MG ZS EV 2020 Essence – Australian electric car owner real world experience

The following is a discussion with Aussie electric vehicle (EV) owner Camille, who has a MG ZS EV 2020 Essence.

EDITOR: I’m going to publish a regular series of articles with the views of Australian EV owners about their purchase, driving, servicing, charging etc experience.

This will help fill an information gap as the majority of electric car news articles are about new car launches and there’s relatively little published about the longer term Australian ownership experience after you’ve paid for your electric car. Hopefully this shared information helps other Aussies make their own EV purchase decision. 

Was your electric car bought or leased?

Bought new.

Please describe your purchasing / lease process experience … Easy, Mediocre, Frustrating..?

We bought quite soon after the MG ZS EV first arrived in Australia.

We had to wait for the dealer to get one in for a test drive, and then ordered straight away. It arrived within six weeks.

It was clear that the dealership didn’t know much about EVs in general or the MG model – the salesperson hadn’t yet done the EV training, and said he learned a lot from us during the test drive – but he tried to be helpful.

What has the regular servicing / dealership experience been like?

I have never used dealership servicing before, but to be honest it’s been underwhelming! The dealerships still don’t seem to know much about EVs, although it’s definitely improved year-on-year in the two years we have had the car serviced (20,000 and 40,000km).

For example, the first year (2022) they didn’t know how to give us the battery state of health and were still using servicing checklists full of issues only required for ICE vehicles.

The second year (2023) was better – we went to the dealership where we were told the EV specialists were, we got a servicing list that matched the car (including battery state of health) and the car was even returned with charge added from their newly installed wallbox!

Having said all that, if it weren’t for the warranty, we wouldn’t pay to get it serviced yearly, as there is really nothing to be done….(the schedule includes things like ‘check seatbelts’ and ‘check seats’!).

How do you regularly charge your car for day to day usage?

Plug in to standard PowerPoint at home (when there’s spare solar power).

What has your day to day normal charging experience been like?

Great! It’s super convenient to be able to charge at home, and to leave home with a full ‘tank’. We’ve saved thousands of dollars and tonnes of emissions.

95% of our charging is done at home from spare solar or overnight from a Tesla Powerwall (re-charged by solar during the day).

We have a range of different powerpoints and adjustable EVSEs so we can charge at 10, 13, 16, 20 or 32 amps, depending on what we need and when there is solar availability.

How do you charge your car for longer road trips on the weekend or during holidays? Do you prefer any particular brand of public fast charger during road trips eg Evie, Tesla, Chargefox and why?

We use fast-chargers on longer road trips (for example, I regularly drive from Canberra to Wollongong for work, and top-up my charge at one of the stations on the Federal and Hume Highways).

I would say we have found Evie the most reliable and best at communicating. Chargefox has been very disappointing.

We generally try to use chargers which get their power from renewable sources (which includes both Chargefox and Evie) and support any businesses which have installed a fast charger or even a wallbox.

I would encourage everyone to get RFID cards for as many different chargers as you can – they are generally free or almost free (like $1!).

They are quick and easy to use (just slide them into your sun visor or glovebox), and they are a great back-up if for some reason your phone is not working or you don’t have service. I have used mine to help out other people when they have struggled with their phone!

EDITOR: RFID cards are a great idea, you only need 1 though as you can register the same card with multiple charging networks. Read my article “Electric Car Charging Tip: don’t buy $10 Chargefox card, free EVIE Pass RFID card also works at Chargefox” to find out more.

What’s the farthest road trip you’ve done in your EV and what did you learn from this experience that would be useful for others to know?

We have driven from Canberra to South Australia and back to visit family and friends several times (2000km+). We really enjoyed it and we learned a lot by doing it.

To a certain extent, I think you just have to do it and learn for yourself (we still learn something every time) but it’s great to see more and more chargers available, so it gets easier every time!

I think it helps to have a bit of a different mindset about the mode of travel – we generally try to plan our stops for places we will enjoy, and to enjoy the journey, not just focus on the destination. But there are times when you just need to get there!

Does your EV have any special features like V2L reverse charging from the car to your portable/home appliances? If yes please share your experience using this special feature

No, not on this model .

If you have roadside assist included with the car purchase/lease and have had to use it, which company provided the service and what was that experience like?

It is included but we have never used it. We have had no problems that cannot be fixed by the simple trick of a hard reset – just carry a 10 millimetre spanner in the glove box and if all else fails, disconnect the 12 volt battery Negative Terminal, wait 10 seconds, and reconnect. It’s the original ‘turning it off and on again’.

EDITOR: I found a Youtube video explaining how to do this, apparently sometimes the ZS EV stops functioning when trying to start a DC Fast charging session at a faulty charger.

If you have had issues with your car and asked for these to be fixed under warranty, did the car brand do the right thing and fix it without causing you stress?

No issues.

What are the 3 strongest aspects of your electric car compared to other similar price electric cars available in Australia?

At the time when we bought it, there were no other similar price electric cars available in Australia! Having said that:

  • First, for the price, the range and battery of this car were (and are) a great bargain. It was (and remains) a really good value car. It has a very useable range – in our Mk 1 version, we can comfortably do more than 200 km of highway driving at a time, and then we’re ready for a coffee and a toilet break anyway. There are plenty of more expensive EVs with shorter ranges (eg Mini and Mazda!). The charge speed is pretty reasonable, and the battery is thermally managed, meaning you can fast-charge it multiple times with no problem (in contrast to the Nissan Leaf, which was one of the only other cars available when we purchased this one).
  • Second, we chose this car largely because of the ‘wagon’ style and space. We wanted the dog to be able to travel in the boot and see out the back; we wanted to be able to put the seats down and carry stuff home from Bunnings or take rubbish bins to the tip; and we wanted to be able to fit family and friends in comfortably. The SUV style is not the most aerodynamic, but gosh it’s practical, and the clearance is also pretty good.
  • Third (and again in contrast to the Nissan Leaf we had prior to this) the range estimator in the car is extremely accurate, so we feel very comfortable to drive to the edge of the range and only charge as much as we need to in order to get home. It’s also very easy to adjust your driving style if things change and you need to conserve power for any reason – and the estimator will reflect the current state of things very reliably. We also really enjoy the extras that it came with (particularly the heated seats and adaptive cruise).

What are the 3 weakest aspects of your electric car compared to other similar price electric cars available in Australia?

We would really value the opportunity to have an App for things like pre-heating, limiting charging, and checking the charge remotely. I think this is available in the new model, though. EDITOR: that is correct from the MG ZS EV 2022 model onwards.

There are no ‘over the air’ updates, and we have not received any software updates since purchasing the car – and for our model it seems like perhaps there never will be any. This is a pity since some changes to the software could help to improve things at very little cost (eg to allow regenerative braking while in cruise control!) EDITOR: It is my understanding that all versions of the MG ZS EV in Australia cannot regen brake while in cruise control because the regen hardware inside is the same as the petrol MG ZS model.

Some of the cosmetic things could be improved. For example, we don’t love the placement of the charge-port under the pop-up grille (which has now been changed on the new models) – but we do like it being at the front of the car. And as many MG owners have said, the infotainment system can be a bit buggy and frustrating (particularly the Apple carplay). But they are pretty good for a budget EV.

Would you buy or lease this brand of electric car again and recommend it to others?

Yes! We recommended it to my sister, who bought one – she lives in country south Australia, 150km from any fast charger and does 30,000km per year – and she has saved thousands of dollars in fuel.

We recommended it to my brother, who also bought one – he lives in Alice Springs and it’s been a great around-town car for them, and for daytrips out into the MacDonnell Ranges.

We haven’t yet seen a car we would buy instead of this one, bearing in mind all the things that are important to us (style, range, price etc).

Do you have any other comments about your electric car brand, experience etc?

We have been fortunate to have a great experience – although I’ve seen some disappointing stories on the forums. However, I think you can find those stories for all car brands.

You can buy a new car of any brand, ICE or EV, and have a bad experience! I would happily recommend an MG ZS EV to anyone – but any electric car you buy will be better than your ICE vehicle!

I also think that for the most part EV owners know WAY more than the dealerships, so you will get the best information by following relevant groups and forums on social media – the MG EV Owners Australia Facebook group is a fabulous source of information.

If you’re an Australian electric vehicle owner and would like to participate in this interview series by sharing your experience please contact me directly or add a comment below and let me know.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Articles