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Can you do long distance driving in an electric car?

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Think you can’t travel long distance across Europe in an electric car? Think again.

Andrew and Flaviana Till smash the myth that electric cars are simply for pootling around town. Veterans of driving across the continent, Andrew chats to us about how they navigate long journeys through Europe in an electric car. 

So tell us, Andrew, what made you want to tackle Europe in an electric car?

Well, Flaviana has family in Italy, and we fancied a bit of an adventure, so we thought we’d drive there. At the time, we had an older Nissan LEAF, which only had a range of 60 miles if we were lucky. That clearly wasn’t going to work, so we got a Kia e-Niro and, in 2018, we decided to go for it, along with our daughter and our dog.  

It was a bit scary, but by then it was easier to find rapid chargers (Ionity had launched) so we checked our charge point locator app and just went for it. Since then, we’ve done it again in a Hyundai IONIQ 5. 

 

So you’re pros, now. Can you give us your best tips on how to get started?

In the charge point locator app, all you do is enter your car, tell it your start and end point, and it’ll plot the route for you. We plugged in our starting point of Canterbury and our destination of Rome, and it gave us loads of options – the quickest, longest charging stops, all sorts. We find it’s a good idea to think of it as a rough plan – things can change on the day. 

I’d also suggest printing it out, too, just in case something goes wrong or you don’t have a connection. 

As far as navigation goes, to make it even easier you can export your route from the app. So I can just add my waypoints and charger stops to Google Maps and I’m ready to go with that for satnav. One thing to bear in mind is that Google or your car’s satnav won’t know how much charge you’ve got in your battery though.

 

Image of Andrew and Flaviana

Image of Andrew of Flaviana 

And how did the charging go – any hairy moments or helpful hints to share?

We used nine public chargers on our way to Rome, but could have done it with fewer – we played it safe, though. We averaged 2.9mi/kWh mostly at 80mph whilst we were on the motorways in France and Italy. Generally, we found our car had more charge than expected as it was so efficient.  
There was only one frustrating moment. In France on the way back to Calais the chargers that the app took us to were on the wrong side of the road. And we could have gone to 100% at our previous charge to save that stop.

One thing to note is that at the moment, Europe isn’t set up for contactless payment so you want to get an RFID card before you go. You can’t rely on an app because you don’t know if you’ll have a good enough signal on your phone. We focused on the faster charging networks Ionity and Enel. Enel were good but expensive without an RFID. 

This isn’t just for electric cars, but I’d also recommend getting a toll booth card like bip&go for the tolls through France and Italy. If you get one, just stick it to the windscreen and you don’t need to stop. 

 

And how did Flaviana find it?

Generally, Flaviana found it a lot easier than she was expecting – especially in the Hyundai, as it was much quicker to charge. And obviously we were more prepared as we’d done it before. In particular, Flaviana preferred having a hotel with a charger as then you leave the hotel with 100% charge and can drive a bit further and you don’t have to stop until you’re ready. You can search for hotels with chargers on lots of sites, like booking.com, hotels.com and Airbnb.

As an electric car driver you do need a bit of patience, especially while the infrastructure is growing. Chargers can be quite busy in the summer and you might have to wait a bit to get on one, and then of course it takes a bit of time to charge. We just enjoyed the break and took the dog for a walk. By the end of this year every rest stop will have at least two high-powered chargers – so you should be able to charge wherever you need.

In general, we both loved it and have done lots of long-distance drives since. We’ve just got a Tesla and it’s great for a long road trip as the car tells you where to go and where to charge. So we’re looking forward to the next European adventure! 

Andrew and Flaviana Till are long-distance electric car adventurers and sustainability champions. They have a YouTube channel called Mr. EV, where they make videos about all-things electric cars, including their long-distance travels. When they’re not making their YouTube videos and driving across Europe, Andrew is a video producer and web developer, and Flaviana is a web programmer and developer.