Electric motoring in Germany.
It is a distance of some 1100 kilometres from Bad St. Peter-Ording in the very north of Germany to the market town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the shadow of the Zugspitze – nothing out of the ordinary for conventionally powered automobiles. But how do electric vehicles fare on this route?
The major power utilities have installed their charging stations all over the republic – a total of 9000 recharging points at some 3000 charging stations. But recharging a vehicle with electricity is not as simple as replenishing a petrol tank. Electric mobility aficionados require either contracts with the respective regional supplier, an appropriate customer card or an app such as “Charge & Pay”, which is provided free of charge by Bosch Software Innovations. This app is also used by Mercedes-Benz. It is able to identify a charging facility in the vicinity and guide the driver to the station concerned.
Here in Germany there is a need for further standardisation and expansion of the public charging infrastructure. In other countries, such facilities have long become established as a part of everyday life, playing a key role in advancing the cause of electric mobility.
The journey gets under way in the direction of Itzehoe, where according to the app there is a free charging station at the local savings bank. As indicated, the charging station is there in front of the building – but recharging is evidently only possible during opening hours. But help is at hand. The resolute head receptionist at the Hotel Cap Polonio (named after a former luxury high-speed steamer) in Pinneberg simply rolls her own car out of the garage, allowing the B-Class to recharge its batteries there. To top it all, the hotel does not even charge anything for the garage or the electricity.
In addition to the app, the e-Navigator on board the B-Class is also able to locate charging stations and load these as destinations in the navigation system. The electrified B-Class is ideally suitable for longer journeys. The range of 200 kilometres can be extended by up to 30 additional kilometres by selecting the “Range Extended Mode” which is available on board the B-Class prior to starting the recharging process. In terms of comfort, the smoothly cruising electric version actually outperforms the conventionally powered variant.
The demand for electrically powered models is set to rise markedly in the coming years, explains electric mobility expert Jürgen Schenk, Chief Engineer for Electric Vehicles at Daimler. Daimler is pursuing a three-pronged approach in this field. “We have defined three routes to electrification: hybrid, plug-in hybrid as a combination of electric motor and combustion engine, and all-electric drive, such as we have developed in the B-Class ED and the smart. In future, we will be able to electrify the entire model range.”
' In future, we will be able to electrify the entire model range. '
Jürgen Schenk, Chief Engineer Electric Vehicles
The numerous solar collectors and wind turbines along the route give rise to a growing awareness that the future of electric mobility can be shaped using renewable sources of electricity. From Pinneberg the journey continues to Soltau for recharging and then it’s off into Hamburg’s hectic rush-hour traffic, which takes its toll on the car’s range.
MORE MILEAGE FOR SAVVY DRIVERS
Once on the open road, it is possible to make good the range that was lost in the city. Foresighted driving is crucial to extending the range. The electric B-Class offers three driving modes: “S” for Sport adds a dynamic touch to mobility. “S” clearly also introduces a fun factor – but at the cost of restricted range. “E” for Economic sets the vehicle up for a “happy medium” style of driving. Those for whom economy takes top priority can select “E+”, which limits the top speed to 110 km/h but rewards the driver with the best possible range.
Recuperation is a further option, involving the conversion of deceleration energy into electricity, in addition to which it is also possible to use “sailing” mode, with the B-Class decoupled from the drive system. It is astounding how long the car can roll along country roads. Recuperation mode has such a pronounced decelerating effect that a glance in the rear-view mirror is advisable, however. Duly accustomed drivers will get into the habit of always approaching red traffic lights in recuperative mode.
Drivers who master the three-fold strategy of recuperation, foresighted driving and sailing can double a range buffer of 25 kilometres up to 50 kilometres, for example. The cruise control can also stabilise the vehicle’s range when deployed in favourable driving conditions. When the driver makes use of all these attributes, the Eco Score feature, which rates economical and ecological driving in the instrument cluster on board the B-Class, displays a score of 99 percent. At one point, it even hits 100 percent!
Charging points are very popular as parking spaces. In Soltau one charging point is unoccupied, at least. The app establishes the necessary connection and the batteries are primed with green power for the next leg of the journey. “The range of the batteries has risen continually in recent years by eight percent annually. And this trend will continue in the coming years. This means that the current ranges will be doubled by 2024 at the latest. And at the end of the decade we will be well over 400 kilometres,” notes Schenk.
ELECTRICITY IS BILLED BY THE CHARGING HOUR, NOT BY THE KILOWATT HOUR
Payment is based not on kilowatt hours, but on the charging time. On average, one hour costs around 4.60 euros. The subsequent statement of account from PayPal does not provide any indication of the quantity of electricity charged, either.
The hills around Kassel offer ideal terrain for recuperating energy, as what goes up must come down at some point. With an ever-increasing mastery of the use of electric energy, the next stop along the way is in Fulda, where the owner of the unusually named hotel “Peterchens Mondfahrt” – which translates as “Pete’s Trip to the Moon” – offers a charging station for electric vehicles. Many hotels now have charging stations installed outside. The Marriott in Hanover offers free charging, for example.
In and around Würzburg the “Charge & Pay” app signals a big blank, but in the spirit of solidarity among electric motorists a Mitsubishi dealership helps out and after a corresponding contribution to the staff kitty the journey continues in the direction of Nördlingen. It is often private initiatives that offer additional charging facilities. In Dinkelsbühl, the Volksbank Raiffeisenbank provides a complete range of charging options for free. Connections are available for the Chademo and Mennekes systems and for conventional earthed plugs. The bank’s field staff also use electric vehicles. After a rapid charging session Nördlingen is soon in sight, and the trip is successfully completed after 1100.3 kilometres.