Almost 600 miles. Two days. One electric vehicle.
That was the challenge facing us when we took part in Greenfleet's EV Rally of Scotland, more commonly known as EVROS.
During the two-day event, the 13 teams participating would be testing the country's electric vehicle charging network as well their own EV's efficiency.
But at the end of the challenge, what would be left feeling more drained: the EV’s battery or the drivers?
As main sponsors, Arnold Clark entered two teams: Arnold Clark Charge and Arnold Clark Innovation.
And when it comes to embracing the electric revolution, Arnold Clark is leading the way.
The Group has opened Innovation Centres in Glasgow and Stafford, where visitors can learn more about the future of driving as well as test-drive some of the most popular EVs on the market.
Arnold Clark has also recently announced plans to install over 500 EV chargers across the UK in an investment worth £23 million – also known as the Arnold Clark Charge network.
But back to EVROS - and it was an early start as the cars gathered on the 'grid' to set off from the Glasgow Innovation Centre at 8am.
Team Charge consisted of Michael Chan and myself from Arnold Clark's Marketing and Communications departments. We were driving a Hyundai IONIQ 5, while Debbie Hubner (Arnold Clark's Senior Sustainability Officer) and Hazel Shields (Glasgow Innovation Centre Manager) got behind the wheel of a VW I.D5 for Team Innovation.
During the two-day event, all teams were required to 'check in' to 11 different stops across Scotland by using a QR code. The winner of EVROS would then be decided by calculating each team's miles per kilowatt hour (m/kWH).
Our advice from Greenfleet, the organisers, was to adopt a 'splash ‘n dash' or 'grazing' approach to charging in order to prevent queuing or delays. In simple terms, get to 80% charge and move on.
Our first stop on day one was the EV Hub outside of Falkirk FC's stadium.
Of course, we didn't need to charge here - our IONIQ 5 had a range of almost 300 miles - but it was interesting to see what type of role these 'hubs' will play over the next few years.
At Falkirk's EV hub, there were ten devices and 25 connectors available, plus, it was under roof cover, similar to a petrol station.
And thankfully, the next stop was another EV hub in Dundee. The fourth hub, opened in April by the city's council, compromised of five chargers - four rapid (50kW) and one ultra-rapid (150kW).
Again, the units were all under cover and fully accessible, but it did have some added extras to help its claim of being 'a service station of the future'. As well as having solar-powered canopies, drivers can fill up their water bottles with a machine that dispenses purified rainwater. Pretty cool!
To be honest, it's how I'd picture most charging stations to be – plenty of units to connect to and protected from the Scottish weather. But as I found out later in the trip, it's not always like that.
After topping up at Dundee, while we stopped for lunch, there was no need to charge at checkpoints three and four in Braemar and Aberdeen respectively.
While we were on the road, it had us questioning – in terms of driving, is there much difference between an EV and a traditional internal combustion engine?
Not really! Well, of course an EV is quieter, but if anything, it’s almost more fun to drive. Its instant torque means it’s easy to gain speed or overtake, if necessary.
We were spending the night in Aviemore, and it’s here where the negativity around EVs is perhaps justified.
With just over 20% charge left, we were hoping to find a charger so we could set off first thing the next morning.
However, according to ZapMap – the app which plots out the UK’s charging network, the only ultra-rapid charger was out of use.
You can only hope that, if the future of the automotive industry is electric, then the charging network will continue to grow.
We decided to wait until the morning and go to our first checkpoint of day two in Inverness – Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC’s stadium. Unfortunately, the rest of the EVROS participants had the same idea!
With only a few units available, we decided to use ZapMap to plot another stop. And it’s here we ran into another problem with charging EVs – the cost.
Most EV drivers will tell you that planning is key when it comes to charging. However, if you’re in a rush or have somewhere to be, unfortunately, you’re still at the mercy of which chargers are available.
The charger which we found worked out at £0.95 per kWh for 7kW. Now, to put that into context, on average, the other chargers we had come across earlier in our trip were nearly half that price.
With that in mind, we didn’t charge for too long and headed on to our next checkpoint in Inverness.
Again, we ran into another slight hiccup.
Not surprisingly, in these smaller locations, there’s only a handful of ultra-rapid chargers. We were lucky enough to hook up to one and decided to go for a walk and enjoy some fish and chips in the sunshine while we charged.
Now, this is where we’ll hold our hands up. According to EV charging etiquette - and the rules - you’re only meant to use this type of charger for 45 minutes or you’ll be hit with a fine.
We returned to our car 23 minutes over our allotted 45 minutes and were faced with a fellow EV driver, who, to put it mildly, wasn’t happy with us overstaying our welcome.
Like I said, hands up, it’s our fault. But we did get charged for it, and who’s to say there won’t ever be a legitimate reason for a driver to miss their return deadline.
Anyways, we made our way back down to Glasgow, and again, the drive was seamless.
Our ‘efficiency’ for over the two days was 3.9 miles per kWH, which is pretty impressive. We weren’t too worried about the common myths that you can’t drive fast or have the air conditioning on without your battery taking a massive hit.
When we reached our final destination, Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, it was time to reflect on our journey.
Are drivers and, most importantly, the infrastructure ready to go electric?
As I said, the EV charging network is continuing to grow on a daily basis, and with projects such as the Arnold Clark Charge network becoming more commonplace, charging options for drivers are only going to get better and more readily available.
And of course, thanks to companies like Bumblebee, there’s also a wide range of home chargers available and ready for installation, which will help battle range anxiety.
My biggest learning? Try an EV for yourself before making your mind up. Places like the Innovation Centres, where you can test-drive the latest models on the market, are perfect to experience electric cars and what they have to offer.
The sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK will stop in the near future. But obviously, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be around in the used car market for a while after that.
At the moment, moving to electric might not be for everyone. However, there’s no denying it’s the future.
It’s not a question of if you will drive an electric car, it’s a case of when you will drive an electric car.
And the sooner we prepare for the change, the easier it will be to embrace it.