SA’s first electric vehicle test: I-Pace, i3 or Cooper SE – which drives furthest on a hot day? accreditation Ryan Bubear

AutoTrader conducted SA’s first electrical vehicle car test.

Autotrader held their first Annual South African Electrical Car Test at Gerotek in November 2021.

Autotrader held their first Annual South African Electrical Car Test at Gerotek in November 2021. AutoTrader SA

Exactly how far is an electric car able to travel on a single charge in real-world South African conditions at a steady 120km/h? Well, a new benchmark evaluation answers this very question, putting three locally available electric vehicles (EVs) – the Jaguar I-Pace, BMW i3s, and MINI Cooper SE – to the test in a first-of-its-kind, simulated open-road range assessment.

This inaugural test which took place at the Gerotek High-Speed Oval in November 2021, sets a national benchmark for each of the three battery-powered variants. It lays down a historical reference point to look back on and allows consumers to evaluate battery performance advancements as more EVs are added to the local market each year.

While the maximum claimed range of any given EV is well advertised, the new test indicates just how far consumers would be able to go on a single charge if they were driving non-stop at the national speed limit on a characteristically hot day in South Africa.

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Whereas the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle that automakers use to calculate advertised range includes a combination of urban, suburban, rural, and highway driving scenarios, as well as prescribed acceleration phases and a set number of stops, the Annual South African Electric Car Test, which AutoTrader charged, concentrates solely on open-road driving.

Jaguar I-Pace

2022 Jaguar I-PACE EV400 Motorpress

It thus removes regenerative braking – a recovery system that redirects what would otherwise be lost kinetic energy back into the battery during deceleration, boosting overall range and rendering EVs especially well suited to stop-start city driving – entirely from the equation.

Considering it has the most significant net battery capacity at 84.7kWh (this is effectively the usable portion of the standard 90kWh pack) and a claimed upper-end range of 470km, it’s little surprise the Jaguar I-Pace achieved the most impressive distance on the day, circling the Gerotek High-Speed Oval in Gauteng for a total of 277km, 311m at an actual average speed of 119.9km/h. This sort of range could be equated to driving from Johannesburg to Pretoria and back twice, with plenty of mileage to spare.

BMW i3

BMW i3 Quickpic

The BMW i3’s e-drive REx (the test was conducted with this derivative’s range-extender fuel tank emptied) finished on 168km, 527m, with its GPS-verified average speed settling on 120.02km/h, while the MINI Cooper SE was just behind on 147km, 730m at an actual average speed of 119km/h. With net battery capacities of 37.9kWh and 28.9kWh and advertised ranges of 285km and 215km, respectively, these two new-energy hatchbacks are designed to excel at city driving rather than out on the open road, so their final results are by no means underwhelming, particularly when one considers the average daily commute for South African car drivers is a mere 22km one way.

The three sub-R2.5 million EVs available to purchase in South Africa at the time of the inaugural open-road simulation were driven in their respective eco modes – Eco for the I-Pace, Eco Pro in the case of the i3s, and Green for the Cooper SE – from a fully charged state, with each one’s air-conditioning system set at 21°C on auto (the ambient temperature at the track on the day was recorded as 28°C).

mini cooper se

Mini Cooper SE. Supplied Mini Press

“While we believe it’s important to set an official benchmark in South African conditions rather than relying on typically cooler European testing scenarios, our broader aim is simply to educate local consumers. Range anxiety is a hurdle many potential buyers face, and this test will help them form a better understanding of the variations in range when it comes to EVs,” explains AutoTrader’s CEO, George Mienie.

“Owing to our familiarity with traditional petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles, we’re used to equating stop-start city driving with high fuel consumption and highway cruising with a better economy, but the opposite proves true for electric cars. This is the sort of interesting information the test highlights, helping inform consumers as EVs become more widespread in our market,” concludes Mienie.