From tourism to trading, millions of vehicles that run on fossil fuels use our highways daily. We replaced one of them with India’s longest-range electric vehicle to see if we can do a proper inter-state drive right away with zero emissions Mercedes-Benz – creator of the motor car as we now know it. They say change is the only constant. And although this took a lot of time, the three-pointed star started its journey to recreate its invention without an internal-combustion engine. Obviously, stakes were high because expectations were higher than from other EV makers but the first production-ready car to be born is fast redeeming itself.
India is a bit on the back foot when it comes to embracing battery-powered vehicles but we are moving towards it. From encouraging manufacturing, to setting a road map - steps are being taken and that’s a start. But car makers, such as Mercedes-Benz, are ready to show that their cars will be practical alternatives even today.
Last year, the EQC was launched in India for a relatively reasonable price tag (under Rs. 1 crore) despite the fact that it offered a full Mercedes-Benz-level of luxury and guilt-free driving for those car buyers who value sustainability more than others. With an 80kWh battery pack that is one of the biggest in India and even globally, a EQC is certified to go 450km on a single charge. In comparison to ICE cars, its twin motors generate an equivalent of 402bhp, enough to propel the GLC-sized SUV from zero to 100kph in just 5.1 seconds.
But what is it like to replace your car with an electric vehicle in today’s world? Pushing a EQC straight into the deep end, we embarked on a journey taken by thousands of cars every day on one of the busiest national highways of India – the 470km-odd stretch between Pune and Hubli – a first in an EQC. This would also give us the chance to cross state borders in a car no one would have seen doing yet.
As planned, we started from the Mercedes-Benz in Chakan on the outskirts of Pune (Maharashtra). The Centre of Excellence which showcases visitors the work being done in this state-of-the-art facility has a DC fast charger that can juice up the massive battery pack of an EQC in an hour. Fast chargers require a special electric supply input and will be part of the public/private enterprise being planned for the near future. Enroute, DC chargers are yet to be built so our best bet were the EQ wall chargers that Mercedes-Benz sets up for every EQC customer at their home and office. Thanks to Mercedes-Benz network, we had marked out two places on our rote where we could get access to completely charge the EQC overnight.
Our first leg required us to drive roughly 275km to the historic town of Kolhapur with our onboard display showing us a comforting 375km range. Enroute, the NH4 played out a typical Indian highway routine. From busy traffic infested (almost like cities) to snaking fast bends and even the odd ghats. While we started easy on the throttle, we soon figured the EQC was holding on to its range despite steady speeds partly due to regeneration braking. The instrument cluster neatly displays information that explains when you are using more power and when you are able to charge the battery. It reads your driving style. It almost turns into a challenge to wrest the best out from our EQC.
Uphill ghat sections and idling are the biggest challengers for efficiency. The first proper one we encountered was KhambatkiGhat, some 100km-odd kilometers from Pune. With a steady flow of slow moving goods vehicles coupled with gradient, we noticed a significant drop in expected range for the first time. But we were not panicking yet because what we had lost was the buffer we had built on the plains before climbing the ghat. Despite the fact that we were easily overtaking both diesel and petrol-powered vehicles and maintaining regular highway speeds there was still 170kmworth of charge on display when we reached our first pitstop, which was the Silver Star Mercedes-Benz workshop in Kolhapur, just along the highway. Interesting to note that our next stop to Hubli was another 170km-odd. So, theoretically, the EQC could just have crossed the state border on a single charge. Maybe next time we try that out.
Nevertheless, after enjoying Kolhapur cuisine and hospitality, next day we embarked on our final leg to Hubli. After the first day’s experience, we were not looking at the battery-charge levels as much. Range anxiety had definitely reduced. The wall charger had managed to bring back the range to just under 400km and we had hardly less than half the distance to go. This gave us a chance to take a detour and meet Jitendra P Nayak, an architect who has been making a name for promoting sustainable construction through eco-friendly components such as ferro cement and recycled materials such as wood from dismantled structures. As he mentioned while showing us around his unique house that uses natural airflow to cool its interiors, the less we take from our planet, the more 'green' we are.
With sustainability fast becoming a necessity, EVs such as EQC will have a bigger role to play in our society. As we reached our final flag-in spot in Hubli – the serene Unkal Lake - the odometer showed some 500km-odd (we took more than one detour) and eight hours of driving time. We had managed, with some planning, to show that EVs of EQC’s calibre will be at home on long interstate runs as much as it is already proven to be in urban environs. Even as we speak electric charging network in India is expanding and it looks like a matter of time when future EVs can do such interstate runs as easily as the Mercedes-Benz EQC can do right now.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJKi44HUOog&feature=youtu.be By : GIRISH KARKERA PWR PWR