Motors

e-Motional: A smooth driving, hard-charging week with Peugeot's e-2008

Peugeot's excellent new 2008 can be had with an electric motor as well as traditional petrol and diesel engines. William Scholes finds out if the e-2008 goes far enough in making the case for an EV family car

Peugeot e-2008

FEAR comes in many forms. The threat of accidently seeing more than a nanosecond of Mrs Brown's Boys - the apogee of postmodernist culture in Brexit Britain - is pretty terrifying, for example.

Then there's the sense of fear you get from driving an electric car when your range is falling at a faster rate than you're completing miles to your destination...

The really scary part of that scenario is the conversation you rehearse in your head about how you're going to break it to your wife and son that they might have to push the car for a couple of miles: "You know the way you said that we should be doing more exercise..."

In the end, we made it home - only just, with the car's range hovering around zero. I was a ball of tension.

I don't think I had experienced such a stressful drive since the time I had one of those supercharged Jaguar F-Types during that winter a few years ago when the Ice Age made a valiant attempt at a comeback.

I don't have a charger at home - or a wallbox, as it's called in the jargon that accompanies electric cars - but thankfully a Tesla-driving neighbour let me use his to re-juice the depleted batteries of this particular car (cheers, Rob).

This is just as well as the car didn't even come with a cable to plug it into the mains (it would have taken a full day to charge it that way).

The vehicle in question was Peugeot's shiny new e-2008. My week with it confirmed several things.

Peugeot e-2008

First, electric cars are great to drive. Smooth, quiet and with seamless acceleration, there is much to recommend them even before considering their lower running costs and environmental benefits.

Second, this new Peugeot is a particularly pleasant car. The company's latest models are very good - nicely styled, beautifully built and with a quality feel - and the e-2008 is as chunkily handsome as any other small SUV out there.

As the name suggests, it's an electric version of a car that you can also get with a petrol or diesel engine. The idea, I suppose, is that you choose whatever powertrain best serves your needs.

The electric version carries a steeper price tag than the other two, but Peugeot reckons that over the course of several years of ownership the EVs lower running costs should make it no more expensive in the long-run.

Cars like the e-2008 are going to be vital to helping make electric cars ever-more popular.

Peugeot e-2008

The Peugeot group is really pressing ahead on this front - the Vauxhall Corsa-e, Peugeot e-208, Citroen e-C4 and DS 3 Crossback e-tense are in a similar vein to the e-2008; viable, electric alternatives to their 'thermal'-engined siblings.

The e-2008 uses a 50kWh battery and a 136bhp motor. The battery is warranted to hold 70 per cent of its charge over eight-years or 100,000 miles.

It's a lovely thing to drive. Anyone stepping from years of driving a diesel or petrol car will find the 'e' part of the e-2008 both intuitive and appealing.

Electric cars are great to drive. Smooth, quiet and with seamless acceleration, there is much to recommend them even before considering their lower running costs and environmental benefits

You just get in; press the start button - still quaintly marked 'engine' - and go. There are three drive modes - eco, normal and sport - and two modes for the regenerative braking system, selected using what would be the gear selector in an automatic 2008.

Like many electric cars, the e-2008 feels positively brisk from a standstill up to about 30mph, when the rate of acceleration starts to taper off.

Other highlights include the car's wow-factor dashboard, complete with head-up display and 3D instruments, and a real sense of substance and heft to the whole car - not necessarily attributes readily associated with Peugeot in the recent past.

Thirdly, no matter how persuasive an electric vehicle - or EV - might be, one needs to exercise caution when relying upon its claimed, or 'official', range.

Peugeot says the e-2008 can do 206 miles on a full charge, though when you dig into the small print, this is actually a range of between 191 and 206 miles.

This is measured using the combined cycle of a relatively new industry-wide test regime called WLTP, or 'Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test'.

Peugeot e-2008

This has the advantage, at least in theory, of allowing consumers to make like-for-like comparisons between different cars.

But being a laboratory test, it can't fully replicate your real-world driving experiences (Read on for how the e-2008 fared during my every day use).

Of course, the same is true of the WLTP fuel consumption figures for petrol and diesel cars.

However, we tend not to overly worry about the gap between the optimistic claimed MPG and the MPG we achieve in reality.

That's because when the warning light in your petrol or diesel car flashes to tell you that you are low on fuel it generally gives you between 30 and 50 miles of warning before you're running on vapour (though note there is a difference between fuel consumption, which is essentially a measure of efficiency, and a range which is a function the capacity of a fuel tank - or battery - but that's a discussion for another day...).

With the refuelling infrastructure so well established and convenient, we rarely have cause to worry about making it to the next petrol station.

Unfortunately the single rapid charger that I needed was already in use when I arrived. I then did what anyone in my position would do... and after returning to the car with a Big Mac and McFlurry was pleased to find the charging bay empty

This brings me to a fourth point. The EV equivalent of the petrol forecourt, the charging network, is poor.

At the moment it means that ownership of EVs is essentially limited to anyone who can install a wallbox charger at their home so the car can be charged overnight.

Realistically, that also means having a driveway; needless to say, not everyone is so fortunate.

Employers may also have charging points at your place of work... but let's be honest, that rather ties your car use into going to the office and may not always be convenient at weekends or during holidays, never mind a lockdown period.

Not having a charger of my own - and with the Peugeot not being supplied with a cable to plug it into a mains socket - I reckoned my time with the car would also prove to be an opportunity to try out the public charging network.

Peugeot e-2008

I'll not go into exhaustive detail, or we'll end up with something of the size of War and Peace before it was edited to make it shorter.

To put anything like a decent amount of energy into your car you're going to want to find what's called a 50kw 'rapid' charger.

The only one reasonably close to me is in the car park at Sprucefield shopping centre (close to McDonald's...).

One masterplan involved bringing my son to guitar practice in Lisburn and then gliding over to Sprucefield, where I could easily re-juice the Peugeot's battery for 45 minutes or so, before collecting the Hendrix-in-training and heading home.

Unfortunately the single rapid charger that I needed was already in use when I arrived. I then did what anyone in my position would do... and after returning to the car with a Big Mac and McFlurry was pleased to find the charging bay empty.

I swung the Peugeot into the space, waved the plastic card at the 'ecar' machine and hooked up the cable; it's a very straightforward process.

Peugeot e-2008

The ecar system is free to use, at least for now. 'Electric forecourts', with multiple chargers and where you pay for your electricity in the same way that you pay for fuel at a petrol station, seem inevitable.

The first of these has already opened in England, complete with 36 charging bays and 350kW 'superchargers'. Anything like that would be a positive development in Northern Ireland.

Until then, you'll have to take your chances. After about 25 minutes on the rapid charger, somebody pulled up next to the Peugeot in a Tesla.

He had a McDonald's too, and glowered at me through the glass with the cold-eyed intensity of a border official contemplating whether to return your passport or send you straight to jail.

Unclear if I'd broken some arcane EV etiquette (I don't think so...) or if he was just an incredibly rude person, I decided to unplug and move on. The grand total of 35 miles of range had been pumped into the e-2008's battery.

I still had time to explore another charger before retrieving the guitarist. The ecar app said there was a charger with 24-hour access at the nearby Dobbies Garden Centre.

There is a sense of adventure with driving an EV which will appeal to some people. It's not exactly the same as going on an expedition with Bear Grylls, but arriving at Dobbies, cast in darkness and with the car park securely locked, it certainly felt like I was venturing into the unknown.

The app definitely said the charger had 24-hour availability. But where was it?

Peugeot e-2008

I parked the Peugeot at the gate and climbed over. Eventually I found the charger, skulking in the shadow in the corner of the car park.

It wasn't immediately obvious how I was meant to unite the Peugeot with the charger's cable and thereby take advantage of the advertised 24-hour access.

But then I figured that it might be possible... if I parked the car really close to the kerb on the access road for Dobbies deliveries... if the cable was long enough... and if I was able to get over the fence and carry the cable from the charging unit to the car without falling on my face...

There were, in other words, rather more 'ifs' involved than with sticking a tenner of petrol in an internal combustion car.

I managed to make it work but, as you will have gathered, the whole enterprise was far more difficult and complicated than it really should be if all but the most committed are to be nudged towards EVs.

A regular, often more than weekly, journey is from home to visit family outside Enniskillen. It's a round trip of around 135 miles.

I mentioned earlier how the Peugeot's theoretical range was up to 206 miles. However, the most I ever saw when the car said it had 100 per cent charge was 149 miles - that's a lot of lost range, and I'm not entirely sure where it went to.

Then I figured that it might just be possible... if I parked the car really close to the kerb on the access road for Dobbies deliveries... if the cable was long enough... and if I was able to get over the fence and carry the cable from the charging unit to the car without falling on my face...

Even so, this should still have been enough to get us to Fermanagh and back, with a little to spare.

But my 149 miles had dropped to 124 miles before the end of the street, and to 118 miles by the time we reached the M1. A distance of less than four miles had somehow used 31 miles, which is rather alarming and fear-inspiring.

This was never going to do. This rapid drop in range seemed to then stabilise and miles covered more closely matched range used.

My extensive research had shown that there was a rapid charger at Dungannon, and I figured that a quick stop there might put enough energy in the battery to make the rest of the journey stress-free.

This particular charger is located at the exit of a petrol station and feels rather exposed. It wasn't the most pleasant place to sit for the 45 minutes it took to get the car's range up to 130 miles.

The 43 miles from there to our destination used 47 miles of range, leaving me with a stated 93 miles to cover the 65-ish miles back home.

Peugeot e-2008

An earlier plan to use a rapid charger not too far from my in-laws' home was shelved when I realised it used a different type of connector; in any case, it wasn't capable of delivering 50kW but was throttled back to 35kW "due to supply constraint".

Back on the road homewards, and despite driving at a slow and steady pace, the range evaporated.

With 15 miles to get home... the car showed 15 miles of range. With nine miles to home, there was eight miles of range... And so on, until we just scraped home... It was, as I said at the start, a journey of fear.

Because that particular journey - which often has diversions which add distance - is a fixture in our family life, the Peugeot e-2008 simply wouldn't be an option for us as our only car.

The whole journey took about an hour longer than usual too, an imposition which severely tried the patience of my passengers (and which, several weeks later, I am still hearing about...).

As well as being an excellent small family car, the Peugeot e-2008 is an excellent showcase for all that is desirable about EVs. It just doesn't go far enough for me

Had I a charger at home, the EV experience would generally have been much less hassle. I could continue to avoid Sprucefield, and need never climb over the fence at Dobbies again.

The e-2008's claimed 200-mile range - a peak of 150 miles in reality, though in practice disappointingly less than that - left me feeling rather tethered to home and nervous about the longer journey I need to regularly take.

That means I would need an EV with a longer range. There are a growing number of options with ranges in the high 200s and even low 300s; one of those would have to be in contention the next time the family car is being replaced.

As well as being an excellent small family car, the Peugeot e-2008 is an excellent showcase for all that is desirable about EVs. It just doesn't go far enough for me.

AT A GLANCE

Peugeot e-2008 GT

Price: £37,180

Engine and transmission: Electric motor with 134bhp and 192lb ft, 50kWh battery with Type 2 connector, single-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive

Performance: Top speed 93mph (in sport mode); 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds

Range: 191-206 miles (WLTP); real world - see text

CO2 emissions: 0g/km

Car tax: £0

Benefit in kind: 1 per cent

Euro NCap safety rating: Four stars as standard (91/84/62/68); Five stars with optional safety pack (93/84/73/73); tested in 2019

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