In his 1967 book, The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia’s History,
Geoffrey Blainey shone a light on this country’s geographical remoteness from the centre
of the British Empire.

The world’s largest island continent since has had its own problems with isolation of
communities, which lately has come into sharp focus through the introduction of electric

It’s a long way from the ubiquitous ‘fill ‘er up’ fuel station to the plug-in bowser of the widely
spread charge point, but things are rapidly changing, with car battery efficiency charging
ahead and charge points multiplying on mass.

For example, it is now possible to drive from the Gold Coast to Cairns on electric power,
thanks to Queensland’s Electric Super Highway, with 18 charging points along the way.

Research has shown the main reason for not buying a clean energy vehicle are their high
prices. While the usual suspects concentrate on producing high-priced premium product,
the Chinese (who else?) are beavering away in the bargain basement.

MG, for example, owned by the Chinese automobile maker SAIC Motor, has produced a
fully electric car in its economy ZS compact SUV range and a plug-in petrol / electric
hybrid in its HS medium SUV list.

With a nod to a fully renewable electric automotive future, on test was an MG ZS EV SUV,
which at $44,990, plus on-road costs, is one of the most financially accessible examples of
the new breed of private transport. Based on the Essence specification (top petrol spec), it
is also one of the genre’s best sellers.

The MG ZS EV stacks up with most of the light SUV segment in looks. The charging flap in
the diamond grille is insignificant enough to not take anything away from the well-designed
front end.

The rest of the vehicle is straight out of the SUV playbook. However, halogen headlamps
are a letdown in this higher tech package.

The synthetic leather upholstery is no great shakes. The seats are comfortable for shorter
trips but lack support on extended journeys. The seating position is high giving, as with
many SUVs, a commanding view of the road.

With best-in-class rear headroom, flat rear floor and wide body, the MG ZS EV has plenty
of interior space and features 60 / 40 split-folding rear seats and a maximum cargo space
of 1166 litres with seat backs folded (not quite flat).

The gearshift, a large knob on the centre console incorporates an electronic park brake,
which on pressing glows red when engaged. Cool! On the downside, drive and reverse
gears engage in their own time, not yours, which can be a problem in crowded traffic
manoeuvres. Patience pays.

The Panoramic Stargazer Sunroof, covering 90 per cent of the roof, is one of the largest in
the segment and lets in plenty of light, but unfortunately, heat as well through its thin
material blind.

The MG ZS EV includes as standard an 8-inch colour touchscreen, integrated Apple
CarPlay, Android Auto, six-speaker surround sound audio and satellite navigation.

This modern technology contrasts with quaint links to the past such as analogue
instruments and climate controls that are limited to a blue / red arc display rather than
actual temperatures.

The permanent magnet motor is connected to a lithium-ion battery delivering maximum
power of 105 kW and top torque of 353 Nm to the front wheels via a reduction gear.

Occupant safety is in the hands of MG Pilot, a full suite of driver technology, which
includes adaptive cruise control, front collision warning, emergency braking, speed assist
and lane departure warning, plus others.

Battery safety and availability are critical considerations to MG Motor and they are only
one of three carmakers in the world to own their own battery production facility.

This means that the 44.5 kW battery is built to the highest quality and safety standards.
Independently certified, it is shielded by high-strength steel enabling it to withstand fire,
submersion, impact, dust, pressure and salt spray.

With a 44.5 kW battery, the MG ZS EV has a range of 263 km on the WLTP combined
cycle. In stop / start city driving, thanks to regenerative braking, that expands to more than
370 km.

As far as charging is concerned, the car comes with a standard CCS2 socket behind a flap
in the front grille, designed to take everything from a household power source to the
quickest 350 kW DC charger. Plugged into a wall socket at home, the vehicle can be fully
charged overnight, while on a fast charger it takes 45 minutes to reach 80 per cent.

The MG ZS EV did introduce me to a real dose of ‘range anxiety’, the feeling that juice,
therefore power, is about to run out. On a motorway run home, when the vehicle range hit
44 km, a warning flashed up telling me to recharge the battery ASAP.

A check of Google showed the nearest charging station was only a kilometre from my M-
way turn-off. A thoughtful city council had fitted a public charger outside a district office.

A phone call to a charging company had me signed up in no time and lifting the grille flap
to find there was access to a slow or fast charging socket. Connecting the fast lead, I sat
back to enjoy the view of council office workers going about their business with our rates

Fortunately, within 30 minutes the MG ZS EV battery was charged to 80 per cent, at a cost
of $7.50, and good for almost 200 kilometres.

Charging at home meant some juggling of cars in the driveway to tap into a household
power point with a lead supplied with the car that could be longer. My house was wired for
the ‘olden days’, if not quite for horse and buggy.

There is more than one drive mode, customers able to choose between Eco, Normal and
Sport to allow the car to adapt to their driving needs. Sport gives a sharper response but
can unsettle the car. It’s best left in Normal mode for a more controlled feeling.

Eco mode adds little to the driving experience but hits the highest setting for regenerative
braking, keeping the battery topped up. The car defaults to Normal every time it is turned

Experts predict the costs of manufacturing an electric against an internal combustion
powered vehicle will reach the crossover point in 2026. MG is well on the way to this
electric epiphany with its clean and cheap ZS.


MG ZS Essence EV $44,990 (drive-away)

SPECIFICATIONS (MG ZS electric motor, lithium-ion battery, FWD SUV)

Permanent magnet, lithium-ion battery
Maximum Power: 105 kW
Maximum Torque: 353 Nm

DRIVELINE: Reduction gear, front-wheel drive

Length: 4314 mm
Wheelbase: 2585 mm
Width: 1809 mm
Height: 1644 mm
Turning Circle: 11.2 metres
Gross Vehicle Mass: 1966 kg

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc
Regenerative braking

Vehicle: five years / unlimited kilometres
Battery, eight years / 160,000 km

Looks: 6/10
Performance: 7/10
Safety: 7/10
Thirst: 9/10
Practicality: 6/10
Comfort: 7/10
Tech: 8/10
Value: 8/10

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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