Power cut: our long-term Skoda Enyaq vRS is refusing to charge
Never a dull month in the world of Top Gear’s ever-eventful Enyaq vRS.
While in the care of Ollie Marriage – who, after recently fritzing a Range Rover’s power steering, I’m beginning to suspect is coursing with some kind of bad electrical juju, and should probably have his aerodynamic head encased in a Faraday cage – the Skoda decided, on a whim, that it didn’t do recharging any more. Cable attached, no electrons incoming. Which is quite bad news, what with it being an EV.
Nothing Ollie and his electrostatic bonce did could convince the Enyaq to charge its battery, so off it went (the Enyaq, not Ollie’s head) to Skoda HQ on the back of a low-loader. The problem was diagnosed as a fault with the charging system’s control unit, described by Skoda as ‘not a known issue’. Told you: Marriage’s weird electrical juju.
Anyhow, a replacement control unit has since been ordered and fitted, and seems to have done the trick: the Enyaq appears back to full health, happily accepting electrons. Which is quite good news, what with it being an EV.
The vRS has, however, been removed from Ollie’s possession, I suspect to stop him going full Basil Fawlty with a branch on its bonnet. It’s best for the both of them. Sometimes you have to accept a relationship isn’t working.
So for the next few months, it’s me running the rule over the intriguingly green Skoda. And my early impressions of the vRS are rather better than Ollie’s. (Admittedly they could only have been worse if it had defrauded me of thousands of dollars and then run off with my wife.)
Yes, OK, the Enyaq’s ride is a bit thumpy – 21-inch wheels, a 2.2-tonne kerbweight and British tarmac will do that – but on the inside it’s impressively uncluttered and spacious: bootspace is a whole lot more generous than I’d feared, given that coupe silhouette and fat 80kWh battery under the floor.
And at least the vRS doesn’t look like another generic soap-bar EV. From the Liberace-chandelier grille through those giant aero wheels to the pinched rear end, there’s a lot of design going on. Wearing that Hyper Green paint especially, everyone’s got an opinion on the Enyaq.
(For what it’s worth, I’m all over the colour: if you’re going to go green, why not go really green? And it is really green: has there been a more outrageous factory colour from a mainstream manufacturer in recent years? Answers below, please.)
These opinions seem to split evenly between ‘love it’ and ‘hate it with a blind, vehement passion’. At least three of my neighbours fall strongly into the latter camp.
Speaking of neighbours: because I am one of those terrace-dwelling commoners condemned to park on the street, I’ll also using the Enyaq to explore an increasingly pertinent question: can you live with an EV if you don’t have home charging?
Of course, the answer to this question will depend on where that home is. If, for example, you live in a terraced house on the Canadian steppe, electric car ownership might be a bit of a challenge. But I live in a medium-size town in the south-east of England: surely if public EV infrastructure can work for anyone outside London, it should be able to work for me?
Early evidence suggests it’s not a done deal. We’ve no genuinely fast charger within a 20-mile radius, and snazzy lamppost charging still hasn’t made its way beyond the M25. But a few more 50kW chargers have sprung up around town in recent months, a couple adjacent to cafes serving decent coffee. Which means you can get an (expensive) 20-to-80 per cent charge done in an hour or so, while answering a bunch of emails and developing the caffeine jitters.
No, obviously it’s not as convenient as adding 500 miles of range in three minutes at your local petrol station, but I’m not sure that’s the way to frame the issue. If we’re waiting for EV rejuicing to become as effortless as fossil fuel rejuicing, we’re going to be waiting a long time.
Instead, maybe the relevant question is: can EV infrastructure work for most of us, most of the time? It’s heading in the right direction, but man it could really do with heading there a bit quicker.
The eagle-eyed among you will also note the Enyaq has acquired a trio of roof-mounted bike-holders. And that’s because I’m planning to test Europe’s EV network (and the Skoda’s bootspace) TO THE RAGGED EDGE with a big cross-continental cycle adventure. Here’s hoping the Enyaq’s electric gremlins have been banished. I’ll be keeping Marriage’s plasma-ball head well clear, just in case.