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Interview: An EV Holiday In Europe

30 August 2022 BlogEV for Drivers

Liz Warren, Head of Business Management at Mer, gives her advice for holidaying in Europe with an EV, following her return from a family holiday in France.

With electric vehicles (EVs) becoming more and more popular, a rise in EV holidays and EV road trips are inevitable in the coming years. We caught up with Liz Warren after she returned from her travels in France with her EV, to hear her advice for those planning on taking a holiday in an EV.

Overview – Where did you travel on holiday, and what EV do you drive?

This year’s holiday took my family and I all the way to the southwest of France, 730 miles away from home to Lac de l’Uby in the Gers region. We stopped off for a night in Le Mans on the way to check out the race track and recharge ourselves and the car.  We then spent our second week in the Loire in the beautiful town of Samaur, 270 miles north of Lac de L’Uby –  home to a beautiful Chateau and many Troglodyte caves, a few of which have been helpfully repurposed as wine caves.

ev holiday

We drive a very lovely blue Tesla Model Y, Long Range.

PRE-HOLIDAY

What made you decide to travel in your EV rather than another form of transport?

As a family, we’re very aware of the frankly scary environmental changes which are happening all around us and in the wider world as a result of climate change. We have agreed that we should do what we can, where we can, to reduce our carbon footprint. In France we stay with an eco-friendly campsite brand called Huttopia, and it felt wrong for us to drive so many miles in a petrol or diesel car. We were delighted to receive our Tesla just before our long trip, as we’d looked at other options (train), but they just don’t work for us as a family going camping.

 

What did you do to prepare/plan for travel in your EV?

The Tesla is our first ever EV. Before now we have only taken EVs out on short journeys. Fortunately, given the industry I work in, I was well aware of the need to plan for our charging abroad. I downloaded the Chargepoint app and ordered their RFID card. I also researched local destination chargers to our campsites and ordered RFID cards for these too.

We carried out a short test drive to Gloucestershire (we live in Surrey) before we went, and found that the Tesla Supercharger network and route planning takes a lot of the stress out of longer journey planning. Unfortunately, on that occasion we found the wider network severely lacking. Something that Mer in the UK is looking to resolve!

ev road tripFor our longer motorway journeys in France, we mainly stuck to the Supercharger network for two reasons. Firstly, the cost – the only alternative we noted on the way down was Ionity which was at least 50% higher in cost. Secondly, availability. We didn’t have to queue for a charger once, whereas every Ionity charger we saw always had a queue of at least 2 cars. Often Supercharger locations would have upwards of 10 sockets available – the most we saw was 20. Other providers didn’t seem to offer more than 6 at most.

We gave ourselves extra time for each of our journeys (not knowing how long charging would take), but found that we didn’t need it – if anything the stops were not long enough! By the time we had all got out of the car, had a snack and drink and found the toilets, the charge would be done and we’d be back on our way.

 

Did you have any concerns about going on holiday in your EV before you left? If so, what were they?

Yes, I was very concerned that we would find queues at charge points, making our already long journey significantly longer, or that we wouldn’t be able to find chargers in the more remote areas and ultimately we would run out of charge. This simply didn’t happen!

DURING THE HOLIDAY

How many charge stops did you make & where?

In total for the two weeks, we visited 10 Supercharger locations (during our long journeys – Surrey to Le Mans, Le Mans to Lac de L’Uby, Lac de L’Uby to Saumur, Saumur to Surrey), 1 Ionity (App), 1 Lidl charger (free to use), 2 Freshmile AC charging sessions (App/RFID card), and 3 Powerdot DC charging sessions (50kW) via Chargepoint (RFID).

 

What did you do whilst your EV was charging?

It depended on the type of charge. For our long journeys we got out the car and without fail used the toilets! Generally travelling time between stops was around 2.5hrs. We then bought coffee and had food or went for a walk (there are some surprisingly rural service stations in France!). At the Eurotunnel the kids watched Netflix on the car screen – ‘Is it Cake?’ being a bit of a lifesaver during delays on the way back!

ev holidayFor our slower charging sessions, we built these into sightseeing – for one session we visited the town of Condom (which the kids thought was hilarious), which was the home to Charles de Batz de Castelmore D’Artagnan – the inspiration behind the story of The Three Musketeers. For longer slow charges we parked the car up in the local town charger to the campsite whilst we spent the day at the pool. I think we definitely explored places we wouldn’t have gone to if we weren’t looking for a charger.

 

How many miles did you cover in total?

Around 2000 miles in the end, and I’m pretty proud that those are all EV miles!

 

Did you run into any problems during your journey?

The biggest issue we had was not down to the car, but the user – it turns out I’m a bit speedy and my husband is a lot more relaxed. This has a HUGE impact on range, much like the tortoise and the hare; slow and steady wins the day!

We did meet a Tesla driver who had completely run out of charge, their car came off the flat bed recovery truck a bit fast and slowly made its way towards ours parked in the bay next to it. We all moved pretty fast to help them to turn it away and get on to the Supercharger!

 

What was your impression of the charging infrastructure in France?

Honestly for a non-Tesla it is lacking. Many many more sockets are needed on the highway system. Off the highway you can find slow chargers, but you do need to travel quite some way if you want to charge up quickly. We didn’t find this was an issue as we prefer to visit locally.

POST-HOLIDAY REFLECTIONS

How would you describe your experience of travelling to Europe in an EV? Did the journey turn out how you expected it would?

It turned out A LOT better. We had planned in way more time than we actually needed to make our journey. We’re very well aware that our experience is down to the spread of the Supercharger network but in my view that just gives all other CPOs an excellent example of what can and should be achieved. We found the EV community lovely – in many locations we had chats with other EV drivers who are all excited and happy to be in their EVs and ready with tips and advice where needed.

charging stops

 

Did you manage to avoid ‘range anxiety’?

My biggest issue in this area is the disagreement between my husband and myself over whether we should or should not drop below 20% battery. I always felt that we should leave enough that we can get to an Ionity or Supercharger if we needed. Turns out I was wrong – the local AC chargers in France worked, and worked well!

 

Was there anything you wish you had known before you set off on holiday?

Octopus Juice works abroad! I wish I’d known that. Otherwise no, I’m glad I put in the time and research to think about where and how to charge so that I had RFID cards at the ready. But honestly most of the chargers worked with an app so in the end we didn’t really need them. We used them just because we had them!

 

Would you do anything differently next time?

Not really, perhaps be a little more optimistic about how far you can travel on the main routes in a day, but I can’t wait to go back on our next trip – we had an absolute blast and all of us LOVED our EV experience.

 

Would you recommend travelling abroad in an EV? Why/why not?

Yes, but I’d caution that my experience is based on the Supercharger network. Saying that, the developments with other CPO networks are fantastic, and by next year I expect there will be many more sites and sockets ready for EV drivers to get exploring!

road trips

 

What piece of advice would you offer to someone planning a trip abroad in their EV?

If you like reassurance, plan ahead and research what’s available in the areas you are visiting. Order RFID cards and go prepared!

Anything else you would like our audience to know about your experience?

My kids had a few comments about their EV experience…

 

Harry

What is your favourite thing about driving an EV?

Very smooth car with no complaints.

What is your least favourite thing about driving an EV?

There isn’t really a least favourite thing. Charging? But then charging is usually fun because we get to go to places and see things so its quite good. So I don’t think there really is a bad thing to it really.

Do you like EVs? Why?

Yes!

Because they are so smooth, they’re not really bad for the environment. It doesn’t have much sound and we can listen to everything we want and there are wireless charging pads everywhere. I would recommend them because they’re awesome and good for the environment!

charging points

 

Leo

What is your favourite thing about driving an EV?

Thinking that I’m not polluting the street.

What is your least favourite thing about driving an EV?

Nothing.

What is your favourite thing about the car?

Probably charging because we get to hang out with each other.

 

 

Looking to holiday closer to home? We planned 4 UK-based EV road trips in a recent blog, tracking journeys in both the North and the South; read it here.

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