How far can I drive this thing? Mercedes’ Concept EQ app battles range anxiety

Range anxiety is the number one reason motorists cite for not considering an electric model as their next car. We live in a world where a laptop running out of battery can ruin a business meeting for good, and a cell phone with zero-percent charge can leave us stranded five miles away from the precise middle of nowhere. Why complicate our lives and add our car to the equation?

The new Mercedes-Benz EQ Ready app puts range anxiety to the test by monitoring a user’s trips, providing information such as how much electricity they’d actually use, and whether they’d really run out of power before reaching their final destination. We tried it out for a week.

The basics

The app is free to download from the Play Store or the App Store. Install it, set it up, and you’re ready to go for a spin.

The EQ Ready app makes dull statistics more meaningful by showing users exactly where an electric car’s kilowatts can take them.

There are two ways to record a trip. The software can record trips automatically by detecting when you’re in a moving car, or users can choose to manually start and stop the recording process. We selected the first option for the sake of simplicity, and noted it records trips with almost perfect accuracy. It runs discreetly in the background without interfering with other applications such as Google Maps, and it didn’t drain our Sony Xperia Z3’s battery. Imagine how monumentally ironic that would be.

Users are asked to set the outside temperature and choose a car they want to take for a virtual test drive. The highlight of the app is the Concept EQ, an all-electric crossover unveiled last year at the Paris Auto Show. It’s advertised as having up to 310 miles of range, and its lithium-ion battery can take 62 miles’ worth of electricity in just 10 minutes when it’s plugged into a DC fast charger.

The Concept EQ is not in production yet, though we’re told it’s more or less right around the corner along with other EQ-badged electric and hydrogen-powered cars. We’ll cut Mercedes some slack; not having anything to show except a design study and theoretical performance figures never stopped Tesla from selling thousands of cars.

Other cars available in the app include the hardtop and convertible variants of the smart fortwo electric drive, the smart forfour electric drive (a model not sold in the United States), as well as a handful of the brand’s plug-in hybrid models like the C350e and the E350e. We selected the Concept EQ, set our phone down in the center console, and went for a drive.

To charge or not to charge?

Driving to the local airport had virtually no effect on our car’s range. The 5.4-mile trip required just 1.23 kWh of electricity, which lowered the battery pack’s charge from 89 to 88 percent. That’s a rounding error at best.

mercedes benz eq ready app features how it works ap 2560x1707 4

We could keep the car plugged in at the airport and come back to a full charge, so we would be able to run errands with our electric car for hours on end before heading home and not run out of juice.

An underpowered Italian moped would have admittedly been capable of getting us to the airport. We tested the EQ Ready app again from London’s Heathrow airport to the English capital. It was an 18.6-mile trip that took us nearly an hour. That means we drove at an average speed of just under 20 mph, and it wasn’t even rush hour yet.

The Mercedes Concept EQ has up to 310 miles of range, and its battery can take 62 miles’ worth of electricity in just 10 minutes.

We left the airport with a full charge, and got to our destination near the King’s Cross train station with a 93-percent charge. The battery dispensed about 4.5 kWh of electricity.

After a few days of using the app, the huge battery pack made range anxiety seem like a bad hangover from a different era where electric cars boasted a double-digit driving range at best, but a longer trip to a relatively rural part of France to pick up furniture made it seem all too real again.

Charging stations are few and far between outside of urban and semi-urban areas, and the few scattered across the countryside are typically located in exceptionally random places like right outside of a small pharmacy. Checking out cough drops for 20 minutes doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

Lessons learned

“310 miles of range” is a vague, generic figure for most motorists. The EQ Ready app makes dull statistics more meaningful by showing users exactly where an electric car’s kilowatts can take them. It’s important to note the information provided is a ballpark estimate at best.

mercedes benz eq ready app features how it works ap 2560x1707 3 1280x854

The software didn’t take into account the extra weight we had in the trunk when we went to pick up our furniture, for example. Adding 350 pounds to a car would certainly reduce range in real-life driving conditions.

In addition to putting range anxiety to the test, Mercedes’ EQ Ready app highlights the importance of establishing a comprehensive network of charging stations. Automakers are going to great lengths to bring convenient, long-range electric cars to the masses, and the infrastructure – be it privately- or publicly-funded – needs to catch up.

That’s because your mileage may vary, just like it does when you drive a gasoline- or diesel-powered car and the EQ Ready app reflects that. You’re not going to get anywhere near the gas mileage listed by the United States government if you drive full-throttle up a hill in a hot, sweaty part of Nevada with the A/C on. The same logic applies to electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

The difference is that you can stop almost on a whim and refuel in about five minutes at any of the thousands of gas stations scattered across the planet. Driving an electric car requires more careful planning because refueling takes much longer, and the network of charging stations is evidently still in its infancy in many parts of the world; including the one we tested the app in.

Cars

Mercedes wants to turn your car into a comfortable shopping mall on wheels

Mercedes-Benz designed its MBUX infotainment system with e-commerce in mind. Motorists can upgrade compatible cars via an over-the-air software updating system, but the brand wants to take this technology to the next level.
Cars

Adventurous and electric, Porsche’s second station wagon will arrive in 2020

The Mission E Cross Turismo concept Porsche unveiled during the 2018 Geneva Auto Show will morph into a production model tentatively named Taycan Cross Turismo. This 600-horsepower electric station wagon will arrive in showrooms by 2021.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: The Tesla Model Y takes on the Tesla Model 3

Tesla expanded its lineup with a fourth car named Model Y. It's an electric crossover positioned as a more spacious alternative to the Model 3. The two cars share about 75 percent of their components, but they're aimed at different buyers.
Cars

Karma Automotive continues clawing back from the brink with three new cars

Karma Automotive will bring three new cars to the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, including a long overdue redesigned version of its Revero plug-in hybrid and an all-electric concept car.
Cars

Bentley’s 542-horsepower Continental GT V8 is the best kind of downsizing

The Bentley Continental GT V8 has fewer cylinders than its W12 sibling, but Bentley expects it to offer better gas mileage and more agile handling. The V8's top speed of 198 mph is also pretty darn fast.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Cars

Nvidia’s new simulator brings virtual learning to autonomous vehicle developers

Nvidia introduced a simulator for testing autonomous vehicle technologies. Drive Constellation is a cloud-based platform technology vendors can use to validate systems efficiently, safely, and much faster than with vehicles on real roads.
Cars

Tesla wirelessly gives the Model 3 a 5-percent increase in power

Tesla again showed the potential of its innovative over-the-air software updating system by making the Model 3 five percent more powerful via a firmware update. The Performance model gained 23 horsepower.
Cars

Fiat wants to transform the cheeky 500 city car into an urban Tesla

Fiat is finally preparing a new 500. Scheduled to make its debut in early 2020, the retro-chic city car will go electric in part to comply with looming emissions regulations.
Cars

Say goodbye to Uber for good: Here's how to cut ties with the ridesharing service

If you thought that deleting the Uber app would also delete your account, think again. You'll have to deactivate your account, then wait 30 days in order to do so. Here, we outlined how to delete your Uber account once and for all.
Cars

FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD: How the wheels that turn change the way you drive

Let's face it, you've likely heard front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive mentioned before in some context or another. But what do these terms mean, especially in terms of performance? We’ve got the answers.
Cars

Shift it yourself: How to drive stick in a manual transmission car

Driving a manual transmission car might seem intimidating at first, but it's not as difficult as you might think. Knowing how to operate this type of gearbox will serve you well. Here's everything you need to know to learn how to drive…
Product Review

Who needs a Range Rover? BMW’s X7 has better tech and just as much luxury

The 2019 BMW X7 is the German automaker’s long-overdue entry into the full-size luxury SUV segment. Packing three rows of seats and plenty of tech, can the new BMW take on Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover?
Cars

Waymo boosts robo-taxi plans with new service center in Arizona

Waymo has announced plans for a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that will help to service, maintain, and grow its fleet of autonomous Waymo One cars. The vehicles operate as part of the company's robo-taxi ridesharing service.