Electric Summer holiday – reflections from driving 4000 km across 7 countries

Driving 4000 km across 7 countries

Anna Clark is Senior Innovation Lead & Expert Future Mobility at Tryg Nordic Innovation and President at Women EIT. During her vacation she drove with her family their electric car from Sweden to the North of England (close to Scotland) via Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France. 

This is her learnings and reflections from the trip…

The trip…

It’s been 4 years since me and my family drove for the first time from Sweden to England in an electric car. We repeated the trip this summer…

What we had this time: VW ID.4, 77kWh battery, 124kW max charging rate, 2 adults, 2 kids (7 & 9 years old).

What we had last time: Renault Zoe, 41kWh battery, 22kW max charging rate, 2 adults, 2 kids (3 & 5 years old).

The route we took – Lund to Northumbrian coast (just south of Scottish border): leisurely on the way with stops in Hannover, Brussels, Bath, Sheffield and York (cross to England via Eurotunnel). Fast on the way back with only 1 overnight stop in Ghent (return crossing also via Eurotunnel) – 7 charges. Approx 4000km in total.

What has changed in four years?


The Zoe was fine 4 years ago, but…

Ok, so the kids are older now. This may not seem like a huge deal for those of you who don’t have kids (or are too old to remember what it’s like with small kids), but 3 and 5 year olds need LOTS of stops and can’t keep themselves occupied for long periods of time. The Zoe worked well for us last time, because we needed to stop and charge more regularly and take the kids out and look at stuff and run about. However, now they can sit for hours in front of a screen and listen to music, so we really appreciated being able to drive long stretches and charge quickly… Right car for the right users.

More fast chargers on European motorways

There are way more fast chargers, and by fast I mean >100kW. 50kW already seems outdated for this type of trip…

Contactless credit card payment

Contactless has arrived! Ok, so it is still quite rare, but it makes such a difference to the user experience to plug in and tap rather than starting the charging with an app. However, not all contactless charge points had information on the price – that needs to be sorted.

Charging overview apps needed for planning stops

Having a smartphone with apps is still essential for this type of journey. Having charging overview apps is needed to plan the charging, but they often don’t have updated information, since charging points are appearing really fast and they rely on user input to update. For Europe I still found PlugShare the best, and for UK (yes, not considered Europe anymore), ZapMap. Many charging points are started through an app.

Brand loyalty & location for charging

I have become more fussy about where to charge. This changed from the start of the journey to the end… Given that there are more fast chargers on the motorways, we found that on the way home, we made sure we would charge with an operator that we knew would work (I have become a fan of Ionity), and where we thought there would be decent facilities (and for me this means also decent food – preferably with fresh salad involved). This was particularly after a stop in Belgium on the way to the UK where we stopped to charge at a 350kW fast charger where it turns out there were no toilets, no water, nor anywhere to buy a cup of coffee. That just doesn’t make any sense for a fast charger just off the motorway (we drove straight off to charge at the next one)…

Free charging nice, but not a good idea

Free charging – well, nice for us, but it does not seem to be a good idea. It really surprised me that we charged 3 times at chargers that were free – all 3 times in the UK, and twice where the local authority would foot the bill (😐). It is already cheaper to use EV compared to diesel/petrol, and free chargers simply cause queues at public charging stations, full of people who don’t really need to charge, but might as well, because it’s free.

Queues are becoming more common

We never had to queue for charging, but I think we were just lucky. I did notice queues on several charging points, as well as people waiting for us to leave. Mostly fast chargers were full or almost full – even when arriving at our final charge at 01.00am on the way home we saw two cars leaving a charging point. Also, generally, you notice more EVs on the road than 4 years ago.

There should be more (public) destination charging

We stayed at several hotels that had car parks but no charging. You have to call up the hotel and ask about charging availability, with no information online. It feels like they are behind the times. Also, for destinations (e.g. beaches, holiday villages), it is really annoying if there are no longer-term charging options. It’s annoying because you have to park your car and charge, then come back in an hour to move the car to another spot – why not just put a row of slower chargers in?

We didn’t get iced once!

On our last trip, we got iced several times (turning up at a charging point to find someone with internal combustion engine car has taken the spot). This didn’t happen to us once on this trip. I guess there is more awareness of EVs now, or was that just luck?

The whole of Europe seems to be driving more slowly

Actually, this has not got to do with EVs, but most likely the price of petrol and diesel. It was really noticeable that people were driving slower compared to any other time I have driven in Europe. We assume that people have realised that they can save fuel costs if they drive more slowly. Anyway, a positive development.

And lastly, a short word on the cost of the trip. Including ferry (Rödby-Puttgarten) and Eurotunnel (Calais-Folkestone) crossings, and the overnight stops, this was still way cheaper than flying 4 people in peak season. If anyone is interested in the price per km on average, I can figure it out for you, but definitely cheaper than petrol/diesel with current prices (i did some back-of-the envelope calculations en route). Certainly cheaper than taking the train too.


Photo by CHUTTERSNAP and Oxana Melis on Unsplash


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