Long range EV road trips: how easy are they?
Roadtrips of the future are going to be electric. From the mountains of Switzerland to the dunes of the Netherlands. We drove over 2000km to find out what challenges long-range electric mobility brings. During our journey, we also discovered some unique opportunities and benefits of electric vehicles. Our choice of car was the all-new VW ID.4 GTX: Volkswagen's latest electric SUV peppered with sporty touches and dual motors. The new GTX badge is supposedly the new GTI badge for the electric age.
Long-distance driving with an electric vehicle takes more planning than in a conventional combustion engine car. Some limiting factors include the small range and long charging duration of electric vehicles. It turns out that there are more things than even those to worry about.
First off: what are the capabilities of the ID.4 GTX? The useable battery capacity of the ID.4 GTX is 77 kWh. Volkswagen does not claim a specific range, but we found it to be enough for 420km. Throughout 2600km, the electric consumption was 18.6 kWh. DC fast-charging is possible up to 135 kW, but after charging at many 150 kW and even 350 kW IONITY chargers, we never saw the figure go higher than 120 kW of power.
Things to be considered in long-distance EV road trips are the locations you want to charge at. Luckily, the in-built navigation plans your route and searches for the most efficient and fastest option. Our first destination was the capital city of Amsterdam, which was a whole 850 km away. On the routing that was selected, we had to charge three times. Twice for 50 minutes and once for 30 minutes. One big flaw of electric cars today is their charging speeds: even with supposed 135 kW fast-charging, it takes nearly an hour to charge from 15% to 100%. Other electric vehicles like the Kia EV6 can charge up to 233 kW, compared to the VW's 135 kW. Sadly, the VW does not benefit from the 800V technology that charges the EV6 from nearly empty to 80% in 18 minutes. But even if it only takes 20 minutes to charge from zero to full, that's still relatively long compared to the splash and dash situation of combustion engine cars. It seems that for any electric road trip of today, the longer charging times aren't going anywhere soon. Honestly, we took that time and spent it on recharging our own batteries. Driving over 800km in a day is exhausting so you need a prolonged break once in a while. While the vehicle is charging, you can do other things like having lunch and relaxing. Taking a break for nearly an hour to feel freshened up was very welcome at times. The scenario of charging for an hour was only the best case though: at one charging station, we had to wait for 20 minutes for a charger to be free until we could even start our charge. Even at the large IONITY chargers where there are eight charging stations, a queue formed behind us. This is where Tesla's Superchargers are superior. They have ultimate fast charging available to the masses. At the bare minimum, Tesla Superchargers have eight spots and up to 24 in Switzerland.
Moving on to the ID.4 GTX itself: how good is it for long-distance driving? Surprisingly, very comfortable for the driver, as well as the passengers. The view out of the front is impeccable and the rear passengers can enjoy the huge panoramic glass roof. Even though the ID.4 GTX is supposed to be the most dynamic ID.4, it still comes with Volkswagen's dynamic chassis control (DCC). This allows the suspension to be altered in either a Normal configuration or a more engaging Sport setting. Thus, it is most suitable to leave the suspension in Normal for the motorway and everyday use. If you want a more flexible set-up, there is always a custom mode where suspension, drivetrain, and steering can be altered to your liking. The ID.4 GTX gets dual motors that put out 299 horsepower and 460 newtonmeters of torque. Does this make it a new-age GTI? Not sure. The initial launch from the line is quick, but power rapidly drops off over 60km/h. This means that the sportiest ID.4 can only accelerate to 100 km/h in barely six seconds. Competitors from Volvo, Kia, and Jaguar would smoke the ID.4 GTX off the line. Sadly, it also isn't very engaging to drive: body roll is bad and you'll get nothing but understeer when going into a corner. In wet conditions (with ESC Sport), the rear end can become lively, but you'll be more worried about the front tires having grip. It could've been so much better. It is fun when accelerating from zero because of that instant electric torque. We think that the GTX is a nice way to liven up the ID.4 lineup with a car that does everything well, but doesn't knock anything out of the park.
The interior benefits from the GTX treatment. With sporty bucket seats and GTX logos scattered around the cabin, it feels elevated and sporty. Unfortunately, the infotainment is still a complete mess. It's trying to be a smartphone in a car, but it fails in every way possible. Unlike a smartphone, it is non-intuitive, lags behind every input, and does not have a high refresh rate. Another missed opportunity: electric cars should be setting a benchmark for future innovation, which this does not deliver. The driver gets a small screen mounted onto the steering column that does not show much information. If you want to see your state of charge, there are several buttons to be pressed on the main infotainment screen. From a safety standpoint, not ideal. In the end, it's all just software right? We can't imagine anyone clearing this for production, but there are places where money is being saved where it shouldn't be.
Our road trip couldn't have taken place in a better country. The Netherlands has an excellent charging network where we could recharge the batteries of the ID.4 GTX. It also fits in nicely; wind farms, green fields, and the flat landscape all matched the vibe of an electric car. In the end, we will all have to adapt to the future of mobility and it is possible. There are refinements to be made, but a road trip like this couldn't have been imaginable ten years ago. Concerning the ID.4, we think we were glad to have an electric vehicle that felt so versatile. It's still a large SUV (which we hate) but it's simply just a car.
Will anyone buy the GTX variant for 70k CHF? We doubt it! Lacking the dynamic abilities and underperforming against nearly any other electric SUV with a similar amount of power is not worth the premium price tag. Our suggestion: get the ID.4 4Motion without the GTX styling and powertrain. Or more blatantly: don't get an ID.4 at all and go with any competitor from Korea. We hate to say it, but we expected more from the ID.4. Calling the GTX badge a replacement for the long-lasting and legendary GTI badge is simply not valid.