The Mercedes Benz EQS gives the best hope for completing the iconic route on a single charge.
Can Electric Vehicles travel long distances?
A long-standing complaint about Electric Vehicles is that they cannot go the distance. Range Anxiety is cited by many as a reason to stick with their combustion-powered car. But advances in battery technology over the last few years have led to more efficient vehicles with bigger batteries.
Tesla has firmly established a reputation for itself as range kings. Their cars are very efficient and charge very quickly. The Tesla Model S has long been a beacon of battery-powered distance driving. The latest edition of the car has a WLTP range figure of about 630km. But Ireland has a new range king.
How far will the Mercedes Benz EQS go on a charge?
The Mercedes Benz EQS has a 120kWh battery, 107.8kWh of which is usable. As well as having a very large battery, the EQS is also very aerodynamic. It has a drag coefficient of 0.20. This made it the most aerodynamic production car ever, apart from the hastily scrapped General Motors EV1 a few decades ago. The WLTP-rated range of the EQS goes up to 784km. However, the real-world range is about 600km to 650km.
With the Mercedes's impressive range beyond doubt, we got to thinking about how journeys such as Dublin to Cork are now so easy in an EV like this. We then wondered if there were any drives in Ireland that the Mercedes could not do on a single charge. The biggest and toughest challenge we could think of was the famous Mizen to Malin journey.
The famous route is regularly undertaken by keen cyclists and runners, with people frequently taking on the task of raising money for charity. Cyclists typically do the route over a few days. On 2nd May 2017, Irish ultra-runner Eoin Keith established an incredible record of 3 days, 3 hours and 47 minutes.
How long is the Mizen-Malin trip?
Mizen Head to Malin Head is a drive of 602km, as recommended by Google Maps, and without stops, it takes about eight hours and twenty minutes. There is a shorter route of about 575km, but the roads aren’t suitable for a big car, and it would be painfully slow going.
We had the option of taking a more straightforward route by Dublin, following the main motorways. Although taking the same amount of time as the route along the West coast, it would add about 60km to the already mammoth task.
Is Mizen to Malin easy in an Electric Vehicle?
The short answer is ‘no’! Although capable of the journey on paper, real-world driving conditions are different. The notion of completing a 600km drive on a single charge in poor winter conditions is a big challenge.
The task was made even more difficult by the conditions in mid-January. With temperatures ranging from 5 to 10 degrees Celsius and heavy rain all day, the car would be stretched to its limit. Winds were strong, predicted to be approximately 30-40kmh for most of the day. Being mostly a crosswind, it would not help efficiency.
Using its 107.8kWh usable battery, the car would need to achieve an efficiency figure of 17.6kWh per 100km to give enough range for the Mizen-Malin journey, as well as a buffer of another 20km to get us to and from our accommodation at either end of the journey.
How much did it cost to drive from Mizen Head to Malin Head?
A journey of this length would cost as little as €13.50 for somebody charging at home on a night rate of 12.6c per kWh*. However, it could also cost as much as €73.50 using ESB High Power public chargers. A figure somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is more realistic for most people.
Due to the spread of rates that people pay for their electricity it is impossible to say exactly how much it would cost. There will even be some cases where people have solar panels on their roof at home. They may have charged up the car for free on sunshine.
What was the Mizen to Malin drive like in the Mercedes Benz EQS?
The car is a supremely comfortable machine. The weighting and adaptability of the suspension irons out all but the biggest imperfections in the road. The car wafts along in silence thanks to its electric motor and superb sound insulation in the cabin.
We used the Eco+ mode to heat the cabin. This uses a heat pump to scavenge waste heat from the car’s motor, battery and electronics to heat up the cabin. This saves your all-important range.
With about 330hp on tap through the rear wheel drive motor, we were not short of power to get the bulk of the 2.5 tonne Mercedes going. However, we were more interested in its efficiency and chose not to test the power out that often.
Did we make it?
Although Google Maps suggested a time of 8 hours and 20 minutes, we knew that we would meet some traffic along the way. The very poor conditions also demanded some caution on the back roads of Cork and Donegal especially.
We ended up completing the journey in 9 hours and 5 minutes of total driving time. This is faster than we had anticipated as we set off that morning.
At the half way point it seemed unlikely that we would make as our average efficiency was nearly 18kWh per 100km. At that rate we would run out of battery about 10km short of our destination.
The last public charging point along the way would be Carndonagh in Co. Donegal. At that point, we would have to make a decision; do we give up, or do we take a risk and go for it?
Thankfully, the heavy rain stopped as we passed Sligo making the journey a little easier. Efficiency improved and the average energy consumption had dropped to a level where we thought we had a fighting chance of making it.
Thankfully we are the AA, so we had access to our own breakdown service. With the peace of mind that brings, we decided to push on past Carndonagh and give it our best shot!
The Final Push
With about 10km left, we were down to 5% state of charge. There was no question that we had enough energy to get there in normal circumstances, but another problem arose. As EVs get down to a stage where the batteries are nearly empty, they start to limit the power available in order to protect themselves. We saw available power dropping. The worry was that the very steep ascent to Malin Head would be too much strain, and the car wouldn’t have enough power to get up the hill.
Thankfully, the Mercedes has more than 300hp. So even with power to limited to about 40% over the last half kilometre, it still had plenty to drag us up the hill.
We had driven between the two extremities of the island of Ireland on a single charge. By the time we arrived back at our accommodation, we had driven 615km and we still had 2% battery available.
The Mercedes Benz EQS is a supremely comfortable car, and represents a huge leap forward by the luxury German brand. The level of technology is astounding, both in terms of its battery, drivetrain and user interface. With a 107.8kWh usable battery, there is nothing else to match it for carrying you long distances in such comfort in an Electric Vehicle.
It is incredible how far electric vehicles have come on. 10 years ago, we had the ground-breaking Nissan LEAF, with a range that wouldn’t even make 100km on a bad day. We are now at the stage where an EV can drive more than 600km in very poor winter conditions on a single charge. With some gentle driving in summer, the car could go more than 800km on a charge.
At the moment, however, the abilities of the Mercedes come with a hefty price tag. Prices start just shy of €140,000, and the car we tested was €170,000. This is prohibitively expensive and far out of reach for the vast majority of Irish people. Like all burgeoning technologies, the prices will come down and become much more accessible to more people.
For now we will just reflect on an amazing trip. The experience of being the first people to drive the iconic Mizen to Malin route in an EV without charging will be a very fond memory. The only regret is that we have to drop the keys of the incredible EQS back to Mercedes.
* Energia EV Smart rate.