Review: Taking the Polestar 2 on a winter road trip

I don't own a car, I don't especially want one, so why would I do a car review?

Because there are still people who wonder whether you can do a "proper road trip" with an electric vehicle and I figured I'd drop my two cents here on what it's like driving a Chinese-made EV to the Alps and back.

TLDR: it's no biggie, these cars and the infrastructure are ready for showtime (given a few minor tweaks). There's absolutely no reason to burn dinosaur juice to cross the continent anymore.

So in February the kids and I went skiing. The last time we did so was in 2020 (the year COVID started, remember?) and back then we hired a big old gas-guzzler to drive down south from Berlin.

That just didn't seem right anymore. The world keeps heating up, last year was the warmest on record, and we didn't feel comfortable adding even more carbon to the atmosphere. So we went electric.

Specifically, we splashed out on a Polestar 2, made by Chinese company Geely that also owns Volvo. It's a sleek and sporty SUV and probably a bit bigger than we needed but we did have plenty of gear to take and a long drive. About 700 kilometers down to the Austrian border, to be precise.

After loading up and buckling down, we gently glid out of the car park onto the Autobahn. The kids were comfortable, the car handled well, though it was a bit bumpy on the occasional pothole. What surprised me was how unexpectedly loud the car was given that it didn't have any gasoline explosions pumping the pistons - somehow the wind was very noisy.

Balancing that out, the Polestar is mercfully free of unnecessary beeps and doesn't issue audible warnings every time you change lanes in bad lighting conditions, something many vehicles these days can't resist.

Why is the above relevant to long-distance journeys? Because the more time you spend in a car, the more annoying it is to constantly trigger unnecessary alarms.

The bigger issue for all EV drivers, however, is charging. Would we be able to make it all the way without wasting a lot of time topping up the battery or - worse - getting stranded? This nearly happened to me last year with an old BMW i3 that wouldn't connect to Italian chargers. Nightmare!

We didn't want to risk that happening on the way there so booked an overnight pit-stop about halfway. Nevertheless, we did charge the car once after about two hours on the road and noticed that it didn't charge at anywhere near the speed we expected. We soon figured out why: the Polestar 2 only charges at high-speed if the battery is less than two-thirds full. Getting from 10% to 60% is easy, but after that the charging speed drops markedly.

From about 85% onward it slows to a crawl and is pointless if you're traveling far with limited time. The solution: just put in more stops.

We found that wasn't a problem, and that we didn't have to worry about dropping to 10% battery. There were always free chargers at the sites we stopped so after a while we tried to eek out the battery far beyond the calculated distance. This is pretty easy if you drive defensively, stay below 130 km/h, make sure to use recuperation and don't turn on the heating. The downside: it got pretty cold in the car. Not something I'd ever experienced in an ICE vehicle, where much of the fossil fuel ends up as waste heat that gives you that cozy feeling inside (until you realize you're also cooking the planet).

It was hard to get under 20kWh/100k, which is a function of the car's weight I guess. My hope would be that we eventually get to a stage where family-size cars can do 100k on less than 10kWh. That would mean I could effectively drive to Austria and back on the annual production from my balcony power plant.

Having figured out the best way to drive and charge the rest of the journey, including the return, was a breeze.

I did have one more gripe: the B-column was positioned in such a way that it blocked my view of approaching vehicles when trying to overtake. But presumably that's a problem Polestar engineers can fix in model 3.

If they do then it won’t be in time to make ski trips in an EV worthwhile though. That’s because there probably won’t be enough snow in future. But that’s another post.20240204_polestar2

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