Challenge: arrive in electric car from Madrid to Seville. The electric one is a sector of the automotive world that in the last years has not stopped to effervescer with innovations and improvements. Neither to grow: there are forecasts that the electric park, in 2020, multiply by five the units that were in 2017 (115,000 in circulation). The vehicle has shown its efficiency in the city (53% of the people of Madrid have used some electric vehicles from the companies of sharing installed in the capital), but still limps over long distances.
Nissan has given EL PAÍS a vehicle: a Leaf model from 2016. Elegant, full of sensors, comfortable, smart. It has several modes of driving: one more optimal for city (urban cycle) and another designed for longer travel (combined cycle).
Autonomy: 270 official kilometers. That is to say, with the 100% load, 270 kilometers could be traveled by road in ideal conditions. But conditions are rarely adequate.
Thursday morning is the appointment to pick up the car. At 11.00 starts the trip in the center of Madrid, from Nuevos Ministerios. Up to Seville there are almost 520 kilometers along the Vía de la Plata. This road transits from the La Mancha plain to the pasture of Extremadura, to then skirt the Sierra de Aracena and reach the Andalusian capital by the Sierra Norte de Sevilla.
The mathematics come out: leaving with the full battery (that allows to travel 270 kilometers), it would be enough to refuel only once in the trip and arrive at sunset to take some canes in the Alameda de Hércules. It is not like this.
If many drivers of combustion vehicles talk about "hearing (and even understanding) their engine", with the electric there is also a need to fine-tune the senses to perceive their current. The Nissan Leaf has a battery with 40 kWh (Kilowatt hours) capacity (the energy you can store in it); that is, deposit. As with gasoline, when the tank is full, it does not always reach the same level. In addition, we must bear in mind that all the energy of the car comes from there: that of the lights, that of the screen with GPS; that of the radio; the one of heating; that of heaters on the back; the one of the sensors that it has in the rear-view mirrors, in the front and rear; the one of recharging the mobile in the lighter … All. And on a long-distance electric car trip, every kilowatt matters: they are kilometers.
In November the Government proposed to establish by law that in 2040 finalize the sale and registration of combustion and hybrid vehicles. A proposal similar to that proposed by countries such as the United Kingdom or France to reduce pollution levels. "In 2017, the sector with the highest level of emissions in Spain was transport: 26%; followed by the generation of electricity: 20% ", according to the National Inventory of Emissions to the Atmosphere 2019 of the Government. Last year, the car fleet was distributed among 59% gasoline; 35% diesel; 6% hybrid and electric. Based on that possible norm, within 21 years, that distribution would have to change: mobility should be mainly electrical.
The traffic moves fluid under the warm, though wintry, sun of Madrid. The scoreboard of the on-board computer shines: 243 kilometers. It is charged at 98%. The trip has been divided into three sections: Madrid-Talavera de la Reina (108 kilometers); Talavera-Mérida (237 kilometers); and Mérida-Sevilla (190 kilometers). Each of the stops coincides with a Nissan dealer, where they have refueling pumps.
Electric power (and its supply) reigns in the contemporary world. This is evidenced by the anxiety caused by seeing 1% on the mobile screen; loaders in public transport, airports, or bars; external batteries getting smaller and smaller at the same time powerful. Although finding an electrical outlet is easy, not all serve the same purpose to charge an electric car.
There are three ways. The most slow and accessible is the conventional, in a two-pin plug. In 12 or 14 hours it charges the whole battery. The semi-speed (with a larger plug), which is done on poles, which appear in dealerships, in municipal parking lots, in supermarkets, in hotels and restaurants … Recharge in about six hours. And the rapid that in just over an hour charges up to 98% of the battery. To use the slow and the semi-short one must carry two essential cables to travel without being thrown away. Exactly that happened on the previous trip, in November, when the idea of the report arose. A few days before, the Government announced its proposal to end the sale of combustion engines in 2040.
On that occasion, the trip ended with a crane driver, a photographer and a journalist at the Parador de Oropesa, where they had a slow charger. The car, rented in one of the two car rental companies that offer the service, did not include a universal adapter. With 10 kilometers on the battery and no possibility of recharging, the car ended in Toledo. Travel time: 9 hours and 15 minutes. Departure time: 17.15. Return time: 02.30.
On the route two electric stations appeared, one in Castilla-La Mancha and another in Extremadura, with jets for multiple entrances, still could not offer energy to their customers. "A permit is needed [de distribuidor de energía] of the Board and we are still waiting for it, "said one of the workers. Two and a half months later they remain inactive. The law proposed by the Executive would also force the installation of electric recharging points in service stations, in different terms and according to their sales volume. The shortage of electric stations is limiting the possibilities of traveling with an electric car.
Aware of this problem, vehicle manufacturers are creating a national distribution network: they are installing supply posts not only in a semi-fast way but also quickly. "The idea is to offer it in all the dealers," they say from Nissan. Between Madrid and Seville there are several.
It's 12.40. The clear sky illuminates a polygon on the outskirts of Talavera de la Reina. It has a post. It is not fast. In reserve, 108. Accounts do not come out. It seems that between 20% and 25% of electricity has dissipated. Actually, it has been consumed. The wind causes more energy to be spent. The slopes, even more. The heating subtracts.
Almost three hours have passed. The deposit marks 205 kilometers. It is not enough to get to Mérida. There is a fast charger. One detail: dealers have a schedule. From Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. and from 3.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays only in the morning. Mental note: leave early and avoid traveling on weekends. At 15:40 the route continues. You have to look for an extra stop. The energy does not come.
It starts at sunset at La Majada restaurant, near Trujillo. A group of friends takes gin tonics at the tables on the terrace. The bottom of parking the car is recharging. The place was not announced on the road: it appeared in the Electromaps app, which geolocates nearby charging points (the application calculates that there are around 2,800 assets in Spain). It is collaborative: the users themselves mark the points and describe them. It works, but it is better to call the destination to check if it can be recharged. In La Majada you can.
In 100 minutes the load reaches 82 kilometers. But until Merida – the next point to recharge – is 89. You have to save energy. Climate control off. The screen, where you can see the GPS or energy flows, better in fused to black. The radio … Since the temperature will be ambient, unless there is music. It's 7:00. The dealer with the fast loader closes at 19.30. "Part of the sales team usually stays until later," they say over the phone.
"Low battery. Look for a cargo stand, "says the car in the form of a message on the screen and giving a slight braking just as it reaches the loading point of Merida. Nerves. On the road, the car can recover part of the energy if it is allowed to brake alone, playing with the neutral and with the direct one (the forward march). In an hour and a half, the battery fills up and marks 98%: 240 kilometers. There are 50 left for Sevilla. The radio is still on. The lights, obligatorily. There is energy: heating, too.
It's 22.30: 7 degrees in the northern sierra of Seville. The hills and the cold have consumed part of the extra kilometers. The road marker moves at the same pace as that of the car's screen. Just over an hour later, at 23.40, the car still has 10 kilometers. Is loading. Tomorrow we have to make the return. In total, 12 hours and 40 minutes to cover 520 kilometers. Yes, zero emissions and zero euros to recharge the Deposit.