Don’t get a puncture
I should blame the weather. Or the meteorologist. We were traveling around the southwest of France, enjoying the pleasures of a rental electric Peugeot (e-208) and had spotted an interesting blues concert in a small community of St Michel de Vax.
To the disappointment of everyone who showed up, including us, it was canceled at the last minute, due to rain forecasts that never happened.
And that’s when we made the decision to go somewhere else, and a series of events that led to us being stranded on the side of a small road with a big flat tire, dusk falling and having left papers (and emergency numbers) where we were staying.
Electric cars don’t come with spare tires, not even rental tires, which leaves you vulnerable in situations like this. We walked the 2km to our accommodations in fading light, and tried as best we could when we contacted the rental company and their emergency responders, getting out and replacing the wheel was not an option .
So a truck came to pick up the car, and a day later a taxi to take us back 100kms from the beautifully named (and beautifully located) Saint Antonin Noble Val to Toulouse to pick up a replacement. Everyone was very nice about it and just following the rules it seemed. But it seemed like a monumental waste of time for everyone.
So much the better, then, we had subscribed to a character from the French cartoons of Asterix, Assurancetourix, or full insurance coverage. Always do it. (For Asterix aficionados, Assurancetourix is the French name for the bard known in English versions of the cartoon as Cacofonix or Malacoustix).
It was however the biggest and really the only sore point of our 10 days of driving the electric Peugeot e-208 along the rivers and through the hills of South West France, a beautiful area crossed by rivers Aveyron, Lot and Gascoyne.
It was a last minute decision. Rome and Italy had beckoned me after a brief stay in Germany, but flights and accommodation were very expensive. So we decided on a train to France (a story in itself about deteriorating German efficiency) and wondered if it would be easy to hire an EV in regional France at short notice. Not difficult at all, it turned out.
We arrived in Toulouse by train, ducked around the corner to Sixt and ended up with the e-208. This was particularly interesting to me because the car I had driven for over a decade before going electric with a Tesla Model 3 was a Peugeot 207, and the e-208 could be one of Peugeot’s first electric offerings in Australia of some time in 2023.
My Sydney mechanic thinks the fossil-fuel turbocharged 207 was one of the best cars he’s ever driven, and admittedly it had amazing torque and handling for what our godson dubbed “the boy diesel”. But he got old and grumpy, and started looking more and more like an angry tractor. And its interiors melted away in the Australian sun, but not as quickly as the Model 3.
How different would an electric version of the 208, successor to the 207, be for the driver?
Well, from the outside, not much. Same body shape. And inside, not much change either. The dashboard and instrumentation have evolved over the decade since my 207 was made, but the e-208 isn’t much different from the modern petrol version.
In “eco” and “normal” mode, it doesn’t quite have the excitement that made the fossil-fuel versions of the Peugeot 207 and 208 so coveted, especially in its home market, but in “sport” mode, the -208 causes it to have fizziness.
The thing is, we were on vacation, and in the South West of France, just about every corner you cruise presents another perfect view. It’s best to take things slow and enjoy the ride, the views, and the peace and quiet.
What the electric Peugeot offered was a small size, perfect for small roads and the sometimes steep and narrow roads that lead to hilltop villages and fortified castles, and the peace and quiet to enjoy the peace and the view. And when it came to hitting the highway, as we did when driving the car back to the airport, it had no problem driving at 130 km/h.
Its base stats are: a 50kWh battery for a rated range of around 330km, but in reality probably around 20% less. And it can go from 0 to 100 km/h in about eight seconds, which isn’t bad.
Range was not an issue. We didn’t cover much more than 150km in a day, and it turns out that in the southwest of France, there are charging stations pretty much everywhere, and few other cars use them.
Most of them are not fast or super fast chargers, but AC recharges that can offer between 10 and 20 kWh and at reasonable rates (see above).
Slower charging was no problem. If you’re willing to take a walk to the top of the castle or stop for lunch, it’s just super convenient (and that means parking is free).
And if we were still out of charge when we got back, we simply plugged it into the power socket in our accommodation. (But there were also some local charging options).
Sixt gave us a magnetic card linked to our bank account, so there was no problem downloading new apps every time you encountered another charger. (It would have been difficult anyway because my Iphone fell 110m from the top of one of these castles, in Bruniquel, never to be seen or heard from again).
One thing we know is that it saved us a lot of money. Gasoline prices, like everywhere, are high in France, around 1.6 euros per litre. Electricity prices in France are heavily subsidized (at considerable cost to the government), so using electricity rather than liquid fuels is a major saving.
Our taxi driver, one of the first in the region to opt for a Tesla Model 3, has covered more than 300,000 km in three years of using his car and estimates that he saves €1,000 per month on fuel costs, totaling €36,000 – almost the original cost of the vehicle. This is roughly the same savings ratio I calculate for my Tesla in Australia.
He was going to buy a Mustang, but after a conversation with a friend, he delved into the matter and decided on a Tesla. He negotiates his sale and is about to buy a newer model, maybe a Y.
“Everyone thought I was crazy. They said ‘it’s too rich’, but then they spend that much on a petrol or diesel car,” our taxi driver said. “It’s expensive, but cheap, and I use autopilot a lot, and I still have all my points.”
Read also: Peugeot postpones the Australian launch of the e208 and e-2008, promises an all-electric van
(Note: the author paid the full cost of renting and charging the car).
Giles Parkinson is the founder and editor of The Driven, and also edits and founds the Renew Economy and One Step Off The Grid websites. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years, is a former economics editor and associate editor of the Australian Financial Review, and owns a Tesla Model 3.