Opinion: have electric cars brought back the romance of 1920s road-tripping? | Top Gear
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Tuesday 26th September

Opinion: have electric cars brought back the romance of 1920s road-tripping?

Time to go on an adventure... an electrically powered adventure!

Published: 18 Sep 2023

I am a sucker for a Twenties roadtrip memoir.

If it involves a couple of foolhardy aristos, a car called the Pompidou-Whippet Munificent or some such, terrible roads, and an amusing episode where the hapless travellers must wrestle a village’s sturdiest hog in exchange for a gourd of fuel, you’d better believe I’m buying that yellowing old paperback from Oxfam.

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Roadtripping in the Roaring Twenties was just so damned romantic. The adventure! The jeopardy! Casting forth on a dusty road, no clue what lay ahead, or how many seconds before you spluttered to a halt at the roadside. What wasn’t to love?

Alas, in this modern age of reliable cars, Google Maps and the Starbucks ordering app, there’s no mystery, no romance left to roadtripping, in Europe and the US at least.

Or so I thought. Because I’m currently planning our summer family holiday, driving from the UK to a favourite corner in the French Alps, about 700 miles door to door. Over the years, we’ve got the pitstop strategy of this trip down to a fine art. Brim car with petrol and sandwiches at home, one 10-minute fuel stop (and bathroom break) halfway across France, that’s your lot. No jeopardy to speak of, so long as you’ve had the foresight to breed children with sturdy bladders.

However. This year, for the first time, we’re tackling the trip in an electric car: Top Gear’s long-term Skoda Enyaq vRS. Official range, a respectable 320-odd miles. Real world, call it 250 tops. But it won’t be tops. We’ll be doing French autoroute speeds, using aircon, and we’ll have a trio of bicycles on the roof adding drag, because hiring bikes on location is weak and unpatriotic.

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By my calculations, we could be looking at a range of 150 miles. Which, sticking to an efficient charge strategy with a bit of wriggle room, would mean recharging every 100 miles or so. So rather than one 10-minute stop en route, we’re looking at maybe six stops of, say, 45mins apiece? I hope I’m being pessimistic.

But that’s the point, I genuinely don’t know. The jeopardy!

OK, so it’s not quite crossing the Great Basin Desert in a Rickenbacker Sedan with only a mohair blanket, a Georgian duelling pistol and the 13th Earl of Winchilsea for company. But it’s a leap into – well, if not the unknown, at least the significantly inconvenient.

Naturally, I am deliriously excited for this retro inconvenience. I have an actual physical map – remember those? – dotted with stickers denoting fast charge stations and miles per kWh calculations. I have learned the French for “excuse me good sir, where are your very fastest electrons?” I have an emergency whistle, because it feels like that might come in handy.

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It’s going to be complicated. It’s going to be harrowing.

I literally cannot wait. The romantic, roll the dice Twenties roadtrip is back, and this time the issues are mostly plug based!

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