“A holiday dominated by recharging isn’t my idea of fun”

Nick Howells with the Ford Mustang Mach-E he test drove for a week  (Nick Howells)
Nick Howells with the Ford Mustang Mach-E he test drove for a week (Nick Howells)

Frequent adventurer Nick Howells wanted to test out the Ford Mustang Mach-E on one of his regional sojourns ‒ but its charge thirst wasn’t compatible with his off-grid holiday

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? That was the title of prescient science fiction writer Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel. Well, for quite some time I’ve been dreaming of electric cars. Smooth, quiet driving, no iffy emissions polluting the air we breathe, saving the planet… what’s not to love? On first impressions, the Mustang Mach-E had all the elements I’d expect from a reasonably high-end (around £60k) electric car: iPhone-type buttons to open the doors, a massive, central touchscreen to control everything, luxurious and infinitely adjustable seats.

It turned out to be incredibly easy and enjoyable to drive, too: just twist a dial for forwards, backwards or park, and then put your foot down. I even found a setting where you didn’t have to use the brake; simply releasing your foot from the accelerator slows or stops the car. It also accelerates like a cheetah, which was useful for zipping past traffic on busy single-lane roads, even when going uphill.

Before setting off from London for a three-night camping trip in Devon with my daughter, I was aware there might be a little elephant in the room though: range anxiety. Our drive was 270 miles and the range 200, so I planned to stop 160 miles in, at a quirky American diner that had a couple of quick chargers. But when we arrived at the diner, both chargers were in use. We parked up to wait 40 minutes before it was our turn, then dined for about an hour and 20 minutes to get a full charge.

I had hoped not to need another charge for our stay, but by the second day, it became clear we didn’t have enough range to drive to that stone circle on Dartmoor, return to the campsite and then get to a charge point the following morning. Sadly all the local chargers were so slow that by the following night I’d spent more than two hours in concrete car parks that day instead of relaxing on a beach.

We did manage to plug in to a fast charger to go home the next day, but… 30 miles outside London we had to recharge yet again. Cue one broken charger and one busy charger (no idea how long we’d have to wait) on a desolate industrial estate with just a crap restaurant that we didn’t want to eat in. It was 7pm, I was shattered from driving and dreaming of my sofa.

Did I love my Mustang? Yes, it’s a fabulous car. However, a holiday dominated by recharging isn’t my idea of fun. It’s not Ford’s fault; there just weren’t enough decent chargers in rural Devon. It certainly wouldn’t put me off ever getting an electric car. I just hope the UK gets a gigantic boost in fast charge points for rural areas so I can stop dreaming and start buying.

Nick drove a Ford Mustang E-Mach, Ford’s first all-electric SUV. From £49,950 (ford.co.uk)