigation system it returned a warning that the trip couldn’t be done without recharging along the way. This was due to the steep climb out of the Rhine Graben to the Taunus Plateau from Braubach to Dachsenhausen. The road climbs 300 meters (1,000 feet) in 8 km (5 miles). Once on the Taunus, Miehlen is just a few kilometers downhill.
So, like many EV drivers before him, Wirth turned off the navigation system and proceeded anyway. Wirth knew he was pushing the Zoe to the limits of its range.
Cologne (Colonia to the Romans) sits on the Rhine River. Wirth took the B42, the surface route that snakes its way along the Rhine, to avoid the autobahn and its high speeds. He drove conservatively and successfully arrived with an average speed of 54 km/hr (~35 mph) at an average efficiency of 13.5 kWh/100 km (4.6 miles/kWh). He ended the day with 27 km (17 miles) of range remaining.
Wirth charged overnight in Miehlen with the Zoe’s portable EVSE then returned the next day. He reached Cologne with double the range remaining of his outbound trip. He believes this was due to the lower average speed resulting from heavy traffic around Cologne.
No doubt he didn’t use any energy on the 8 km (5 miles) of steep descent to the Rhine. Those were free miles. He arrived home with 50 km (30 miles) remaining.
Renault has now introduced a Zoe with a 41 kWh traction battery. Again, this is the amount of capacity that is usable by the driver. This will give a range of 265 km (165 miles) at an efficiency of 4 miles/kWh. The new Zoe will make Wirth’s EV drive to see his parents much easier. He may even be able to take the autobahn.