On the 1,300-kilometre drive from Halifax to Montreal, we will spend almost as many hours charging our electric 2023 Mustang Mach-E test vehicle as we will driving it, according to the trip computer.
Of course, that estimate is based on the speed at which the last charge ‘filled’ our extended-range battery, the frigid weather, our current state of charge, plus a bunch of other things.
Charging Infrastructure is (slowly) improving
I’ve completed one other long-distance road trip in an electric vehicle. A year ago, we participated in Le Grand Rallye Électrique. We covered 3,000 kilometres through five provinces in five days in a Chevrolet Bolt EV. It was challenging, educational and exciting.
Since then, our comfort with electric vehicles has grown, as has the infrastructure (slowly). When you can’t just stop at a gas station and top up your tank, route planning becomes very important.
Here in Atlantic Canada, the charging stations are few and far between and often notoriously ‘out of order’. This is improving (slowly).
I love the navigation system in the Mach-E (among other things, like Ford’s BlueCruise hands-free driving). After you set your destination, it plans your route, recommends where to charge and for how long.
Once we know we’ll be stopping (at least) seven times to charge the Mach-E, the trip becomes just as much about the stopping as the going.
The entertainment (and the devil) is in the charging.
Charge Stop #1
Before leaving Halifax, Garry topped up at a fast charger across town while I finished packing – warm layers, because using the heat in the vehicle depletes the battery.
Charge Stop #2
In Stewiacke, 34 seconds after arrival, the charger was up and running. Woohoo! It quit when our battery was at 90%. Oh well.
Charge Stop #3
In Moncton, 265 km from home, we stopped overnight. At the Hotel Beausejour, the friendly doorman hooked us up to the free plug. By morning, the Mustang’s battery was at 100%. Small things. Life is good.
Charge Stop #4
In Meductic, NB, 250 kilometres further, the recommended charging location featured two shiny new chargers. Neither worked. Plus, someone had blocked one of the chargers with an ICE vehicle. Go figure.
Charge Stop #4 (again)
Twenty kilometres later, at Murray’s Irving in Woodstock, we plugged in and started charging. Yay.
Time for breakfast!
Yes, you spend more money on food when driving an EV.
There are perks, however. We met a lovely lady charging a Bolt EUV. Fellowship at the charging stations makes the wait more bearable.
You don’t have to gulp down your meal and keep moving. Sit, calm yourself, slow your breath. Observe the retirees around you, perpetually stirring their coffees and catching up on news.
Reach inner peace.
Well, except for the idiot at the next table, blaring TikTok videos from his phone. And Garry, every five minutes: “Check the app. Is it still charging? What’s it at now?”
Life in the slow lane indeed.
When approaching a charging station, we experience fear akin to that of approaching an East German border in the 1980s. We kid. Sort of.
- Will the charger be occupied despite the app saying it was available?
- Will the charger work?
- Will the charger work then inexplicably stop working?
- Will the charger charge at the rate of molasses going uphill?
Charge Stop #5
In Quebec, stations become more frequent and more reliable. In Dégelis, 200 km up the line, we charged with no problem. Slick.
Charge Stop #6
Another 200 km down the road – Charging Nirvana! Cue triumphant music! Montmagny has a station with five chargers, and two of them are super-fast, charging at a rate of 100 kW/hour versus the 50-kW ones across the Maritimes. Heaven!
We nod to the guy charging the Hyundai Ioniq 6 that we saw back in Dégelis. Hello again.
Then, eat, eat, eat, eat.
We’ve been on the road since Wednesday afternoon. By Friday morning, we’ve covered 1,000 km and are waking up in Quebec City. Montreal is 265 km away, our final destination in the Mustang Mach-E.
We are somewhat sad to see the road trip in the 2023 Mustang Mach-E end. In an EV, a 1300-km road trip is an adventure with a mission.
We’ll be driving back in a regular gas-powered vehicle. Free from charging, free from constant vigilance of the state of charge, the distance remaining, the temperature outside, the impact of having the heater on, the numbers!
Will the drive back be boring? I’ve gotten used to really focusing on the trip, utilizing the vehicle as a device, exploiting its ‘brain’ as much as possible. The drive back will be just that – the drive back.
Charge Stop #7
We want to arrive at our Montreal destination with a reasonable SOC on the battery of the Mustang Mach-E. The Madrid 2.0, a rest stop in Saint-Léonard-d’Aston, features a luxuriously long bank of chargers. Breakfast! Vehicle interior photography!
I dubbed our trip ‘the most technologically advanced, old-fashioned road trip’.
We sadly spent more money and time than we would have on a ‘normal’ road trip. I may have gained weight. But we viewed the fabric of life at the charging stations, and I took some ‘me’ time.
So, aside from the pitfalls of electric vehicles that become obvious when you take a 1300-km road trip in one, it is possible.
It’s difficult to forget that you’re in an EV.
But if you know where your charging stops are and you’re driving a beautiful, elegant vehicle like the 2023 Mustang Mach-E, the extra time behind the wheel can be pleasurable, guilt-free and calm.
A car pulls into the designated parking spot beside me. I know what the driver wants, and I know he is staring at me. Guilt rears its wimpy head but I don’t engage him right away.
I eventually lower the window and tap the horn to get his attention.
“Still have an hour and 10 minutes to get to the full charge,” I offer.
“I need it because I’m heading to Montreal shortly.”
I’m trying to pacify remorse for hogging the Petro Canada fast charger to which I’ve tethered the stylish Mustang Mach-E. We are about to drive the electric car through freezing temperatures, lingering daylight and a forecast of snowy weather on the 1,300-km road trip from Halifax to Montreal.
My new neighbour at the charging station, obviously in no hurry, looks up from a book and tells me to take my time. He has owned his Hyundai EV for two years and is obviously used to the world of charging.
This was the first of seven charging sessions it would take Lisa and I to drive to Montreal. The trek turned out to be fun in lots of ways – romantic even!
Our 2023 Mustang Mach-E Premium was quick, very comfortable and loaded with technology.
There’s always something to talk about and learn on a long distance run in an electric vehicle: kilowatt hour consumption, charging stations, drive route, charging stations, average speed, charging stations, charge level and, of course, charging stations.
The first task on an EV road trip is to accept that it will take longer. In some situations, like in Atlantic Canada, it may take as much time to deal with the charging than the actual drive.
So, what to do with all this charging time?
Once you’ve accepted charging time as a necessary component of EV road trips, plan your bonus commodity of time. How often do you hear that people are ‘insanely busy’ these days? Everyone is trying to find that perfect work-life balance.
Here is the solution for the EV set. Take all that charging time and fill it with something productive. Beat down your list of things to do, call an old friend, go for a walk or strike up a conversation with a fellow EV driver hanging around a charging station just like you.
Hey, there is lots to learn about living with an EV and en route charging stations are a good place to fuel your grey matter with tidbits about living the EV life.