THERE’S a reason the Government has laid out a new set of rules for public charging infrastructure which cover contactless payment, transparent pricing, reliability targets and open pricing, and this comment is the perfect reason why.
Before I get going, I need to say that I like driving EVs. If you have home charging and a driveway, which I’m fortunate to say I do, they’re so easy and cheap to live with. I’ve happily and successfully run long term electric cars, but I still hesitate to take them on road-trip holidays.
Motorway EV Charging
Starting in Surrey with 240 miles of claimed range I planned a 330 mile each-way trip to Northumberland (plus touring around the North East for a couple of days). That planning mainly consisted of multiple route options and lots of saved 100kW+ charge points in Zapmap.
My first charge point is at Markham Vale Services, 160 miles from home.
Zapmap says there’s two 100kW CCS Instavolt hook-ups (and a 50kw Osprey point). I arrive with about 30% range left, but find there’s only one CCS point and one Chademo that share a 125kw feed. There’s a Renault Zoe on the Chademo, so electricity goes in to my car at 60kw. I grab a Subway for dinner while the eldest child nips into MacDonalds.
The plan was then to get to Washington Services (130 miles away) for a final charge before arriving at the in-laws’ place near Morpeth. But due to the slow charge we opt to give up on Markham Vale after 20 mins and move on to Skelton Lake Services outside Leeds where I know there’s six 350kW Ionity charge points.
We arrive at Skelton Lake and grab the last available connection. Contactless isn’t working, so I have to use the Ionity app which I haven’t used for ages, so I do the ‘forgotten password’ thing. Finally we get connected and the charge starts, but it’s only going in at 80kW. We get bored with waiting and don’t want another snack or drink so when we charge to 160 miles range, I unplug and head 90 miles to Moto Washington where there’s a bank of six new 350kW Gridserve CCS charge points and we’re the only car there.
We arrive with 35% charge and initially the juice is flowing at 119kW, but it quickly drops back to hover around 80kw again.
It’s getting late now (9pm) and I decide that once we’re back above 150 miles range we’ll do the last 30 miles to our destination and then we’ll have enough charge to get out the next day.
Impact Of Rain On EV Efficiency
At 4:30am the following morning we set off with 97% charge and range showing 220 miles. My plan is to charge once at Woolley Edge and (because there aren’t many good 100kW+ options on the M1 below Watford Gap) I plan to head south via the M69 and M40 stopping at the amazing Banbury Costa just off junction 11.
It’s raining quite a bit and this seems to impact the car’s efficiency quite significantly. We arrive 135 miles later at Woolley Edge where there’s a lovely bank of unoccupied 350kW chargers newly installed by Gridserve. The car’s showing 21% remaining. For those good at maths you’ll realise this works out at 170 miles for a full 100% charge.
I plug in while getting soaked by the rain (when will charge points have covers?), tap to pay is fast and almost immediately the car’s taking 160kW. Excellent, I think, let’s go get a coffee and breakfast.
While waiting for my coffee to arrive I check the car’s app to see how the charge is going. It’s failed. I leave the kids to collect the coffee, their drinks and breakfast and I go back to the car, move it one charge point over and plug in again. This time it refuses to go above 80kW. We wait an hour to get to 95% full, knowing that Banbury is 140 miles away.
A few miles short of Banbury the ‘find a charge point’ warning pops up, but that’s fine. We arrive with 17 miles range left and plug into one of the 32 InstaVolt stations. Despite the charge point being rated for 150kW and the car being near empty. It only pulls just over 80kW. Luckily home is only 90 miles away. We wait about 30 mins, have more coffee and snacks, and set off for home once 140 miles range is showing.
We arrive home at 11:45am with 45 miles range showing. We’re also home an hour later than my wife in her diesel van who did the same trip but set off 30 mins after we did.
EV Holiday Running Costs
Since arriving home I’ve worked out how much I spent per mile on electricity and it was 24.7p (and this doesn’t include the final home charge to get back up to 100%).
As a reference, the diesel cost for my wife’s van is 17.6p a mile.
For those wondering what BEV I was driving, it was a VW ID Buzz (a full review will appear on this site soon) and it averaged 2.5 miles/kWh over the 814-mile road-trip. Yes, there are more efficient EVs with greater range. These factors would have helped a little, but in reality it’s the charging network and the way cars charge that needs to be more reliable and more predictable.
Long Distance EV Lessons
If the UK is really serious about going all-in on btery electric cars (and vans), then things need to improve and they need to improve quickly. On my trip I’d purposefully picked quiet times to travel so didn’t really have any issues finding available charging, it was more about getting a fast charge and the simplicity of payment. It’s also difficult to know if it was the car or the grid that limited the speed of charge in each case, something that’s not really talked about. EV drivers don’t know if it is the car that’s limiting the charge speed, the charger limiting what it provides or a combination of both.
The other lesson for EV road-trips I’ve learnt is that rain and wet roads (even in warm weather) can have a serious impact on efficiency.
The Journey In Figures
- Vehicle – VW ID Buzz
- Useable battery size – 77kWh
- Max charge range (DC) – 170kW
- Real world range – 220 in the dry, 170 in the wet
- 814 miles over five days
- Efficiency average – 2.5 m/kWh
- Average electricity cost – 62p per kWh
- Total cost of charging – £201.36
- Electricity cost per mile – 24.7p
- Queuing time at chargers – zero
- Time added to journey – 3 hours 20 minutes
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