Instead of a week jetting off to the Canary Islands, this October we took our Hyundai Ioniq electric to South Wales. Partly because of concerns over booking travel close to an impending Brexit deadline, and partly concerns over my carbon footprint – I’ve already had 2 long flights this year, partly down to holidays. Wales isn’t exactly full of car chargers, and we didn’t see many electric cars at all, compared to England.
We didn’t have any charging available at our destination, so relied on taking charging opportunities at attractions and Polar rapid charging close to motorways. The week before the holiday I attempted a charge at an Electric Highway charger on the M4, out of 4 attempts only one worked – my annual reminder to avoid them!
Of course we left home with a charged battery, aiming to stop at Swansea at the Polar charger at the Ibis Hotel, 111 miles away. This worked well, charging at full power and taking half an hour, at up to 48kW. Including charging losses we averaged 5.3 miles/kWh for the trip. We arrived at our destination not far from Swansea with a nearly-full battery.
After trips to the Mumbles the next charging opportunity was at a Tesco’s who had a recently-fitted bank of four 7kW PodPoint posts. Two were ICE’d*, one had a Tesla Model 3, leaving one for us. After a walk around the town and seeing the abbey ruins, we were fully charged again, for free. It’s always disappointing when bays are ICEd, in this case marking wasn’t terribly clear and nobody we spoke to had any clue that the bays were for EV charging. Store staff told us they were under instruction not to challenge ICEing – and one asked the sensible question “so do all electric cars have an “electric” badge on the back like yours? How do we tell an electric car from a petrol one?”
*ICE: Internal Combustion Engine.
ICE’d: charging bay taken by a petrol or diesel car
(akin to me using a petrol pump as a car parking bay)
We had a day out at the seaside town of Tenby, around 60 miles away. There are eight 7kW charging posts in the two main car parks. All were empty. We used a GeniePoint charger on the top floor of the multi-storey, via an app with usefully gives a constant indication of the charging power and car’s state of charge. This was the most expensive charge at almost £5. The cabling work alone to reach to top storey must have cost a small fortune, but it’s good to see that some operators see the benefit in siting EV charging away from the spaces that lazier ICE drivers use!
Another opportunity to charge was at an Asdas, where an older 7kW + 3-pin Polar post was fitted. Again, this worked fine and was a handy top-up. Finally we took advantage of a National Trust Rolec 7kW post at Rhossili beach on the beautiful Gower peninsula, for free.
On the return journey, we travelled further into Wales to see the Big Pit. It’s a closed coal mine that worked from 1880-1980 and today you can take trips underground and tour the original surface buildings, for free. A charger here would have been ideal, instead we used another Polar Ultracharger at Newport where we rejoined the M4; which wasn’t out of our way. Dropping down in elevation from the Brecons to the coast cost us almost nothing in battery charge, it’s just under a 1% slope for ~20 miles. 17 minutes added the 13kWh we needed to get home at full speed, with plenty spare.
Overall the charging experiences reinforced my opinion that a “Polar Plus” subscription, which gets you a Polar Plus RFID card, is all but essential with a car that needs a CCS plug. This is mostly because the motorway chargers are either Electric Highway, where CCS is unreliable, or a few are Ionity – costing £8 flat-fee. That costing model discriminates against smaller battery cars. Imagine a Mini costing the same to fill up as a Range Rover – totally absurd! It’s a real advantage to have an RFID card to start the charge. It doesn’t guarantee 100% that you’ll get a charge – always have a “Plan B” – because the chargers themselves rely on a mobile network to authenticate your RFID card. You can guess what happens when the network is down. However the user experience with RFID access is much better. Even petrol stations run out of fuel, and you’d be foolish to run so low on fuel or battery charge that you can’t make to to an alternative.
Over the week we were only ever waiting for the car to charge once, on the return trip, for 17 minutes. It illustrates that a fast-charging EV with a range of 130-160 miles is perfectly suited to holidaying in the British Isles, and that the charging infrastructure is already out there just waiting to be used.