Are EVs ready for cottage trips?
We planned a trip up to the cabin in the Ford Mustang Mach-E to see if the vehicle and infrastructure are up to task
After driving plenty of electric vehicles over the years, my anxiety has shifted beyond the range reading. Instead of worrying about the battery levels, I am far more skeptical of the charging infrastructure to keep me going on an extended road trip.
Now I’m kept up at night by the nightmare scenarios of arriving at a vital EV fast-charging station to find it in use by a non-existent owner, or worse, not even functioning. For me, in the city, another fast charger is within a 15-20 minute drive, but that isn’t the case in more remote locations, like cottage country.
As is customary for many city-slickers around the Greater Toronto Area, I had a cottage trip with some friends scheduled for a sunny weekend in August. The destination is 280 km away from home, just outside of a small town known as Magnetawan. I’ve made this trip almost regularly since I was 16, and while the distance sounds like a breeze, the usual cottage rush traffic jam can make the journey well over three hours.
Adding to the logistical logjam, I find myself behind the wheel of an electric car, which provides an extra thrill to the trip. The Ford Mustang Mach-E I’m driving is rated to return 483 km per full charge. That’s enough to make the trip to the cottage, and the vehicle is sizeable and comfortable to pack all of our weekend getaway luggage. Adding extra appeal and confidence, the Mach-E supports 150 kW fast charging , meaning (in theory) when using a compatible charger, it’s possible to get the battery back to 80 per cent in 45 minutes, tops.
I’ve made the trip to this cottage countless times, and I always remember the key rest stop along the way: Exit 214 on Highway 404, which is just outside of Parry Sound. I love it because it has a Tim Hortons where I can get an Iced Capp, my wife loves it because it has a Dairy Queen where she can get an Oreo Blizzard, and the Mustang Mach-E should love it because of the two Petro-Canada DC Fast Chargers there, which are rated to provide up to 200 kW of juice for EV drivers in need. It’s the perfect spot for us to top up our bodies and the Mustang and finish the journey without worrying about battery range again.
That’s the plan — head to the cottage, with a stop two-thirds of the way at the Petro-Canada Fast Chargers to top up. As we head out at 3 p.m., the readout on the Mustang Mach-E reads 430 km to go, with a 90 per cent battery capacity.
The thrill of a fun weekend with friends takes over, and the urge to get to the cottage sooner leads my right foot to call upon the 346 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque in this vehicle to surge ahead of traffic. That output suggests that the sprint to highway speeds can be accomplished in under five seconds, but in reality, it just plops me in the usual Friday afternoon cottage traffic. All that extra throttle, in addition to ice-cold AC, to stave off this late August heatwave ends up costing me about 10 km in range, reminding me to mind my battery if I want to complete this trip without a headache.
The Mustang Mach-E has a pretty thorough suite of safety tech and assistance features to make the drive a bit less tedious. While I may be hesitant to ask a stranger for directions, I’m somehow more comfortable letting a lab-tested system of advanced technology play co-pilot. With adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping set, I begin to think this trip is going to be a breeze. But then I experience the Mach-E slow to a jarring stop in traffic, far less refined than how a real driver or other systems behave. Later it drives eagerly towards a vehicle with a rear-mounted bike rack, which triggers me to turn off the system for the rest of the journey.