Our EV Road Trip - County Durham to The New Forest

Many people simply don't believe that it is possible to comfortably travel hundreds of miles in an electric vehicle. We set out to test this and see how the trip compares to travelling in a petrol or diesel car. Our mission - prove that it can be done with just a small amount of planning and consideration.

Leg 1 - Stockton to Doncaster - 84 miles

The first leg of the journey begins in County Durham in the town of Stockton. The car is fully charged and we know from experience with our ZE40 Zoe that it should be able to manage up to 160 miles whilst making full use of ECO mode. Tonight we have accommodation in Doncaster and only 84 miles to go - so no stresses for this leg of the trip.

When going long distances we always look for accommodation with the ability to charge. This saves on needing to charge during the day. Luckily I am staying at my parent's house and they have a three-pin plug on the driveway which they normally use for powering their caravan before and after a trip away - this is perfect for charging the Zoe overnight.

Many hotels and B&Bs offer EV charging - check their websites or give them a call to be certain. Having a three-pin charge cable in the boot opens up more options for you - including staying with a family member or friend who doesn't have a 'proper' home EV charger installed.

Leg 2 - Doncaster to Cherwell Valley - 129 miles

The day begins early doors with another full battery. I have around 230 miles to cover today so am keen to get moving. The route down to Lymington is one I have done many times and depending on traffic there is a number of ways that Google Maps may take me. I keep this in mind knowing that I probably need to find a charge station roughly 120 - 130 miles into my journey.

You may ask why not find a charger 150+ miles on the journey in order to get as much out of the battery before needing to charge. Although the UK has many chargers which I can use, the ones which I come across may be busy or potentially out of order. I always like to leave myself 10 miles plus of range (or more depending on the battery size of the car I am in) to enable me to travel a little further to an alternate charger should my first choice not be suitable.

To find my first and second choice of charger to use my first point of call is always ZapMap. They have a great app and you can easily filter the different types of chargers to only show the ones suitable for me. You can also create a free account on their site/app and this will save my car to make things even easier.

I quickly see there are hundreds of compatible chargers so I now need to narrow down my choice. I always choose something close to the main route, at services if possible, and a location with multiple charge points to reduce the chance of all the chargers being occupied. For this trip, my first choice is the GridServe charge station at Cherwell Valley Services near Bicester. This service station is exactly where the two main routes south for me converge and is around 129 miles from my parent's house. I  like the GridServe chargers - they are normally easily found within a car park and their customer service is top-notch.

My plan B charge station is the GridServe station another 12 miles down the road - I left that morning with my fingers crossed that I wouldn't need it.

I made it to Cherwell around 2.5 hours later, the rush hour traffic had not been too unkind. I easily connected to the spare charge post by tapping my contactless card and the car began to charge. There was, however, one problem.

The car gave me an estimated time to charge of over four hours. This post should easily charge the car in around 1.5 hours if it was working as it should. This was a little concerning so I decided to grab a coffee and only leave the car to charge for half an hour. This was enough time for my coffee and a bit of breakfast before I decided to continue on.

Leg 3 - Cherwell Valley to Newbury - 48 miles

At this point, the car was showing a range of 58 miles on the dash. Not enough to get home. Not to worry - back on ZapMap and there I found a charger only a mile or so off the main route with plenty of connectors. I hit the road again and 50 minutes later found myself at the charger on the outskirts of town in a pub car park.

This was an Osprey charging unit and my first time using one. The process was super simple and took under a minute to get the car plugged in and charging. Result! This was giving me the maximum charge speed and I knew I was on to a winner.

I spent around 40 minutes on this charger to get some more life into the battery. This gave me 65 miles of range and I now had enough to get home! The last leg was upon me.

Leg 3 - Newbury to Lymington - 52 miles

Knowing that I was on the last leg was a great feeling. This part went without a hitch and driving the Zoe was still enjoyable 200 miles after setting off. I arrived in Lymington just before 2.00 pm feeling quite happy overall with the journey!

Conclusion

Day two of this journey I have done many times in a petrol and diesel car but this was the first time for me doing it electric! The added leg from Stockton down to South Yorkshire also provided an extra challenge but was mitigated quite easily with the stopover at my parents.

The hiccups with charging such as slower than expected charge speeds and arriving at a charger only to find that it is full were unfortunate for me and certainly added time to the journey. The good news is that new chargers are being installed all the time therefore these instances and problems will become less frequent.

Total miles travelled: 314 miles
Total time taken: 8.5 hours (including charge stops)
Total kWh of battery used: 84kWh
£ spent on charging: £30 (approx)
Pence per mile: 9.6 pence
Cheaper than a petrol or diesel car: Yes!

To summarise the trip, in reality, was longer than a conventional drive in a petrol or diesel car but it was cheaper - even when using motorway chargers on some of the journey. Staying with family to break the journey up also saved some time and if you can plan a stop along the way where you can charge the car overnight it can make the journey more enjoyable and allow you to see somewhere you might not have done otherwise!


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