I must confess from the very beginning that I am extremely curious. Maybe … that’s why I chose to study Automotive Engineering: I was curious to see how cars work, to learn about their propulsion systems, to find out first about innovations in the field, to test, to compare and to be among the early-adopters of new technologies. The domain has not disappointed me for a moment, and moreover, it has always kept me alive and engaged. Every day, I’m more and more enthusiastic about the new ways of thinking in the field and the new technologies. In addition, the fact that I work in the field and have all the necessary tools, information and resources has helped me satisfy my little curiosities… from which many other questions arise. One of these was related to the myths surrounding electric cars, their autonomy, how good they are, the Romanian infrastructure … how hard or almost impossible to drive an electric vehicle on the Romanian roads .
And if I had already experienced electrical mobility in the city, I had to see with my own eyes how are things on longer distances. Therefore, I invite you to join me on my trip to Moinești, 350 kilometers far from Bucharest. You can read below everything about it.
About the car
I went by a BMW i3 propelled by a 170 hp electric engine with a stated range of 235-255 km according to the WLTP test cycle.
The car is not special because it is electric, but because it represents the Premium electrification of the century we live in. Spacious and agile, the 4-meter long vehicle, offers a specific brand-specific comfort.
But by far the most impressive and memorable thing about i3 is speed. More precisely the acceleration. If the manufacturer mentions in the specs a sprint from 0 to 100 km / h (for i3 in only 7.2 seconds), BMW has brought in other values more relevant for an electric car. Namely, the 0 to 60 km / h sprint (for only 3 seconds) and the 80 to 120 km / h required for overtaking (4.9 seconds). Gosh, when you press the gas pedal, you actually feel the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars and the speed of light. It’s amazing and addictive.
There are 3 driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+. In Eco Pro mode, air conditioning seems to be present only at declarative level and in Eco Pro+, not at all, but if you manage to get away without it, it goes and feels like a premium car.
Although it is a vehicle designed for urban traffic, it does its job well outside the city.
If till now, the electric car was just a dream because there is no national charging station infrastructure, things have changed in the last years and it has steadily improved.
The most important thing to get to the destination is planning. It is very important to do your homework before you leave because, if conventional cars need up to 15 minutes to be filled up, the story is slightly different with EVs.
Step One is to download your PlugShare app for iOS or Android. Afterwards it’s just child’s play. You have to create an account where you choose which electric vehicle and then you can see the map with all the charging stations.
I was very surprised to find there are so many charging stations in the country, both with normal charging and fast charging. In addition to the interactive map found in the app, you can also plan and route as needed, including the type of sockets and whether they are busy or not.
How was the trip …
I travelled for about 350 kilometres, leaving Bucharest and heading to Moineşti, Bacău County. I chose this route just to feel personally how it is to to replace a conventional car with an electric one.
I left Pipera at 13:00. Shortly after leaving, a myth of autonomy was to be severely shaken. It is said that an electric car would have greater autonomy in the city than outside due to frequent braking and stopping. From my hands-on the wheel experience, things looked quite different. Once on the Bucharest – Ploiesti highway with the cruise control set at 90 km / h, I realized that the autonomy of the car was growing. When I left Bucharest, the car computer showed 220 km, and when we arrived at Ploiesti with 78% of the battery, the calculated autonomy was for 241 km.
At Brasov, with 39% of the battery and 132 km of autonomy left, we went to Kaufland charging station and waited for an hour to charge the batteries in fast-charge mode. If the charging had been in normal mode, the waiting time would have been approx. 2.5 hours. I decided to have lunch here, that is why I had an hour off driving. After 1 hour the battery was fully charged and the displayed range was 393 km. Actually, if I did not want to wait that long, I could have just stayed for half an hour and it would have been enough for the next 158 kilometers.
Being the first long distance trip by an electric car, I fully felt the “range anxiety”. That’s why, all the journey, I changed the Eco Pro modes to Eco Pro + and vice versa. It was only around 21:20, when I could see the entrance to Moinesti and I knew I was approaching the end of the journey, that I could say that I was completely relaxed.
When we arrived at the destination, the battery level was 59%, with a range of 142 km. It was very good, because the next day I could drive through the city without any charge. In the evening, I connected the car to a normal plug and the car was fully charged in nearly 15 hours.
If there was no necessary prior planning, the trip would have been a normal one, typical for Romania where the distance between Bucharest and Brasov takes about 4 hours and a 5-hour journey (with the battery charging time included) takes actually 8 hours and 20 minutes.
In the past years, loading at any station was free of charge, but now things are no longer the same. Kaufland stations are still free, but the others are not. It’s very important to check what network the station you want to plug in is from as you need a membership card for each. For example, in e-charge network the price is 1.45 lei / kWh for normal charging and 1.95 lei / kWh for fast-charge charging. The battery of an electric car has an average of 35 – 40 kWh, so the price for a load is about 50-60 lei in normal mode and 60 – 80 lei in fast-charge mode. If you plug it in to your normal electricity supply, a full charge would cost you around 30-40 lei.
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE
First of all, before you go out on the road, you have to make sure you have a charging cable. If the car comes from the factory with a home charger, you still need one for the public stations. For most vehicles, there is a Type 2 cable you can find on most websites. All you have to do is to look for the one that’s best for you.
Another aspect is related to the PlugShare application. In-app you can check in when you arrive at a station and plug in your car. Unfortunately, not everyone does this, so I recommend you to look for at least one alternative when planning a trip.
Instead of conclusions
Unfortunately, the biggest enemy of mobility, whether electric or not, remains the road infrastructure. The charging station network is on the rise, but the traffic time remains pretty much the same.
I think the best thing about using electric cars is that it makes you feel like you can change things, that you are part of a community of “early-adopters” thinking about the environment and trying to change their way of life to protect the planet. It is indeed a slightly different way of life and requires more planning, but this new means of transport is certainly here to stay.
As Abraham Lincoln said, the future is every day and if it was almost impossible for you to travel by electric car a few years ago, today it is very simple.
So … Drive safe and drive electric!
An article by Cristi Vieru
Process Analyst Business Lease