the juice and the squeeze

So there’s a lot of calculation around the ID.4. I think the biggest issue I’ve had thus far is not having a clear understanding of the relationship between mileage and storage – I get miles per gallon, and the cost of gas, but when I’m not paying to charge at Electrify America or the local elementary school, and when I don’t know what’s a good price for a kilowatt-hour of juice in public or how far that will take me, it’s kind of a wash.

So first things first: the net storage on the battery is 77 kilowatt-hours, and the rated performance is 30kWh/100 miles. Which means in theory, we’re looking at right about the EPA estimate of 240 miles of all-purpose range – in theory, the city-based European measure is closer to 300, but the time you have to sweat range is when you’re driving American-style, so let’s stick to the 240 for now.

So a full charge of 77 kWh gets you 240 miles. Which works out to 3.12 miles per kWH. The baseline rate at Electrify America, if you don’t have the three years’ free charging, is 43 cents per kilowatt hour, which means to fully fill the battery up is roughly $33. So 240 miles for $33. Now comes the tricky bit. To go 240 miles in our beloved Chevy Malibu Hybrid takes six gallons of gas. Which right now in California means north of $36, which means we’re already ahead of the game even before considering the discount of charging for free at EA or at one of the local schools, with their free off-peak solar charging. Even charging at home overnight maxes out at 35 cents per kWh, or $27 a “tank”.

But let’s face it, we’re not comparing to a hybrid. The ID.4’s nearest ICE equivalent is the VW Tiguan, which has the same interior space, the same all-wheel drive (with an 8-speed automatic transmission), and…an aggregate 25 miles per gallon. Meaning that realistically, given our driving style and patterns, you’re looking at 10 gallons of gas for the equivalent range. Which means that right now, instead of paying $33 at the charger, you’re paying $60+ at the pump – assuming you pay at the charger at all. And given that you can charge free at a local school from 100% solar power, that’s impressive savings and earth-friendliness even before throwing in that the ID.4 has 50% higher horsepower and no transmission to go bad on you.

So here’s the other thing: to maximize the life of the battery, you’re meant to treat it like you should be treating your cellphone, and charging from 20% to 80% rather than to full juice. Charging to only 80% means your realistic range is only 200 miles, and if you want to juice up at 20% every time, that means you’re basically going 160 miles between charges, or about 50 kWh. And to be honest, that’s an easy calculation: at EA rates, $21.50. Chop that, based on 25mpg, and you’re back to about 6.5 gallons of gas for the Tiguan to go the same distance.

And the kicker there: at that mileage, and that rate, gas has to drop back down to $3.30 a gallon before it’s cheaper than EA charging. At home rates, it has to drop to $2.69. God Himself could not bring California gas down to $2.69 a gallon at this point. And we get the cheapest home rates between midnight and 3 PM every day, which means you can walk outside in the morning, plug the car in, and have it ready to go by the afternoon for that lowest rate (or wheel over to the junior high, plug in on Saturday or Sunday morning, and drive away fully charged for free by mid-afternoon).

Last week, I was privileged to be paid $140 an hour for my opinions (which is the greatest scam of all time, as I have proven in this space for over fifteen years that I will have opinions for nothing). I was part of a focus group of California EV owners asked to consider the prospect of a major automaker’s concept of a “Green Energy Hub” and what amenities might make it an attractive alternative to charging at home or at other venues. And I have to say, it was genuinely very interesting. Many of the suggestions were reminiscent of the midwestern turnpike travel plazas of my late 20s, or vaguely suggestive of how it seems like every Harley-Davidson dealership back East has a diner attached. The prospective considerations for the Hub included everything from retail to casual dining to dog parks to movie theaters to workout gyms to airport-style lounges to medical clinics.

And I found it fascinating, because their thinking was something that car makers are not generally known for. The thesis was “how do we rethink putting range back into your vehicle, rather than just trying to reproduce the experience of gassing up?” And it appears that they’re inverting the customary logic of “where can we put a charger” and asking “what can we put with a charger?” Personally I think the answer is slightly different, depending on whether you’re talking about charging up on the road or an alternative to home charging locally. If you’re going point to point, driving down to San Diego or something, you probably want your ample supply of DC chargers to be accompanied by nice clean restrooms, some sort of drink-wallah with coffee and a Freestyle machine and maybe even boba, and a sit-and-relax experience somewhere between Peet’s and the airport lounge – plus a purpose-built dog walk for those of you traveling with Fido.

But locally…I think there’s a certain appeal in crafting that kind of Starbucks-ish third space. Today, I had my hair cut while plugging the car into the nearby evGO station, and in 18 minutes it jumped from 52% to 74% charge. That kind of math works out to needing an hour to go from 20% to 80% charge, and at that point it’s hangout time. (Not for nothing but you’re gonna have to be able to put the juice into the car a LOT faster than that on road trips; even if you press it from 20% to 100% and take off immediately you’re talking about stopping every three hours for charging, and while it had better be considerably less than an hour, the last 20% is trickle charge that’s slower than geological time.) But for a fast charger, at a cost comparable to home charging (ballpark 35 cents a kilowatt-hour plus a slight premium for DC speed), would I be willing to pop over and prop my feed up and catch up on my podcasts while sipping a nitro cold brew? Sure, why not?

And the real appeal, now that I live in a place where transit is something that happens to other people – what if I can drive to the Green Energy Hub adjacent to Caltrain or BART or even VTA light rail, let the GEH valet take the car, and when I get back from the Giants game, I pick it up at a full easy level-2 100% charge, tires checked and pressurized, all fluids topped up, maybe even washed and wiped, the full we-are-the-men-of-Texaco-we-work-from-Maine-to-Mexico experience? Now that is what I would call back to the future.

In any event, there was never any doubt before, but now it’s a lock: the ID.4 is the local car wherever possible from now on. And at least now I have some sense of how to tell if I’m getting shafted on charging – cost or speed alike. Of such is life in the future made.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.