MG4 Essence 64 2023 – Australian electric car owner real world experience

The following is a discussion with Aussie electric vehicle (EV) owner Alex about their purchase of a MG4 Essence 64 and experience driving, servicing, charging etc.

EDITOR: I’m publishing a regular series of articles with the views of Australian EV owners about their EV ownership 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. 

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.

Was your electric car bought or leased?

Bought new.

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

It was easy. I did some test driving organised with the local MG dealer and decided on the model option we thought met our needs and was within our budget. I had previously test driven the MG ZS EV but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the MG4 to drive.

The dealer had stock available of the Essence 64 model and our (i.e. my wife’s) colour preference was one of those available.

We decided on a trade in and so there was some negotiation on that until we agreed on a change over price. We put down a deposit and picked up the car about a week later.

Our previous car was a “prestige” German brand with fairly low km on it but after some changes to our home situation earlier last year it was now more car than we needed, as well as becoming increasingly expensive to maintain / operate. It was up for ~$5k of work in the year ahead despite having under 50,000 km on the clock. Bugger that.

What has the regular servicing / dealership experience been like?

Have only been into the local dealer service centre for the initial free service check at 1,000 km. That was relatively straightforward. No other experience to note other than purchase of a few accessories which was simple enough.

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

  • plug in to specially installed faster EV charger at home (smart unit that only uses solar)
  • also use free tariff energy periods to import from the grid.

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

We get home, plug in and don’t need to think about it. It’s all done automagically.

We use a home charge station (a ZJBeny OCPP single phase) which can charge the car at up to its maximum charge rate of 6.6 kW. Charging control is automated and managed with ChargeHQ and Home Assistant.

Using Home Assistant data from our home’s solar PV system auto-updates the ChargeHQ service which is set to normally charge from our excess solar PV only, ramping up and down the charge rate as necessary to avoiding importing energy from the grid.

If a cloud comes over or if someone puts on a washing machine then the charging rate ramps down to match the reduced available energy supply. But once that has cleared it ramps up again to maximise self consumption of our solar PV. I have similar systems in place for our water heating and home energy storage.

The charging system is also set to charge at the maximum rate from the grid during our free tariff periods (12-2PM on weekends) if the car is home.

In essence it automatically avoids importing energy we need to pay for. Occasionally I may set it to top up from the grid using off-peak energy, e.g. overnight before a long trip.

At the time of purchase we qualified for the NSW Government $3,000 EV rebate (which ended 31 December 2023), and we used that to cover the cost of installing a power supply sub-board in the garage and the EV charge station.

Home charging costs are very low, just the foregone grid export credit, which is not a lot (7c/kWh) plus the weekend free energy periods. DC Fast Chargers are not cheap to use but they are no worse than our highway fuel costs used to be and only make up a portion of our charging.

While we currently use ChargeHQ service ($7/month) to manage this and it is very good, I may still bring all charging automation control into our local Home Assistant system.

Charging stats to date are:

  • Home Solar: 51%

  • Home Grid: 21% (with free tariff periods in that)

  • DC Fast Charging: 23%
  • Destination Charging: 6% (usually free where I stay)

Efficiency: 17.5 kWh/100km, which is reflective of the proportion of km spent at highway speeds.

Overall energy costs have been $3.61/100km, reflective of the use of DC fast chargers. Home charging is 85c/100km.

So far, DC fast charging makes up 71% of our EV energy cost for just 23% of the energy supply.

EDITOR: here’s an explanation of what Home Assistant is and who it’s recommended for by reader Peter:

Home Assistant using the SAIC add-in (which is a reverse engineer of the MG API) is not recommended for novices, and it’s not worth running Home Assistant just for this purpose.

If you’re looking at wider home automation then that’s where it fits in. It’s very popular with those who don’t want to depend on loads of cloud services.

It’s an open source project and be aware you have to host the “server”, it’s not just as simple as installing an app and it’s primarily designed for people who want full control over smart devices, home automation, etc.

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?

Where at all possible destination charging is preferred. Plug-in for overnight charging. Even if it’s just the very slow portable charger, adding 100km or so of range is still very helpful.

For DC fast charging en route I have used Evie, Chargefox, NRMA, Ampol, BP Pulse and Tesla Superchargers. With the exception of Tesla, the reliability of the DC charge network has been, frankly woeful. This is the section of highway between Sydney and Northern NSW.

We live in northern NSW and trips along the major highways, mainly the Pacific Highway, come with some anxiety about whether a charge stop will actually find a working charger.

You can plan ahead all you like but that goes out the window when a charge stop finds an out of order charge station. So I tend to stop earlier for a top up.

Apps like Plugshare are semi-useful but not always accurate with charger status and needing to check all the individual charge network apps is inconvenient, especially if you are driving alone.

It helps if you’re not driving alone and a passenger can sort it out for you.

I tried “A Better Route Planner” (ABRP), which I linked directly to the car for a while using an OBD reader so that it had real time accurate data on the car’s status, but in the end it did not really help as I found it was very good at directing me to non-functioning charge stations.

Anxiety about charging options has reduced somewhat with the opening of Tesla’s Supercharger site just off the highway near Port Macquarie.

It’s a nice place to stop (in the daytime at least) and Tesla’s chargers are just more numerous and more reliable. They could use longer cables though!

Shame the Raymond Terrace supercharger site is Tesla only. The Hexham-Raymond Terrace area is a charging blackspot with mostly unreliable options and not that many charge stations.

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?

About 1,200 km so far but in time we will do longer trips. We would have done more and longer trips but unfortunately we’ve had to cancel a few. I keep a close eye on the development of the highway and regional charger network, which is improving.

Get an RFID card (I got mine from Evie which at the time was free) and link it to all the charge brands/apps that will accept RFID. Only need one card and it will help because not all stops have good mobile phone coverage.

Stop frequently and do a top up charge, learn where the better charge options are and enjoy the break time. Often only needs 10 minutes or so which is nice for a comfort stop.

Be prepared to deal with a tyre problem. The lack of spare wheels in modern cars has been a terrible trend for Australian driving. At minimum have a means to plug a regular puncture (avoid injecting goop if you can) and re-inflate the tyre. Having a spare wheel for distance driving would be preferable and know how to jack to car correctly/safely and change the wheel.

If you’ve done a long road trip and would like to share your experience of it please share. Detailed EV trip diaries give readers the confidence to do the same themselves.

Unfortunately our first long trip down the northern NSW Pacific Highway was overly stressful I’m sorry to say, it will not inspire confidence. It’s just a fact of life with the charging network on our common highway travel routes.

Non operational charge stations at Port Macquarie, Taree, Nabiac, Karuah and Hexham in the one trip made life pretty frustrating and the delays this caused our trip, pushing us into peak hour Sydney traffic resulting in a six hour journey taking eight and a half hours and arriving very late and stressed (and as it turns out getting mild sunstroke from standing in the hot sun for 20+ minutes trying to get one charge station working with tech support).

We had already allowed more time than normal but the crap DC charger network let us down badly. We had to abandon our plans that evening. It was made worse by staying in a venue which advertised destination charging but turned out they did not actually have it.

Subsequent journeys have not been quite as bad and the network is improving (more like Tesla Superchargers please) but we still find non operational chargers everywhere. The charge network reliability is still awful.

My extended family are interested in our experience, and frankly for many of them I would not yet recommend they get an EV, unless they could afford a Tesla (and many of them don’t find the Tesla brand all that appealing).

They either do not have the ease of access to home charging, and/or the high-ish proportion of their travel on highways does not gel with their likely lack of tolerance for DC charging hassles.

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

Yes, our MG4 has “V2L” which in its standard guise is capable of supplying up to about 2,200 watts of regular AC power from a standard 3-pin outlet (about what a typical electric kettle uses).

There are ways to enable a higher power output from the car’s on board inverter but I don’t, at least for now, have any need for more power than that. I bought our V2L adapter from the local MG dealer.

I’ve tested it several times for various possible uses. It’s only available via the charge port of the car, there is no separate AC power outlet inside the car. It’s no big deal, the car needs to be parked to use it anyway and for the discharge option to be selected via the car’s central display screen.

It works and is pretty easy to use. With the MG4 I found it supplies ~215-217 V AC @ 50 Hz, which is a lower voltage than normal Australian power outlets which are typically 230 V to 240 V AC.

It would be based on Chinese standard voltage which is 220 V AC. Even so, it is completely useable/compatible – 216 V AC being at the low end of the Australian AC voltage standard.

Aside from powering regular plug in devices (such as a plug-in electric heater), I have done some longer duration tests using the car’s V2L to recharge our off-grid home battery after a long grid outage combined with poor weather meant our solar PV was unable to sufficient recharge the home battery.

I had already topped the car up with energy in the days prior using a free tariff period we get on weekends between 12-2PM.

Over the course of an afternoon and overnight I’d discharged 22 kWh from the car and that was sufficient energy to run our two homes and get some charge back into the home battery. That took the car’s battery from 90% to 55% state of charge, which still left us with about 200 km of highway range, ample if we needed it.

I can do this as our home battery system is off-grid and capable of being charged using a plug-in AC charger, it’s not so simple for many of the typical Powerwall-type home battery systems.

We get a lot of grid power outages here (75 longer outages over the last five years – the joys of a rural power network) so having the off-grid system for backup has been great but we also have a generator to cover for extra long disruptions.

But now the car can play the role of the extra reserve capacity if needed. Most outages our home system can cope with but for extra long outages having the reserve energy capacity of the EV is very reassuring. I may even sell our generator.

The car also has online app access to many features and key indicators. I’ve taken advantage of that, which I’ll discuss further below.

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?

The car comes with MG’s roadside assist package however I have not had any requirement for it.

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?

I have not had any need to deal with a warranty issue with this car (yet) so can’t comment on the nature of MG’s local dealer warranty support. I am aware the MG4 under tray can warp a little on some models but mine seems to be fine. MG do have a warranty fix for this should it be needed.

It can be a bit of pot luck with dealer service – in cities you can always choose another dealer but in regional/rural areas that’s not so much the case. You need to find a solution with the dealer you have.

In general though I have had poor experience with branded car service centres when it comes to such issues, with my last car brand, Mercedes Benz, being particularly awful in this respect.

My default position is to document everything and keep pushing. Most of the time in the past I have used independent mechanics but it’s a brave new world with EVs and I expect we are going to be more reliant on the brand’s dealer service departments for the foreseeable future.

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

That’s hard to say, as at the time there were not that many options and I specifically restricted car choices to brands which have local dealer service/support.

That ruled out BYD, and pretty much everything else was much more expensive.

The strong points of the car for me:

  • excellent performance & handling
  • easy to drive
  • the functionality that being an EV enables such as charging from home, V2L for extra reserve home energy capacity/security

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

Noting the same issue of lack of comparison cars, the main area of weakness are:

  • The car’s software isn’t exactly the slickest and needs improvement
  • MG’s application of some “safety” systems could use refinement, in particular lane keep assist and emergency braking features
  • Lack of a spare wheel/space saver option, or at least a suitable place to safely store one if needed for trips. Inflation goop kits don’t cut it in regional Australia. This is a general trend with cars nowadays, not specific to MG.

What is your view on car software updates? Some people prefer it be done by dealers, some don’t want updates, others want them regularly over the air?

Over the air updates would be far more convenient, provided I have some control over when it occurs.

Dealer updates are OK but it needs to be more frequent than dealer service intervals of two years and not be a money grabbing exercise. I think an annual software update as an interim dealer service option makes sense. They can at least make a general check of the car’s condition while they are at it.

There are aspects of the firmware which do need improving. The complete lack of information from MG about what software updates are available and how / when they can be organised is annoying. The dealers are often clueless yet MG just keep pointing you back to dealers. These are things they need to nail IMO if they want to be a serious option in the years ahead.

What questions would ask your car manufacturer HQ if you could?

Why are the safety systems so over-sensitive and poorly calibrated for our roads?

Do you actually ever test the cars in real life on our regional/country roads?

I’m certain if MG did they’d want to address the problems with all the false triggers.

Lane keep assist is mostly just annoying but occasionally scares the bleepers out of me. Having a default steering system attempt to pull me off the road or into oncoming traffic is not fun. FIX IT!!

When will you introduce a better means to update the car’s software and will you provide any information to owners about updates? This has to become better/easier than it is now.

How are local Australian stock of key spares, such as windscreens, lights, panels etc? I’m hearing of long delays for replacement parts which is concerning.

Will you make CUSTOM drive settings actually sticky so it saves what you prefer each time you start the car? It would solve so many issues with the default drive settings. It’s pointless otherwise.

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

Yes, although it is still early days.

I judge cars not only by what they perform like (and the MG4 is very good) but also the ownership experience over the long haul – and that includes service/support.

My last car was fantastic to drive and be inside of but the service experience was awful and I would not recommend them on that basis alone.

This time I did more research on service reputations and MG came out OK with a reputation for supporting customers in general. But it is so dependent on the culture of your local service centre. Time will tell.

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

This is our first EV and it’s been a very good choice so far. It’s just the two of us + dog in a rural location. The 64 kWh battery has enough range to make highway trips perfectly feasible (despite the charger network issues) while for our regular day to day use it’s perfect.

The MG4 is enjoyable to drive (with some occasional annoyances) but only time will tell on the service/support front.

I took some time to set up an automated home charging system which uses our excess solar PV and have also integrated the car with our Home Assistant system.

I built my own Home Assistant EV dashboard for our phones, which both my wife and I can use. The SAIC/MG iSmart app is restricted to only one device logged in at a time which is a bit annoying if two people use the car. This way the Home Assistant integration is the logged in device and we can both use it.

Key measures about the car such as charging, discharging, mileage, battery state of charge and range are automatically tracked as well as enabling remote control of functions such as pre-cooling the cabin, even locking/unlocking the doors or the boot. It can be used to set charging schedules. There is a raft of data about the car’s systems if any of that interests you, much more than the iSmart app provides access to.


4 responses to “MG4 Essence 64 2023 – Australian electric car owner real world experience”

  1. Heath Simpson

    Just further to reader Peter’s comment: It’s worth clarifying Alex’s excellent Home Assistant setup is not actually necessary anyway for many setups where you want to have full control over how much solar is used for charging your EV. Depending on what solar inverter and EV charger you have, you may only require the Charge HQ app/subscription and nothing more.

  2. clayton d’cruz

    Looks like nothing has changed with the poor reliability of charging infrastructure in the Syd – Bris route, had a horrible experience back in Jan 2024 on the way up from Melbourne in our Hyundai Ioniq 28

  3. Neerav Bhatt

    If you use Tesla chargers there are enough open access ones between Sydney and Coffs Harbour for a decent range EV to get there with ease

  4. Hi, this is Alex.

    Yes I agree, Home Assistant for the MG4 is absolutely not necessary. I’ve been using Home Assistant for nearly three years and it’s become an integral part of our home’s operation, especially for energy management. I am by no means an IT specialist, I’m just learning as I go. The SAIC integration was not straightforward to set up, I had various challenges to work through.

    With home charging management I swapped over to use the ChargeHQ API fed by data from Home Assistant (which is polling my inverter every 10 seconds and updates Charge HQ every 30-seconds). Previously I was using the ChargeHQ linked to Fronius Solarweb (we have an 11 kW PV system with a 10 kW Fronius Symo inverter and smart meter).

    Using the API makes ChargeHQ far more responsive to changes with our excess energy supply. When I used the ChargeHQ Solarweb link it was a bit too slow to respond, such that it created false operating mode change triggers with our off-grid power power system. For most homes though the ChargeHQ links with native solar monitoring apps would be perfectly adequate.

    I’ve also since learned that the Raymond Terrace Tesla Supercharger site is now open to non-Teslas. It was Tesla-only when it first opened not so long ago, so not sure when that change happened. That makes a huge difference for us, especially for the return journey from Sydney. Coffs Harbour will also eventually get an all-access Tesla Supercharger site. Not sure when that will be ready, in the next 12-18 months I guess.

    Yes they are more expensive, but they work, are maintained and have many more charge stations at each stop. A cheaper charge stop is useless if it doesn’t work. Right now stations at Karuah and Taree are still down. Taree Evie is terrible, so being able to bypass it is a relief.

    Once Coffs is done that means all-access Tesla Superchargers sites between Sydney and the Gold Coast will be sufficiently numerous that reliance on other charge networks won’t be so critical:

    Sydney (city) to Raymond Terrace SC x 12: 172 km
    Raymond Terrace to Thrumster (~ Port Macquarie) SC x 12: 213 km
    Thrumster to Coffs Harbour SC x 15: 150 km
    Coffs Harbour to Knockrow (~ Byron Bay) SC x 6: 214 km
    Knockrow to Runaway Bay (~ Gold Coast QLD) SC x 6: 82 km

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