Last week I had the keys to the Honda e press machine and I thought I should try a real experiment in Athens, Greece. My goal was to see if a relatively limited range EV could still be used for those who live in an apartment and don’t have a dedicated parking space and / or the necessary frame in the building to charge overnight – what you’ll notice is definitely the norm, not the exception.
On Friday night, I parked a Honda e near my apartment on the street with a 50 percent charge and 77 km (48 miles) of range on the trip computer. My goal on Saturday was to visit family members living in opposite ends of the city, and, ironically, the entire trip back and forth on Google Maps was 76 km (47 miles).
Although I knew it would be very close, I decided to go on a zero-emission journey, hoping to be able to charge a Honda along the way. Fortunately, our press car comes with both types of charging cables (standard home outlet and charger outlet), making it easier to find an external source, at least on paper. The first leg of the trip was 18km (11 miles) and I arrived at my destination with a 40 per cent battery and the remaining 61km (38 miles), proving that the Honda e trip computer is trustworthy.
Yes oh! My zen moment with a port to charge
The house I visited in the southeastern suburbs had a garage, so during my stay I hooked up the car. I have to admit that opening the port to charge the Honda e was much easier than I could have imagined, spending 10 minutes trying to find a button in the cabin or through the infotainment menu.
To my embarrassment the solution was as simple as pressing and holding the charge button on the keys. Exactly an hour and fifteen minutes later I turned off the car with a 44 percent charge and drove 68 km (42 miles), which means I only got 4 percent in a standard home outlet. At this rate, my car would take 15 hours to go from 40 to 100 percent, which was inconvenient.
Looking for chargers within close range
After confirming that home outlets are only suitable for night charging, I began the second phase of the trip while my wife searched the internet for an affordable charger near her destination. We arrived in a central location of the northern suburbs, right next to the beach, where thousands of people go on weekends to enjoy the sun. Keep in mind that this is an expensive area with lots of supercars and chic SUVs, so I was expecting to find at least a few charging points in the area. Unfortunately, the “charge station search” feature in Honda’s infotainment system gave us the message “Authentication failed.” Please try again later, ”although the car was online using my smartphone data via a Wi-Fi hotspot.
After trying various online charging programs and Google Maps, we found two available options – in a private company building (10 minutes walk) and at the gas station (15 minutes walk). We chose the latter as a safer choice, but when we arrived, the staff informed us that none of the chargers were working because they had not worked for a long time. Having a 20 percent charge and 34km (21 miles) on my Honda trip computer, I decided to take a risk and move on as my home was 21km (13 miles) away.
The anxiety range is real and scary
After lunch, the last and busiest part of the journey began. The movement was friendly to the Honda e range with low average speeds and plenty of regenerative braking. My priorities were not to rely on roadside assistance and not to spend hours at a charging station far from my home. Luckily, I found two affordable 25.2 kW / h fast chargers through a special app that were just a 10 minute walk from my house.
My effective driving style worked and we arrived with a 3 percent battery level and only 5km (3 miles) with the remaining power reserve. The security guard confirmed that there were two fully functional fast chargers inside, but he did not want to let me in because he was not sure they were open to the public or only to company employees (even if the program showed 24-hour availability and 7 days a week) . Contacting his boss and explaining my low-range situation, he opened the door, giving me access to a charger that had only 1 percent energy left in my battery. It may seem staged, but believe me, it is not. You may ask my pregnant wife who now has personal experience of using the term anxiety range.
Happy ending, sort of
We both felt great connecting to the Honda e and watching the energy flow. At a rate of 0.50 euros ($ 0.57) per kW / h, a full battery charge of 35.5 kW / h usually costs 17.75 euros ($ 20), but for some reason the app did not allow me to pay, and I charged Honda for free. As for charging time, the car is projected to take 5 hours from 1 to 100 percent, which sounds logical, since the on-board charging cable has a power of 6.6 kW, using only a fraction of the power of the charger 25.2 kWh. Keep in mind that the Honda e supports ultra-fast charging with a capacity of up to 100 kW DC, but at the moment in Greece there is no such charger.
Late in the evening I picked up the car with 99 percent charge and a range of 165 km (102 miles). To be fair, that was more than enough for my Sunday worries – including a little active B-road driving, which gave me 79 percent and 140 km (87 miles) by the end of the weekend. It’s a safe energy level to start the week. Lesson learned; from now on I will always charge my EVs on Friday night.
Conclusion with lots of food for thought
I realize that my experience would have been completely different if I had conducted more thorough research in advance, finding and confirming available chargers through my phone. But here’s the thing; whereas with the ICE car I would just quickly look for (even just drive around) refueling without even thinking about it, with EV you really, really need to do your homework.
It also does not change the fact that in Europe (and elsewhere) literally tens of millions of residents of apartments without special parking spaces or any infrastructure for charging in the buildings in which they live. And that’s a big drawback to begin with.
Sure, I could drive up to one of the many charging stations available along the way, but then I’ll have to reschedule or cancel my appointments and wait for the car to charge. This is far from ideal, even if there are only a few thousand EVs in my city. And now imagine if EV sales accelerate in a crowded city of more than 3 million people, such as Athens, most of whom live in apartments that don’t even have a parking space, let alone the ability to install a charging station in their building. Yes, that’s right.
Ultimately, my goal was to find out if you can use an EV as a regular car, and the answer will be yes if you do your homework, plan ahead and don’t count on what you see online in terms of available chargers. But if you don’t live in a very new (carefully, last two to three years) and usually very expensive apartment building built with the necessary infrastructure to install a charger, you’ll pretty much have to forget about filling your EV home .
One thing is for sure, the private and public sectors in European countries need to work together on a plan to build a much larger number of charging stations, because if electric cars become massive, it will be too late to act. Typically, many governments, including my own in Greece, prefer to sell electric vehicles over the necessary charging infrastructure, while the opposite should be the case.
EV buyers know this, but mostly rely on home charging, which in turn limits the target group to a minority of people who have garages or at least modern apartment buildings. Hopefully, building a proper charging infrastructure won’t take too long, so that if the EVs completely replace the ICE models, buyers won’t have to worry about the long haul, even if they can’t charge their electric cars at home overnight.
I live in an apartment without parking. Here is my experience with an electric car
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