Road trips are the highlight of the year for a lot of families. As the transition to electric vehicles gains momentum, many people wonder how easy is it to do their normal road trips in the age of electric vehicles. Of course, there are now a lot more EV models to choose from these days that can make road trips quite comfortable. EV charging infrastructure is also growing. Regional road trips can be more convenient in a Tesla or Audi e-tron than in a “gasmobile” in some places in the US, as described in this article by Zachary Shahan.
How easy is it to go on long road trips in the UK these days? We had the pleasure of chatting with one family that recently returned from a long trip around Britain in an Audi e-tron. Before we get into that, let’s take a look into one of the popular road trip routes in the UK.
One of the most popular trips in the UK is the length of the island, the John O’Groats to Land’s End trip. The trip goes from the island’s northernmost to its southernmost part. The direct route can take you via the big motorways, which one would expect would be well covered now with charging infrastructure.
Leasing Options, a leasing service that has been serving the UK for over 30 years, organized an EV Range Race from John O’Groats to Land’s End trip last year featuring 10 EV models. The Tesla Model S and Model X came out on top at the end of the 837-mile race, finishing with a total time of 16 hours and 18 minutes. The 55 kWh Tesla Model 3 came in just 3 minutes behind its big brothers. The 100 kWh Model X and S Teslas only needed to stop 3 times to charge, whereas the 35 kWh VW eGolf which came in 10th place needed 20 hours and 36 minutes to complete the trip and needed 10 charging stops. At all the stops, the vehicles were able to fast charge and all sessions were under 35 minutes for the 10 cars, except for the Renault Zoe, the Jaguar I Pace, and the 40 kWh Nissan Leaf, where the charge times were around 56, 44, and 40 minutes. The Tesla Model 3’s charge sessions were around 21 minutes.
One can also go the long way via the coastal route right round the mainland. This scenic route offers magnificent views of the sea and national parks, as well as a historical view of the UK. This includes the fishing economy and the nation’s military and exploration history. This scenic route has long sections that are not near the major motorways.
Andy Calitz and his wife recently went on this coastal road trip around the UK. They went on the 4,000 kilometer trip driving their 95 kWh Audi e-tron Quattro. There are fewer chargers around the coastal routes, so Andy and family had to carefully plan their trip around charging sessions. In general, they planned to do around 250 kilometers per day so as to have time to take in the sights.
There are about 25,000 charging points in Britain at the moment and the Competition and Markets Authority says the nation could need 10 times as many before 2030. Andy’s trip shows that a lot more of these new charging points would need to be added along regional and coastal routes. Every night, he would look for a hotel that is within one kilometer of a charging point in order to park and charge as close to his hotel as possible, so as to minimize the length of the walk to and from the charging point in the mornings and evenings.
Here are some of their key learnings from this road trip:
1) There are few DC fast chargers in these coastal areas
Where possible, he would try to charge at a 50 kW DC charger to limit overnight charging sessions for security and convenience reasons. In some of these remote places, it is always prudent to limit overnight charging in isolated places that are not so close to the hotel. In some cases, he would have to use the 7 kW AC chargers overnight, which would be the only option in some of the places.
2) There were queues at some charge points
At times, he also had to wait for charging points to become available, as the chargers were already in use by other drivers. At some points he had to wait for more than 2 hours to get a turn to charge.
3) There are many different service providers, apps, and payment methods
As the transition to electric mobility accelerates in the UK, there has been a growth in charging infrastructure providers. A lot of them have different apps, charging setups, and payment methods. On this trip, Andy had to download 9 different apps from different service providers, as well as set up all the various payment methods. This makes it a bit cumbersome, as compared to the usual filling up and payment at a petrol or diesel service station. At times, he would arrive at a charge point and after plugging in, the charge session would not start. He would then have to call the help line for the service provider to start the session remotely.
There are many positives from the trip. Andy and his family were able to find a charging point within a reasonable distance from their overnight accommodation. This shows that with some good planning, it is now quite possible to go on these regional and coastal road trips around the UK.
Photos courtesy of Andy Calitz.
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