Felix Egolf is a “hypermiler”. This is the name of the car tester who is on the road with the aim of achieving the lowest possible consumption and the highest possible range. The retired airline pilot “sails” over the roads by repeatedly taking his foot off the acceleration pedal and letting the car roll. This saves fuel – or in this case electricity.
For his latest challenge, he has chosen the all-electric ID.3 from Volkswagen: The record-hunter wants to explore the range limit of the electric car, with a journey from Germany to Switzerland of around 530 kilometers. To do so, he is traveling to Zwickau in Saxony. Many of the 90,000 inhabitants work at the Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH plant, where cars have been manufactured for more than 100 years, including the Trabant in the past. An ID.3 with the medium 58 kWh battery option is already waiting for the Swiss test driver behind the entrance gate. After a short introduction, the electric car is packed – with two suitcases plus complete photo and film equipment including a drone.
On the road with extra weight
According to the official vehicle specification, the ID.3 has a WLTP range of 420 kilometers with a fully charged battery. However, only the driver without luggage is assumed. But Felix Egolf, the cameraman and the equipment weigh almost 250 kilograms. But the experienced efficiency champion is not going to let that get in his way: He wants to prove that he can top the factory figures even with the additional weight.
The record journey starts the next morning shortly after 5 a.m. After the first hundred meters, it is already clear what distinguishes a hypermiler like Felix Egolf from other drivers: He is concentrated, energetic and very forward-looking – braking is avoided wherever possible to keep the car constantly moving. The average speed is 56 kilometers per hour. “The optimum would be to cover a third of the total distance without engine power,” he explains. His approach to roundabouts is particularly striking: Shortly before, he sets the automatic selector switch from “D” to “N”. The car practically flies towards its intended target, and the excess speed is gently reduced by means of recuperation – the recovery of energy by the engine braking. The chief attraction of the ID.3 is that it independently recognizes roundabouts and speed signs and slows down on its own.
Navigation, daytime running lights, radio and ventilation remain on. After all, comfort should not be compromised even during the long-distance test. The first half of the route consists mainly of highway kilometers. The ID.3 constantly occupies the right lane and glides along – with sufficient distance – in the slipstream of trucks.
Sailing in the Fichtelgebirge
Thanks to the up-and-down topography of the A9 through the Fichtelgebirge, longer sailing phases are always possible. Elevations are generally climbed at a rather leisurely pace, as they cause the displayed kilometer range to melt away. But this has its good side: “You perceive your surroundings more consciously and see more,” says the hypermiler. “The deceleration feels good. It clears your head.” The lost energy is partly recovered by recuperation when going downhill.
You can see that Felix Egolf enjoys driving the ID.3 by looking at him. He describes the cockpit with its large central display that is slightly tilted towards the driver as intuitive and functional. He also likes Volkswagen’s new e-car because of its futuristic design, low drag coefficient and the 204 PS, which propels the vehicle practically silently and jet-like via the rear-wheel drive. “In addition, the road holding, cornering and rolling characteristics are exemplary,” says the 63-year-old car tester.
A sigh of relief after 400 kilometers
At kilometer 87, in the Bavarian city of Hof, 19 percent of the battery is already used up. The range indicator reports 346 kilometers – but there are still 444 kilometers to go to the desired destination. That is why Felix Egolf now has to use all his skills. The journey passes tourist destinations such as Bayreuth, Nuremberg and Ulm. Here, after almost 400 kilometers, there is a sigh of relief: for the first time, the remaining range corresponds to the distance to the destination in Schaffhausen.
As the Swiss border draws closer and the remaining energy becomes increasingly scarce, the whole thing slowly feels like a crime thriller. An emergency plan is put into place: As a precautionary measure, research is already being done to find out where the next charging station is located. But the hypermiler trusts his instincts – and after passing through customs, he drives on unperturbed, although the battery power indicator is now at two percent and the destination is still more than ten kilometers away.
The tension becomes almost unbearable. Another five kilometers, another three, another one... But the risk pays off after nine and a half hours of driving and a distance of 531 kilometers: The first ID.3 in Switzerland reaches the AMAG car dealership in Schaffhausen. There, half of the workforce immediately gathers around the brand-new e-vehicle – and congratulates the driver on his record drive.
* ID.3: combined power consumption in kWh/100 km (NEDC): 15.4-14.5, CO2 emissions in g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+