The Jaguar I-PACE the Right Car for the City, the Wrong Car for the Apocalypse

I am not a fan of electric cars, mainly due to the rabid fanaticism of their cultlike fanboys, many of who are other automotive writers drinking from the cup of Lord Elon. While many of my colleagues from New York and LA write about how the future is electric, I think they forget that large portions of the country's population aren't riding subways or electric scooters to work. But when Jaguar offered me the I-PACE to replace the XE P300 I had been driving, I thought it was time to jump into the world of living with an electric car. I have driven several electrics over the years, but a quick run around a track or a spin at a press event doesn't really give you much to go on. For this test, I would be using the I-PACE as my only car for a full week to see if the electrified lifestyle was one that would work in the Texas countryside.

The first hurdle was the trip back home. Another journalist and I were in Arlington for meetings and had arranged to swap out the excellent XE for the I-PACE at a local BBQ restaurant, 110 miles from home. Now according to the spec sheet, I had a maximum of 234 miles of range and it was showing over 220 on the dash, so I shouldn't have any problem getting back to Waco. First impressions of the I-PACE is it is one of the best looking cars on the road, not just EV, I know they call it an SUV, but feels more like a sporty hatchback. With 394hp and permanent four-wheel drive, a low center of gravity, and big brakes, it drives more like a sports car than a sports utility vehicle. 

We left the DFW area and headed towards Waco, our drive was 110 miles, and according to the dash the I-PACE had 223 miles of range, but the range shown on the screen is based on the best possible driving scenario, by the time we made it to Waco, our 110 miles had used up 166 miles of range. Now because I am not an owner of an electric car, I don't have a built-in home charger, which can cost between $800-$1,500 to install in your home. So as instructed by the delivery driver, I pulled it into the garage and plugged it into the standard outlet with the charger that was included with the car. The charge time to get back to fully charged using a 110v outlet was over 59 hours. Even with a home charger the time to fully recharge the I-PACE would be nearly 12 hours. 

I opened up the suggested app on my phone to locate a fast charger near me, there was only one fast-charging station from a company called Electrify America in all of Waco. They had chosen a Walmart parking lot in a more sketchy part of town to install their rapid charger, but seeing as I had plans to go to College Station which was 88 miles away, my choice was to wait for roughly two days while the car charged at home, find a public charger that would still take several hours, or head over and hang out in a Walmart parking lot in an $86,000 luxury car for around an hour and a half. 

Needless to say, I headed to Walmart where I found four of the six chargers weren't working, thankfully no one else was there so I was able to plug-in, swipe my credit card, and leave to do some pandemic shopping. While I picked up one of the last bundles of toilet paper and a case of water I received a text alert that the car had disconnected from the charger and I had 10 minutes to move the car before being charged automatic penalties, ahh the convenience of modernity. After finding a Walmart employee to watch my cart full of precious commodities, I made my way out to the furthest reaches of the parking lot so I could deal with the broken charger. Now, all of the chargers were out of service and I needed to call a 1-800 number for help as the machine wouldn't release the charger plug from the car and they had to send a signal to restart the charger allowing me to unplug it before moving to another charger and starting the entire charging process over again. 

Back inside Walmart, I had time to kill, so I shopped for other key essentials like Powerbars, a hip holster for my Walther, there really isn't anything you can't get at Walmart, and a new bike helmet. Exiting Walmart, the plan is to head to College Station (roughly 90 miles away) to see my fiancé Jennifer and to drop off some of my newly acquired supplies to her parents. Jag loaded, it's time to unplug and see how much I have saved by not having to buy gasoline this week...Ummm yeah about that. Using an Electrify America fast charger cost me more than double what an average full tank of gas costs in my BMW. Coming in at just over $60 to get to an 80% charge, and it only took an hour and a half, a phone call, and moving the car three times since the chargers were broken, and running in and out of the store. So far, it looks like electric cars are just for people with too much time or too much money.

As I get back on the road, I start to think about the amount of time and planning that driving the I-PACE has thus far taken up, and the fact that amid a global emergency the limitations of a car like this become apparent. Had I got to Waco and my fiancé called and there was an emergency of some kind, I wasn't just an hour away, I was at minimum 3 hours away if I could get to a fast charger. In fact, had I been driving my BMW or even the Jaguar XE, my day would have consisted of stopping in Waco for gas and then driving on to College Station. Of course, then I wouldn't have a new holster and the valuable Charmin Ultra Soft in the trunk, but I would have had hours more free time. The range anxiety from the drive down from Dallas was bad, but it wasn't anything compared to the anxiety of knowing that if there was an emergency I would be stuck for hours waiting to get enough charge to get to my loved ones. 

The main issue is the massive lack of infrastructure for electric cars outside of very specific locations and uses. While Waco has both the Electrify America fast charger and a Tesla Supercharger, College Station didn't offer any fast charging options. Although Tesla says they plan to add a Supercharger in College Station sometime in 2020, that doesn't do drivers of other electric cars any good.

Over the weekend while I am in College Station the pandemic worsens, governments across the country start closing down non-essential businesses and banning sitting in bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. That one minor upside of being able to pull into a coffee shop and work on your laptop while your car charges up outside for a few hours, that is no longer an option. Jumping on the app to find a place to charge the majority of the Level II chargers at dealerships or hotels, which means they are off-limits to the general public. I did find publicly accessible chargers at Texas A&M University, but I have to admit that I was surprised that an Engineering University with an autonomous vehicle program didn't have a fast charger somewhere on campus. Keeping that in mind, we only drive the car a few times to pick up dinner and to just take it for a drive so Jennifer could see how it rides, plugging it in each night to add what little charge I could.

Ironically Jennifer really liked the I-PACE, in fact, out of all the press cars I have had over the last few years this is one of only two that she really said she could see herself driving. She loved the styling, the space, the visibility, the comfort, and technology, but with her sometimes weekly trips to Austin, which is about a 200-mile round trip, it wouldn't really work for her. The complications of driving an electric car during a pandemic were accelerated when the company that manages the press fleet for Jaguar reached out to let me know they needed the car back a day early, as their county was issuing a more intense lockdown. This meant I needed to have the Jag back in Waco and charged enough to get back to Dallas by the next afternoon. I would have to plan an entire day around an 80-mile trip.

I got up early and headed out to get enough charge to be able to drive back to Waco where I could at least fast charge the I-PACE and return it to the fleet company drivers. I headed over to the Texas A&M campus, where I had to enter a paid parking garage to access the chargers. Now, these chargers were run by a different company, which didn't take a credit card like the Electrify America charger, this charger required me to download an app. After downloading the app, filling out an extensive profile, entering a payment method, and hooking up the car to the charger, the charger didn't work. The screen just said error and required I call customer service. Seeing as this was the only charger that had a working screen of the three, I called. After 15 minutes on the phone, the gentleman on the other end of the line was able to restart the charger, and my charging experience had begun. I needed to go around 80 miles so I assumed that 120 miles of range would get me get to that amount of charge would take four hours. With restaurants and coffee shops closed, I went for a walk around the historic university campus, answered emails on my phone, and listened to two different podcasts. 

Back on the road, four and a half hours into my one hour drive, I notice that the range is dropping much faster than it should. Between College Station and Waco, there aren't many gas stations, let alone charging stations, meaning I have to make it to the fast charger at the sketchy Walmart or call a tow truck. I turn off everything, including the radio and AC, I even unplug my phone out of panic. The instrument cluster keeps reminding me that I need to find a charging station soon, with 7 miles of range left on the screen, I pull into the Walmart parking lot and plug-in. I have two hours to kill while the car charges so I head into Walmart to shop for more pandemic essentials and reflect upon the joys of the electric car. 

As a car the I-PACE is amazing, when I wasn't stressed about getting to my destination, I enjoyed driving it. The power is instant and smooth, like most other EVs I have driven, but Jaguar did manage to capture a little bit of that sporting soul thanks to selectable drive mode and adaptive damping suspension. Switch the I-PACE into 'Dynamic Mode' and the Jaguar sports car heritage really comes out, heavier steering, more responsive throttle, just know that you are only going to enjoy a short spirited drive. Switch it back to Comfort or Eco mode and it returns to the perfect daily driver. The styling is amazing, Jaguar didn't go out of its way to look like an eco-car, it looks like an exotic luxury sedan should, and people complimented it for its looks first and many were surprised to find out it was electric. This test car came with the optional 22-inch wheels, Caesium Blue exterior paint, and front fog lamps. The interior is minimalist yet still luxurious, making great use of space, with easy to use screens and intuitive placement of buttons and switches. 

If the I-PACE was offered as a Hybrid or even with just a 2.0 Turbo four-cylinder it would be high on my list of cars to replace the Jeep as our SUV in the garage. But sadly spending a week with the I-PACE just confirmed that full-electric cars like this are the perfect 3rd car for wealthy urbanites. Even if you aren't living through some apocalyptic scenario, a car shouldn't complicate or limit how you live your life, it should enhance it. While the average American only may drive 29 miles a day, what about those times you want to drive across the country, you want to take the back roads, or you don't want to plan your entire trip around where the next charging station is? Perhaps this is why 78% of electric car owners told AAA that they still own gas or diesel-powered vehicles as in addition to their EV.

In the end, I got the car back to the fleet team from Dallas, my 80-mile drive to Waco took up seven hours of my day, and I still had to drive back to College Station. While I do know that having a home charger would make life a lot easier, I would still have to find a place to charge when out on the road and currently, the infrastructure just doesn't exist in rural communities. So if you are looking for a 2nd or 3rd vehicle to drive around town and charge at home, the I-PACE is about as good as it gets for an electric; but, if you want compact, stylish, Jaguar SUV, and you happen to live in the countryside or like going on long drives, buy the new 2020 E-Pace.