Image
Statistik im e-Auto-Dashboard. Verbrauch in KWh.

German Reichweitenangst

Date of publication

Don't worry. This won't be a car report in the style of "ADAC Motorwelt". I'm much too far away for that and have been a BVG season ticket holder for ages anyway. And I've also had a Bahncard for years.

And yet I wanted to know

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, I had to cover a distance of 400 kilometres and wanted to combine the pleasant with the useful. Berlin <-> Bielefeld - that just screams Deutsche Bahn. Since I had already read a lot about the German Reichweitenangst (range anxiety) with electric cars, I used the occasion to do a practical test.

The discounter goes one better

I admit it: I would have liked to drive Tesla. But 50 cents per kilometre was unattractive given the distances to be covered. That would have been more than the price of a first-class rail ticket - and that's not how far I want to go. I found what I was looking for at the car rental company STARCAR, where the Renault Zoe was available at a weekend rate including 1,000 kilometres for 145.00 €. The company's cooperation with Shell Recharge gave me the additional advantage that all charged KWh were also included.

The e-car needs new route planners

Since there must be something to this range anxiety, I first asked friends. Thank you, Grill Sergeant Stefan, for pointing me to ABRP. I was then referred to the A Better Routeplanner even more often. In short: As users, we are first asked by the programme which vehicle we are travelling with. The programme then uses the vehicle data stored to determine the best charging locations for the route and calculates the charging time for the route. However, I then discovered that not all charging stations are included in the arrangements with Shell Recharge. And also that I can't set a preference for Shell Recharge in ABRP (that would have been a nice feature). So multiple apps side by side. Recharge suggestions via ABRP and matching whether the suggested location has a Shell collaboration.

AC/DC charging stations

I had heard about this before: if the car supports it, charging with DC is much faster. But faster means that a charge still takes somewhere between 45 and 75 minutes. And that is clearly more than the length of a cigarette. On the other hand, ABRP offers the option of searching for interesting options (restaurants, shopping centres, places of interest) in the vicinity of the pillars and making corresponding suggestions. I didn't know I was interested in this, but was looking forward to the Magdeburg ship lift, where I was supposed to have 45 minutes for sightseeing. It was a pity that the pillar there did not cooperate with Shell, but another one a little further away did. On site, I discovered that fast-charging stations are often located in desolate industrial areas and that proximity is a relative term. The 7 km to the building, which is praised as a monument to the art of engineering, was too far for me to walk and I interrupted the charging process after 15 minutes, drove the car to the tourist destination and was annoyed that there was not even an AC column in the car park for visitors directly next to it. So I continued to Helmstedt and took a break there.

Image
Strom aus Abfall. E-Tanksäule

Learned: The journey is part of the destination

Taking a break for 50 minutes every 200 km or so changes travel habits. I arrived at my destination with one stop, so to speak. But it seems to me that, to be fair, a distance of 800 km cannot be covered in one day with the Zoe electric car. Hardcore car drivers always tell me about their 10/12 hours on the buck. I don't want that any more. Not even with an internal combustion Zoe. I could go on and on about the vaunted driver assistance systems. Just this: cruise control and lane assist made me incredibly bored and tired after just 15 minutes of monotonous driving. I was on the verge of saying, "Alexa, drive me to Bielefeld!" - only to nod off and wake up at my destination ;) But for this comfort we already have a really great system: Deutsche Bahn. Cheaper, faster, more reliable.

Each provider makes its own pillar

While the classic petrol station has a largely uniform appearance, the aesthetics of the e-pump are up to the manufacturer. Even with marked locations on digital maps, I sometimes drove in circles several times to finally identify the pump as a pump. To make matters worse, locations in underground garages are also displayed. As a beginner, of course, you wouldn't think of that. What is missing is a uniform, eye-catching sign, comparable to pharmacy signs. This way, even those of us who are unfamiliar with the area can quickly find the place where our e-mobile can draw electricity.

The sheer number of usability gaffes on the pillars is worth a separate article, by the way. I won't go into that here.

Image
Avacon E-Zapfsäule

Personal conclusion

Even if there is hardly anything more boring than driving a car: IMHO no one needs to be afraid of the German Reichweitenangst.
And guess where I bought an ice cream?

Image
Eine Tankstelle für Verbrenner

What is missing (for those who insist on individual transport)

    - fast charging stations at interesting hotspots
    - at least one café and something for children in the immediate vicinity of the columns
    - Photos that make the columns visible, or uniform design or a defined sign
    - Cooperation between providers and tourist attractions
    - Usability & Accessibility

Make it work. If you need more detailed feedback: We offer workshops for conception, personas and looking beyond.

Profile picture for user DeepL

DeepL is a deep learning company that develops AI systems for languages. The company, based in Cologne, Germany, was founded in 2009 as Linguee, and introduced the first internet search engine for translations. Linguee has answered over 10 billion queries from more than 1 billion users.

Profile picture for user luckow

Stephan Luckow

Stephan is an open source evangelist and constantly curious about technologies. Thematically, his blog posts can best be summarised as "curiosity satisfied".