Mumbai - Indore - Bhopal and back!
Charger failure @ 12% SoC, camping in car overnight with AC on and 🐄 on the road!
Hello to all new readers, thanks to Noise Faktory’s video and our new Twitter and Instagram family. Late July, I decided to take a trip to Bhopal in my MG. I encountered a charger that tripped, rectified it. Made a lot of friends with cattle on the road in MP and camped overnight near Statiq’s charger with the AC on.
Read on more to find out! Or if you’d like to skip the text and dive into the data, here is the spreadsheet . TLDR learnings mentioned at the end of the post.
I had to leave for Bhopal on a short notice for work. I plotted my route on Plugshare and made the following observations :
There are no fast chargers between Dhule and Indore which is a stretch of ~270kms with an increase in elevation of ~200m while going from Dhule to Indore.
On my previous road trips, I’ve had the luxury to choose the (fastest) charger of many chargers along the route. Here, the stops were going to be dictated by the location of the chargers, thus potentially creating suboptimal stops.
The western part of the country has a lot of chargers as compared to the Central and East-Central part of the country.
Elevation chart was interesting to look at. I was hitting the peak elevation just after Nasik and there after it was an elevation drop of atleast 200m. This meant that even if the range wasn’t looking so good in and around Nasik, I was sure to get atleast some of it back when approaching Dhule.
There is downhill after the Dhule charger for a while, and then I gain some elevation and lose it all again. Only the final elevation gain prior to Indore will make you lose the precious range.
I wouldn’t need the AC to be switched on. The weather prediction for the whole trip was - RAIN. Which meant that I could potentially go longer distances on a single charge.
Keeping the above observations in mind, I decided that I’ll be driving:
Mumbai - Indore on Day 1 (~600kms)
Indore - Bhopal - Indore + Dhule (at minimum) on Day 2 (~667kms)
Rest of the distance to Mumbao on Day 3 (~313kms)
Given my previous experiences, driving 600kms in a day was going to be comfortable.
Mumbai - Dhule, car noise, charger went kaput
I left home close to 5AM, and as soon as I got in the car I heard an annoying sound. I had never heard this before.
I got out of the car, and did the most basic drill that we do with electronics. On and off. I opened and closed all the doors again, assuming that one of the doors may have been left open and hence the alarm.
My foggy brain then assumed that it was possible that like BYD, MG had also installed a sound to alert nearby pedestrians. I sent this recording to the MG group on the Pulse app and a bunch of Telegram communities. I got a response within 60-70 mins, which is appreciable given that it was early morning ~5am when I posted the message. I decided to drive it for a bit hoping that the sound would automatically go away. In the car, I connected my phone via CarPlay to play a podcast and the sound just went away. I realised that if my phone could turn off the sound, then it probably wasn’t serious and I could carry on with my journey! [if you’re interested in what I was listening to: Amit Varma’s The Seen and the Unseen Episode with Montek Ahluwalia ]
Some wise people later commented on Telegram that it was probably the sound of an FM / AM station that had stopped playing music early in the morning and hence the annoying sound. With that out of the picture, I continued my journey towards Nasik and Dhule.
I reached the ever beautiful Igatpuri ghats near Nasik. The fog was too dense and visibility was less than 5m. However, I kept my calm and braved through the fog, slow and steady.
I reached Dhule with little to no hiccups along the way. This leg of the journey was ~317kms and I had managed to climb up the ghats and reach with a 12% SoC. I connected the charging gun and started charging. The session stopped within 2 minutes with an error code ‘260 - Mains Fall’ (LOL, should’ve been ‘Fail’).
This was the first time I had come across a charger which went kaput when put to charge. My first instinct was to not panic and think of ways to resolve this issue. I, again reached out to the EV community, called up the Statiq helpline number for support and decided to put my electrical skills to test. I also asked the watchman for the local electrician’s number. We tried calling him, but he had a late night and was sleeping in. We decided to not wake him up unless it was absolutely unsolvable. Luckily an apprentice was available on the property with a tester!
I checked the charger’s screen and it had a bunch of error messages present in the error log. That reassured me that there was a problem with the charger and not the car. The error logs stated that there was a power cutoff along with some of the tests that failed. My job was to find out where exactly the power went out and how to get it rectified.
I was confident given my over a decade of professional and hobbyist experience working with electronics and electrical connections. One needs to be careful when dealing with live power, irrespective. Also, please attempt this only if you are knowledgeable and confident that you won't end up hurting yourself.
From the charger’s MCB panel, I could see that the ‘R’ phase of the charger had gone off, and it was still getting the other two phases. There was power in the watchman’s cabin too, thus reassuring me that not all was lost. There was an option to slow charge the car if needed.
I asked the apprentice to check if any of the other MCBs in the property had tripped. Turns out, the kitchen in the hotel had lost power too. So we decided to dig deeper. We checked the mains where the hotel gets its power from. That too showed that only one phase was down, and the fuse was intact. We had spent roughly 10 mins figuring this out. I called up Statiq again to ask if they were able to find out anything. Turns out, Statiq was trying to reach the same local electrician. The apprentice and I continued with our minor investigation.
The apprentice suggested that we should check the main DP (Double Pole) from where the entire property gets its power, and hopefully one of the fuses has gone kaput. We went outside, located the DP, and lo and behold - that was the precise problem. I was on call with the Statiq team, walking them through everything we had done till now and how we figured that the main DP’s phase line’s fuse had gone awry. The Statiq team had managed to wake up the electrician and he was on a phone line with us.
Meanwhile, the apprentice switched off the main supply, removed the rod fuse, gave it a slight twirl, and connected it tightly on to the MCB. Statiq’s team in Gurgaon, along with the local electrician waited for our response. The apprentice switched on the main MCB and confirmed that the R phase was now up and running.
The only thing left to do now was to verify if this would happen again once charging restarted. I went back to the property, keeping Statiq on the line with me, and started the charging session. I was happy to hear the ever so familiar sound of fans blaring from the charger as the current in the cable kept ramping up. After 2 mins had passed, I was confident that I could get the car to charge. I had spent around 30 mins trying to get the charger working again.
Thankfully it was a 60kW charger, and man, they are fast! I placed my order for food and finished eating an early lunch in record time before heading to Indore.
What would I have done if the charger tripped again? There was another charger, albeit a 25kW TATA, which was just down the road. There was another 25kW TATA charger which my car could reach with the little juice that it had remaining. If the car wouldn’t charge even with these two chargers, then the problem would’ve been in the car rather than the charger, and MG would’ve had to rescue me. Thankfully, it didn’t go that far.
The restaurant staff too had just come in and were about to start their preparations for the day. They actually start serving food by 1pm, however I requested the hotel manager for an exception and the manager at Hotel Bliss County happily helped. I finished my lunch and the car was already ready for Indore.
Dhule - Indore
I had decided to take a night halt at a friend’s place in Indore. One of my first questions to him before the trip was to understand the parking layout and availability of a 3 pin 15A plug for me to charge my car. However, I didn't have to make use of that.
If I didn’t have a friend in Indore, an alternate option would have been to stretch it out to Sol Retreat which is roughly 90kms from Indore city on the highway towards Bhopal (in the direction of my journey next day). However, there was just a single fast charger there and if it didn’t work, then I wouldn’t be left with enough charge to come back to Indore. I had tried calling the phone numbers mentioned in the reviews for the charger, however they weren’t confidence inspiring. So I stuck to the plan of driving Indore - Bhopal - Indore on Day 2.
After crossing the Tapi and the magnificent Narmada, I made my way towards Indore. There are a total of 4 chargers in Indore, 3 are 25kW Tata chargers and one is a 30kW MG charger. 3 out of these 4 chargers are in the city and only the MG charger had a good rating on Plugshare. The rest of them weren’t rated at all. This made my choice simpler, to get to the MG showroom’s 30kW TATA charger. After navigating through peak evening traffic, I managed to get to the charger, only to realise that an ICE was parked in the extremely tight parking spot. Luckily, the key to the car was with the MG people and they swiftly moved the car away and offered to park my car in the tight parking spot.
Indore - Bhopal - Indore
I left early in the morning from my friend’s place for Bhopal. The distance to go from Indore to Bhopal and back was roughly 398kms. Technically, this was possible on a single charge if I didn’t switch on the AC (possible because of the rains) and by going deep (<5% SoC on arrival). Doing that however, was going to be risky. I also realised that there was a fast charger less than 1km from my meeting point. I decided to plug in the car at MG Motors, Bhopal at their 25kW charger. By the time I finished my meeting and came back to the car, I had a full charge.
The drive on this route is a pleasant one. The highway, for the most part, has massive tree barricades in between, thus greatly helping people who take this route at night because there’s no light interference from the other side.
As soon as one enters Madhya Pradesh, you can see a distinct change in at least two aspects. One, the tolls are relatively faster than anywhere else I’ve been. You can pass through the toll without ever reaching a complete halt. There was one toll that I encountered, for which I paid only INR 10, I was pleasantly surprised. Two, the presence of cattle on the road. The cattle treat the road as their property and they are everywhere. Thankfully, they weren’t moving that much and just relaxing on the road.
Indore - Dhule, camping in the car
I reached Indore at around 4-4:30pm and headed straight to the MG Motors 30kW charger. After charging I decided to drive at least till Dhule. I would then decide how much further I wanted to go based on how tired I felt. I reached Dhule by around 10pm and decided to call it a day. I charged the car with Statiq's 60kW charger while I had my dinner. I enquired if there was a hotel that I could stay at where the charging station was. The ‘hotel’ didn’t have any rooms, it was only a couple of restaurants.
I had always wanted to test out camping in the car. Today was the perfect opportunity to do so. These were some of my considerations while camping in the car :
No camping on the highway. The charger is 500m off the highway, so this was taken care of.
Accessibility to a nearby fast charger, in case the battery drained significantly. I had Statiq’s 60kW charger to help me with that.
Ensure that the car’s auxiliary battery wasn’t drained out when keeping the climate control on overnight. For this, I doubly checked to ensure that the start button’s light was on green and not yellow.
Access to a clean washroom in the morning before heading to Bombay. The folks at the Hotel Bliss County courteously provided me with access to one at no charge.
With all this in place, I decided to park under a shade and camp for the night. Parking under the shade was necessary because it could have rained at night and the rain drops on the car’s roof would’ve disturbed my sleep. I pushed the front row seats all the way ahead. I folded the back seats and removed the partial flap in the boot. It wasn’t a perfect 180 degrees, even after removing the headrests of the back seat, however it was manageable. I spread my towel to act as a bedsheet and I was carrying a pillow and a sheet to cover myself with.
The sleep was comfortable and the car is perfect for someone sized 175cms to sleep in. You’ll have to sleep diagonally though. There’s a sharpish edge between the boot and the second row seat (maybe get a deflatable air mattress for your car if you plan on camping frequently!). However, I realised that once I was in this angle, it didn’t get in the way. I kept the AC on at 24 degrees C with the fan speed at 3. Remember to not cover the back seat AC vents with anything, so that there’s good airflow. I also slightly cracked open one window for ventilation, in case the AC stopped working. I obviously locked all the doors.
It is recommended that you do all these settings prior to getting comfortable, because it becomes slightly harder to reach the screen from the rear. The DRL and the backlight stay on as long as the car is switched on. I couldn’t find any settings to turn it off. So if you are planning to camp discreetly, I don’t think there’s an option yet. But MG should push a camper mode update for easy camping. The screen however has a simple lock interface wherein it goes dark and just shows the time in a white font.
The battery drain for a good 7h of sleep was 7%. Which translates to roughly 500w/h, in line with a typical car HVAC load. This means that one can camp in the car for 4 straight days before running out of juice. This is simply amazing and ICE cars will never be able to provide this feature. The outside temperature was around 24 degrees, so the HVAC didn’t really need to cool as much in this case. The results may vary depending on outdoor temperature, fan speed and the set temperature. However, one can easily camp overnight in the car with very little battery drain.
I freshened up in the morning and headed straight to Bombay. The drive was a breeze and I was glad I took some rest overnight after a long day. Here is the shot of the car after going through the heavy rains along the route.
Closing thoughts and learnings :
The car can easily do 300+km with 300-400m of net incline with AC off.
Keep calm if the charger is not working. Panic won’t help. Brainstorming and reaching out to the community to solve the issue just might.
Anything more than two deep charging stops can become exhausting given the range the car offers and the slow speed with which we can travel in this country.
Cattle on the road can be pretty dangerous if one is not paying attention. Enough to be able to disfigure your car if you crash into them.
The number of dogs that were lying dead on this route were around 30-40. Usually it is a lot less than this. I don’t know why there were these many.
Camping in the car can be safe if you keep things simple, and tick off your own camping checklist for safety and access.
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Text - Priyans
Graphics and editing - Siddharth Agarwal
I am Shubham, I am a Post-Graduate Student in IIITDM Jabalpur pursuing Masters's in Design.
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