In October our CEO and Founder, Ashley Sowerby along with his wife, Tracey, and our Chief Morale Boosting Officer, Archie, the Bearded Collie, took his Tesla Model S on a road trip from Belper, within the heart of Derbyshire in the UK to the island of Mallorca in Spain!
This wasn’t his first EV adventure, he has previously driven to Copenhagen, Brussels, Madrid and Paris. Now, Ashley wants to share his experience of a long-distance road trip with an electric vehicle and some of the tips he’s picked up while on the road.
Leaving the UK
The journey to Palma took a total of 3 days and consisted of 1 train, 1 ferry and 2 overnight stays. The route was selected as a touristic route, allowing time to visit places along the way, rather than a simple point-to-point shortest/fastest route.
First things first ‘It might seem like a no brainer, but I always start a long trip with the car charged to 100%.’ Ashley states. ‘Whilst travelling during the day, it rarely makes sense to charge back to 100%, as the rate of charge typically declines once over 80%. It’s a bit like pouring a pint of beer, you can fill the majority of the glass quite quickly, but then need to slow down to top-off the glass. So on the road, aim to have enough in the battery for the next leg, or couple of hours, and then get moving again. However, when charging overnight it is useful to aim for return to 100% fully charged just to carry that extra charge into the following days travel.’
After setting off from home his first stop was South Mimms Services, just off the M25 in Hertfordshire, for a coffee break and the first charge of the trip.
Ashley comments “Using a high-powered Charger means that whilst I use the Service Facilities, the car is quickly restored to a significant state of charge, and no additional time is spent at the Services than would be in any other car. Indeed, as there’s no need to also visit the Service Station, arguably I could be back on the road before a driver of a Petrol or Diesel vehicle”.
Back on the road again, he heads to Folkstone in Kent to catch the Eurotunnel to France. He plugs in again at the Passenger Terminal, quickly recharging whilst sorting out the Pet Passport paperwork for Archie.
These on-site chargers are great for topping-up prior to boarding commencing, again using what could be considered “waiting time” to charge-up and avoid interrupting the next leg of the journey.
Rouen, first overnight stop in France
After the Eurotunnel to Calais and with the Battery in a good state of charge, it was an uninterrupted next leg, 130 miles to Rouen, a city on the River Seine in northern France.
Here Ashley stopped overnight in a hotel that had on-site charging. The plan was to leave the car in the underground car park to fully recharge whilst exploring the historic city centre and had dinner.
It was an incredible ‘squeeze’ to get the car parked, with the space itself hardly any wider than the car, and the charging point was in the back corner of the parking bay.
Ashley states: “I managed to park and plug-in, but no power was coming from the charging unit. A quick trip to reception and they gave me a card to swipe to activate it. I did that, but given the tightness of the space, didn’t open the door to double check that charging had started (I’d heard the usual ‘clicks’ from the charger unit so figured all was OK). Next morning when we loaded up, rather than the 100% I was expecting, the car was still sat at the 15% I’d arrived with. So unfortunately, our first stop came sooner than planned with a minor detour to a fast charger on the outskirts of Rouen.”
- Plan ahead and look to book hotels with EV charge points
- Make sure it’s charging before walking away
La Rochelle, second overnight stop in France.
After the detour, they were quickly underway again for the relatively short 300 miles journey to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast.
Charging was a simple one-stop affair, charging the car whilst the passengers enjoyed a coffee and some exercise for Archie. Travelling with a dog means a regular stop every couple of hours, so charging tends to coincide with his needs as much as the cars.
No hotel charging was available here, Ashley used Apps to identify what public charging was available and there were a number of options within walking distance of the hotel. However, as the battery still held over 50% on arrival and the city centre was filled with roadworks, it was decided to simply park at the hotel and deal with charging the next morning.
Apps can provide great detail regarding the number and type of chargers available, parking and charging costs, and in many cases the current free/busy status of the units.
Ashley states ‘I would recommend that you register for a few different charge cards and networks and have them downloaded and ready to go before you set off. I use Apps such as ChargeMap and ABetterRoutePlanner which help to plan the ideal route for your vehicle model and destination, with 1,000’s of charge points across Europe at your fingertips. Some networks offer either App or RFID access, but RFID is generally found to be more reliable.’
- Use apps to find public chargers
The Final Leg – Big Miles to Barcelona
The next morning Ashley began the 500-mile trip from La Rochelle to Barcelona. After breakfast they drove an hour south-east to the town of Saintes. The Tesla charger here is in the grounds of a very pretty hotel, complete with Pond, Scenic Walk, Ducks, Swans and Gardens. A 30-minute stop here saw the car charged and ready for the next leg whilst enjoying the facilities and a great coffee.
The next stop was a couple of hours away, just south of Bordeaux, in the small town of Langon. Not so pretty this time – the car park of a Hypermarket and next door to a McDonalds. After a brief stop here, he again headed south for a couple of hours, stopping just north of Toulouse.
- Plan charging stops around activities or meal breaks
Here the charger is in the car park of a small hotel, and with the temperature approaching 30c it was time to get the picnic blanket out and take a break from driving for a little while. With a fuller battery and everyone fully restored, they decided to make the following leg a longer one – next stop Spain!
As they had time in hand, a late evening ferry crossing had meant we had plenty of time on this day, rather than continue direct to Barcelona and it’s traffic, Ashley exited the Motorway in Girona for the final charge of the day. On a previous trip Ashley had charged in Girona at the PGA Catalunya Golf and Hotel resort , so thought this time he would try the “other” charger for comparison. Sadly, rather than pristinely manicured lawns and luxurious facilities, he ended up at the back end of a car park in down-town Girona. Let’s chalk that one up to experience!
After that, it was a quick blast down the Motorway to Barcelona Port, and boarding the Ferry to Mallorca. It was a six-hour crossing but with a dog-friendly cabin, they had a quick evening meal and then some shut-eye before the 4AM wake-up call announcing that the ferry was docking. As the ferry docked in Alcudia, it was a 45-minute drive across the island to Palma where Ashley parked in a local underground car park with free charging which took the battery back up to 100%, he then moved the car next day. That charge was more than adequate for their needs that trip, so it stayed on the street thereafter and on the final day he was lucky enough to get some on-street parking right outside the apartment,
‘In Palma there is a lot of free charging, either in municipal parking lots, on street, or at Supermarkets.’ Ashley states.
- EV’s with a long range are more suitable for road trips
Should you hit the road?
Electric car registrations increased by 41% in 2020, despite the pandemic-related worldwide downturn in car sales in which global car sales dropped 16%. And in the first-quarter of 2021, global electric car sales rose by around 140% compared to the same period in 2020.
There is still a huge conversation that EV’s cannot compete with the internal combustion engine for long distance driving and range anxiety is playing a big role in people’s hesitance to jump into EV’s. A recent study found that the reason people aren’t switching to EV’s, despite being aware of the environmental benefits is that 58% of drivers are afraid that they will run out of power before being able to charge their vehicle, while another 49% fear low availability of charging stations. Range anxiety is a psychological phenomenon brought about by unreliable vehicle characteristics, a complex route planning eco-system, a lack of familiarity with new technologies. Although for general day-to-day use, these anxieties might be unfounded.
Ashley states: ‘I am fortunate in that I have a Tesla and their Super Charger network has been excellent in my five years experience, very reliable, very available and convenient locations. Where possible I aim to stay at hotels with on-site charging and reserve it ahead where possible.’
With the transition to electric vehicles inevitable, we should all be thinking EV first. All drivers should be considering an EV for their next car and suppliers will be looking at every step they can take to address the issues that prevent people from adopting the technology. More public exposure to electric vehicles is leading to greater confidence in production forecasts and more companies are going public with their plans and products for the sector – whether that’s new electrified models, new components for those models, or covering the infrastructure needed to power them.
Our advice would be to do your research to find an EV model that suits your lifestyle and requirements and get driving!