Driving an EV long distance

MG ZS EV at Dorrigo

Bruce Newton

Posted September 15, 2023

How does the 2023 MG ZS EV mid-size SUV fare over a typical Australian family road trip?

Australian families love SUVs and they love a holiday road trip. They’re also starting to buy battery electric vehicles in significant numbers.

So what could be better than combining all three into one? Let’s hit the highways and byways on one of Australia's most iconic road trips and see how we fare.

2023 MG ZS EV review | RACV

MG ZS EV range test on a road trip

The road trip route

The drive from Sydney to Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast is relatively straight forward in an EV because of the frequency of chargers on Highway One.

However, take the inland route up the New England Highway and not only is the drive longer, but there are also less chargers on offer spread more widely apart.

In the interests of EV research and because we love a challenge, this was the route taken.

The car

For this drive the 2023 MG ZS EV Long Range medium SUV was selected. A new model in the line-up, it’s priced at $55,990 driveaway. While it's not as innovative as the top-selling Tesla Model Y or as budget-friendly as the BYD Atto 3, the MG ZS EV offers an alternative entry to electric mid-size SUV motoring that won’t intimidate new EV owners.

Fitted with a single 115kW/280Nm e-motor powering the front wheels, this compact SUV’s pace and comfort was more than adequate for our purposes.

More importantly for this drive – and explaining its name – it was fitted with a 72.6kWh battery that delivered a claimed 440km on the European WLTP cycle. There are other methods of measuring range, but WLTP is closer to what you can achieve in the real world.

The other key numbers to remember are a claimed maximum DC fast charging rate of 94kW and a claimed average consumption number of 17.7kWh (WLTP).

You’ll notice the word ‘claimed’ popping up a lot here. That’s because just like an orthodox petrol-fuelled car, official EV consumption and economy rates are a guide not a guarantee.


MG ZS EV charging at Cameron Park

Cameron Park was the first stop on the journey. Image: Bruce Newton

Adjusting to EV range and driving conditions

As mentioned earlier, the quoted consumption and range numbers for the MG ZS EV Long Range are claims.

The first few hours of the trip driving out of Sydney’s peak hour congestion northward along the Pacific Motorway were going to be educational. From stop-start crawl to hilly, high speed, this drive would definitely impact driving range.

So it proved. Over 180km the MG ZS EV's consumption average was 21.5kWh/100km and the battery used 45 per cent of its stored capacity. Much of that consumption increase is down to the fact that electric motors consume more energy pushing through the air at higher speeds.

That contributed to a conservative range estimate to work with of about 300km. Another contributor was the battery pack’s trait of slowing the recharging rate dramatically above 80 per cent. To avoid even longer stops that would be the usual end point of a charging session.

Eighty per cent’s also the level manufacturers recommend recharging to because the NMC battery pack used in many EVs including the MG don’t take kindly to being constantly recharged to 100 per cent. On a longer trip you can get away with it though.

With that knowledge established and the Plugshare app opened, a plan for the rest of the drive emerged. The opportunity would have to be taken to top off the battery at a series of major towns along the way - Singleton, Tamworth and Armidale. 

While Tamworth and Armidale were only 114km apart, a recharge was needed because there were no accessible chargers in the next 180km along the Waterfall Way to Coffs. Bypassing the Armidale charger would mean a stint of around 300km. Too risky!

Having to take such precautions would slow progress and so would charger speeds. There were only 50kW chargers on the route and no super-fast 350kW DC chargers. So no chance to test the MG’s 94kW recharging claim until Coffs Harbour.


MG ZS EV on the NSW's Pacific Ocean route

New South Wales' Pacific Ocean route is full of gorgeous scenery. Image: Bruce Newton

EV range anxiety

It’s an unsettling feeling knowing that there is only a sparse safety net of EV chargers to facilitate a long road trip like this. Literally hundreds of fuel bowsers are available along this same route.

Then, as the range estimate and battery charge dropped and the next town approached, the concern was always that the charger would not be occupied or broken. 

The most stressful moment was circulating Tamworth trying to find a charger that turned out to be non-existent. Once that was figured out, it took some time to find a real one tucked away in a car park. 

With the MG plugged in and charging on a 50kW DC charger, there was time to wander up the street to find a coffee and a sandwich. This is simply the reality of EV driving. Recharging takes time.

At least in this case the charger was close to facilities and amenities. Locations are not always this desirable or convenient. So make sure you have some refreshments onboard just in case.


charging MG ZS EV

Charging the MG ZS EV is fast and easy. Image: Bruce Newton

Driving for maximum EV range

The MG ZS EV offers three drive modes and three regenerative braking modes that impact on economy.

The estimated driving range available drops as you change from Eco to Normal to Sport. Needless to say, Eco was the default option, even if acceleration flattened off a bit. The regen was wound up downhill or during urban driving when it was most effective, in this trip that didn’t happen that often.

Along with higher speed, what really impacts EV economy and driving range on long country drives is geography. If you spend a lot of time going up, so will your consumption rate.

The great news is that inevitably you must come down. And in that situation EVs not only stop consuming, but they also start adding electricity back into the battery because of their regenerative ability. Petrol and diesel cars can’t do that.


dashboard in the MG ZS EV after a long drive

The final total on the MG ZS EV's dashboard after the long drive. Image: Bruce Newton

Destination reached

It took 12 hours and 44 minutes of driving time at an average speed of 59km/h to cover 757km to reach the final destination. The consumption rate of the MG averaged out at 20.2kWh/100km.

In addition to that there were five stops along the way of as little as 28 minutes and as much as 1 hour 06 mins to recharge. Even if an orthodox car was no quicker in drive time, it would certainly be quicker to refuel.

The upside? Recharges including a final top-up at Coffs cost less than $60 dollars utilising EV charging discounts, renewable energy was used to charge the vehicle, and the driving experience was smoother, quieter and therefore less fatiguing thanks to the MG’s e-motor. A petrol or diesel vehicle can’t match that.

So if you’re prepared to plan ahead and are prepared to take some stops, a longer trip in an EV in Australia is doable. With more chargers and more electric vehicles with longer range on the way it can only get easier.


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