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My EV Holiday Experience - From Surrey to Devon (and Back)

  • 24 August 2020
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My EV Holiday Experience - From Surrey to Devon (and Back)
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Background


This year was my first year of owning a full electric vehicle, absolutely no backup of a polluting  combustion engine.

 

I took delivery just before COVID-19 hit, so had not really had the experience of any long range trips. I had done some homework though. I knew the stated range: 239 miles, and I too knew this was not going to be achieved as it was hot, the boot was absolutely rammed full following the traditional game of car boot jenga, and we had 5 passengers. As if this wasn't enough of a challenge, we were going from a part of the UK where chargers are many to a village in deep dark surrey, down roads which are lucky to call a shack a "services" and then onto the vast expanse of last century technology called North Devon.

 

Atop of all this, I had an additional challenge, and one that I honestly didn't realise that would become the hardest to overcome. The impact taking an EV on a family holiday has to planning and the emotional impact it can have on passengers. In order to explain this I need to give some context, I am an early adopter  part of the vehicle to grid trial OVO run, my house is full of new tech, I bought a mini-disc player back when they came out, this is who I am. I accept new technology comes with challenges.  My wife, however, is the believer in "if it isn't broke why fix it" and "Let other people try stuff instead" in addition her attitude was very much "Your choice of car shouldn't be affecting our holiday so you better make sure it doesn't." Yes, squaring this in Devon was indeed tricky. As a note, I love my wife very much but possibly love technology a bit more, I had to find a way to succeed.

 

The Journey

 

 

The loaded car

 

 

The full charge - let’s roll

 

The route


 

The journey from my home in a surrey village to Woolacombe,  North Devon is a long one, 202 miles and on a road likely with lots of slow traffic passing Stonehenge. The only Ecotricity stations on route were on the short M5 stretch, and on the A303, Amesbury and Weyhill were options, but probably too close to my start of journey to be really useful. I figured with a totally full charge (which I had), making the 1st M5 station would be a breeze.

 

Sadly, I had totally miscalculated the energy consumption impact a full car with air-con and delays past the stones could have. This rapidly became my first genuine experience of range anxiety.  As the estimated miles slipped lower and lower i glided into the 1st M5 services only to see a Mitsubishi PHEV pulling out of the space. Thinking my timing was perfect,  I gleefully pulled in, popped the filling lid and strode with confidence to the charger, app in hand. This is where my face changed to dread, realising the Mitsubishi was in fact leaving as the station was out of use. I had to think quick, and find a solution before I could sheepishly walk back to the car to tell my wife. My hope was that the Tiverton M5 services, which I could just perhaps reach without aircon may save me. 

 

As we rolled into the services I learned a few more things. One is how hard finding the EV points actually are and secondly, how busy they get! It was already in use by a ZOE, and was to be in use for a worrying 15 minutes before I could join my family in a well known fast food chain as I couldn't risk someone jumping in front of me. Thankfully,  I could see it working so knew I was saved, for now. Little did I expect this was the 1st occurrence of the argument that if I had petrol this would never have been an issue.

 

The Ecotricity charger that works!

 

 

The charger in all its glory!


Continuing onward to our destination was a relatively simple affair, stopping for lunch at a nearby town before pottering down to the check in at the holiday park accommodation. Arriving here, it was clear there was going to be no opportunity for 13 Amp charging, so I would indeed need to find a working rapid charger, and not be gone too long and missed by wife. The alternative is I could make it part of a journey and figure how to make charging stations interesting…

 

At the evening meal we went out to eat then I tried my luck, suggesting we explored the town where the charger was (there really are not many in North Devon, certainly round Woolacombe!) We arrived and parked up at the charger,  seconds before an EV Audi rocked up and looked really upset someone was using the charger (he got out and helped me get it working as if he uses this at the same time every day) it was a Chargepoint Instavolt charger and using it with my contactless bank card was quite a challenge.

 

Onwards to Woolacombe!

 

Sadly, my gamble was only partially successful,  the local town highlight was a co-op where we bought supplies and I managed about 30 mins charge before I was urged to return to accommodation and sort it out later, on my own, without affecting the holiday. I realised after a quick check on the app it opened at 05:30 and was 20 mins from accommodation,  meaning if i wanted to fill up and be back before they wake, that means a 5am wake-up.


The Actual Holidaying

 

So.. a 5am wake-up heading 30 mins down the road for a 05:30 charger opening as per the stated opening times was my 1st solo trip as the rest of the family were fast asleep. Instavolt (Chargepoint) Braunton was again my destination. With great 4G signal I plugged in, put my headphones on and watched an hour of Netflix. Charging is somehow peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable while the world sleeps. No fighting for chargers, but the scenery was nothing to write home about, it is like sitting in a garage, but thankfully with a nice roof in case of rain.

 

The Instavolt charger

 

Sunday morning charge

 

Driving around the local area for the day I had no issues with charge sitting nearly on a full tank in no time at all. The rest of the holiday was relaxing and fun, and comfortable, every other day I would have a 5AM wake up, but it kept the peace with the family, we would have a charged car, and I found the amazing Polar charger (pictured below) which is massively cheaper (thanks to my EV Everywhere Tariff!) and has a MUCH prettier view when charging.

 

Also good 4G for Netflix. I strangely found the solitude and watching the morning arrive the most enjoyable part of the holiday, total relaxation, peace, quiet, just what I needed. It must be noted at times the Instavolt had a 4 hour queue of people waiting at around midday, yet the Polar station, merely 4 mins down the road, and slightly off track was totally free and saved me a number of times for top-ups.

 

The most beautiful charge point!

 


Technical images of the various charges are below to show rates and mileage covered between charges etc.

 

10th August

 

11th August pre charge

 

11th August post charge

 

Ready for another charge

 

 

13th August pre charge

 

13th August post charge

 

15th August pre charge

 


We also happened on our trip to visit an energy related museum about hydroelectric power (it also was beautiful so met the rest of the family's requirements) so I have a few pictures for that here too.


The Trip Home

 


This was going to have to be a well planned trip, traffic and weather was awful, I had a 5am start (for my totally full charge) and had booked the Harvester at Amesbury as they have a Polar charger (apparently) which I had been monitoring for the week and sadly usage was typically peaking around lunchtime (our anticipated arrival), and I knew this would cause stress and frustration, I had also been monitoring the other Polar point, merely 300 yards away in the hotel car park and nobody used it for days yet was working.

 

As it happened, after a long and stressful drive due to accidents and diversions and pouring rain, the Harvester charger was free, and, as like all Polar chargers I have ever used, just worked a dream. A simple tap of the card, plug in and off we shoot to a relaxing lunch, followed by a peaceful drive home.

 

15th August post charge - ready to return home

 

15th Aug - Arrival at Amesbury Polar at Harvester

 

15th Aug - The Charger - Amesbury Polar at Harvester



In summary.. Would I do it again, absolutely, would I make sure I realise there are early mornings involved, yes. Would I top up at Amesbury on the way to avoid stress on the M5 and Ecotricity issues, yes, I would to that too. 

 

A massive amount of hours were spent in the car getting to, around and From Devon, but it is simply beautiful, and in the early mornings in a pure EV, nothing is more peaceful and relaxing.


I hope this can inspire you to take the following lessons:


1) Plan plan plan, get all the apps, monitor usage and outages
2) Expect early mornings, but, appreciate them
3) Save the planet from pollution
4) Sit back and enjoy the savings

 

I thank you for reading this massive post. I hope you found it informative.

 

The images from my trip to the HEP museum at Lynton and Lynmouth:

 

 

 

 

 


 


18 replies

Userlevel 7

What a fantastic post, @Jequinlan - thank you so much for sharing. 

 

I’ve been involved in editing this, adding reduced-size pictures etc, so I’ve had a chance to read it through a few times. One thing that stands out to me (as someone who doesn’t have an EV) is that this technology is still in the ‘early adopter’ phase!

 

I was a bit surprised to hear of what seems like a lack of charger availability, and inconveniently long charging time.  It doesn't surprise me therefore that range anxiety is prevalent. 

 

As with internal combustion engine early adopters, it was awkward, and now it’s not. We need that same process to happen here with EVs, the technology (charge capacity and time to charge) and infrastructure (number of charges). Except we need this change to happen quick, to assist in the world’s effort to reduce carbon emissions. 

 

I’d like to hear from @ITGeek123 and I’d like to hear from @PeterR1947 who have both done long distance EV journeys. Any 5am starts for you when on your holidays? How does this compare, and are there things that can be done to minimise (like a car with longer range)?

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5am is for sleeping!  I must admit I’ve never been to anywhere so rural on my trips, mostly via motorways so no charging problems as such.  Doing the Plymouth run, we stopped at Exeter to charge and that lasted us for the long weekend.    Unexpectedly in the car park we were directed to near the Hoe there was a charger; it was supposed to use an RFID card but mine wouldn’t work so I got a free charge ready for the journey home.

Other times in Skegness we found chargers in a council car park with free parking while charging and in a holiday in rural Norfolk we used local Co-ops and McDonalds.

It shows the necessity of planning, leaving home with 100% charge then working between 20% to 80%; the car takes about 30 to 40 mins on a fast charger from 20% to 80%.  I now generate a spreadsheet before each journey showing chargers on and close to the route.

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@PeterR1947 , The fact that you sit down with spreadsheets and I have apps and maps certainly helps to support @Tim_OVO in that we really are still Early Adopter Territory. ..

 

I find Zap-map app and a spreadsheet both worthwhile and sadly required. 

 

If you fail to plan then plan to fail!

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Doing the Plymouth run, we stopped at Exeter to charge and that lasted us for the long weekend.    

 

This seems like a more acceptable range/duration. @Jequinlan is your battery capacity less? I warn you that I am an EV novice, so that might be a stupid question. 

 

 

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Agreed, I use Zap Map, also PlugShare and a few others I’m trying

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As you can see from my post @Tim_OVO my theoretical range is around 200 miles. During our Devon holiday we covered well over 500 miles (I think nearly 800) So multiple charges were vital!

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@Tim_OVO we we’re also only two up with relatively little luggage.

@Jequinlan mine Leaf’s a 62, what’s yours?

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Also a 62kwh leaf, 5 up fully loaded!

Userlevel 7

So it’s the same make and model: literally just the mileage and the load, thanks for confirming! 

 

I’m sticking this at the top of the (new) EV category to make it easier to find

Userlevel 7
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Interesting trip @Jequinlan 

I don’t remember Devon being that gloomy. Is it @Tim_OVO’s photo-editing? :wink:

Here’s my retake on the banner photo at the top of this article:

 

Just looking further into the Lynton Hydroelectric Plant: I’ve checked Western Power’s map and this doesn’t seem to be grid connected. Instead it supplies power to homes and businesses through cables owned by the Parish Council. :slight_smile:

I must assume that it supplies 440/230v AC so that customers can buy normal electrical equipment. But the map suggests the generator output is higher (possibly 11kV?).

Did you happen to get any more technical detail than this, John?

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Hi @Transparent apologies, I didn't manage to get more info, but thought as it was power related and beautiful it was worthy of a few pictures from the museum.

Userlevel 7

Just saw a video which echoes a lot of what you outlined here, @Jequinlan:

 

 

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Excellent post. I agree that we have charger anxiety, not range anxiety. And managing passengers can be more difficult than managing the battery. It does help to set clear expectations, such as “we are going to have to take our time”. EVs can get you anywhere in the UK, but sometimes you need to be patient. 

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@MrPuds initially indeed I was not prepared for the non technical challenges,  now I am!!!!

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Indeed. I actually remember reading about a pretty cool company a few years ago called Better Place that had some really cool rapid battery swapping technology. It was literally a case of you being able to drive in, power down, wait for a couple of minutes while the automatic system swapped out your battery for a freshly charged one and then you were back on the road. Really cool stuff. After you drive out, your swapped out battery would be put in storage and hooked up to a charger, ready for someone else to use later.

It was a really cool concept that actually became real… But the company collapsed a few years later because it was too expensive to run and wasn’t attractive enough.

But maybe something similar will return someday?

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@Blastoise186 electrified highways using QI induction i think is the way forward

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Ah yes… I can see that working really well…

Hey Tim, I’ll be back in 20 minutes. Just gonna grab some milk from the shops before they close. Steps out onto the road to cross the street.

ZAAAPPPP!!!

Ouch… Erm… Tim… I think I just got a bit fried… Do us a favour and call an ambulance would ya?

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If you had some eggs with you at the time, they’d be deliciously scrambled. Swings and roundabouts @Blastoise186 

 

:cooking::zap:

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