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To the Black Forest and back by electric car

22 Sep 2020

More and more people are going on holiday with their EV. Among them is Peter Struijk, who travelled with his electric car from Friesland to the Black Forest via the German Mosel region. In this article Peter shares his travel and charging experiences.

On Monday we set out for Cochem, a 430-kilometre drive. It's about 20 degrees, which is always better for an electric car than lower temperatures because of how they affect the range. My car can do about 350 km at 120-130 km/h on the motorway, which means we'll have to charge at least once on the way. Still, we don't want to arrive at our destination with a low battery, so I decide to make two charging stops anyway. We're going to a holiday park, and we're planning to go on day trips from there without having to worry about charging. The Smoov app says there should be one charge point there, but I'm not counting on it. It could be busy or out of service.

I've been driving fully electric without any problems for almost three years now. I did once cut it fine though: I went on a trip of more than 200 km late in the evening at temperatures just below zero and drove all the way at the maximum speed limit (which was still 130 km/h at the time). I just about got home without recharging, but with only a few kilometres to spare. I might not have made it if I hadn't turned down the heating a bit for the last 50 km.


The first leg, heading for the Mosel region

So here comes the first leg of our holiday: we set out with a fully charged battery for the first charging stop, which is near Hünxe, a total distance of 221 km. At the Raststätte, or 'rest area', along the A3 we're able to use a fast charger. After five minutes a Jaguar i-Pace parks next to us. We have a chat, exchange some experiences and after a coffee we're off again. We charged for about 30 minutes, and with our current range we can easily get to our holiday home, but we'd like a bit more power in reserve. 50 km before our destination we make a short stop at the Elztal Raststätte on the A48. There we find a huge truck combination parked in front of the charge points. Much to my relief, I hear the truck engine idling when I get out. The driver understands the situation and moves forward a bit: fortunately, there's plenty of space. We charge here for just under fifteen minutes, which gives us time to stretch our legs before we set off again.

When we arrive, it turns out that I can park right next to the holiday home. That means I can use the travel charger for a normal plug socket, which is the first thing I do. I dial the charger back from 10A to 6A (= 1.3 kW). I'm not sure what this kind of plug socket can take, and there could be other equipment on the same group, such as a washing machine or dishwasher. The last thing you want is to see smoke coming out of the socket, or the whole thing bursting into flames... Better safe than sorry!

Heading for the Black forest

After spending a few days here we head off to our next destination: Freudenstadt in the Black Forest. This leg covers a distance of 300 km. After 60 km we stop for our first charge at Autohof Waldlaubersheim off the A61. A German Autohof, or service station, usually offers everything you need: a petrol station, eateries and in this case Tesla and Allego charging stations as well. We have a cup of coffee at the restaurant, and before long we're back on the road. The State of Charge (SOC) was 50% when we arrived, and 80% when we left the restaurant after 25 minutes.

Now we drive at an average speed of 120 km/h towards Rastatt. Here we have to briefly exit the A5 because the Allego charge point is located in some kind of industrial site with shops nearby. It's a Sunday and the streets are almost deserted. We don't need many kilowatt hours to get where we're going. The meter is now showing an SOC of 30%, and after 20 minutes we're off again with 70%. Freudenstadt is just 60 km from here.

The journey home

After a week and a half we head for home. We have a total journey of 700 km ahead of us, but my wife's back is playing up so we decide to do it in two legs, with an overnight stay. I tried to find out if I could charge at the hotel but couldn't get an answer so we assume it won't be possible. Opposite our guesthouse is a fantastic restaurant: Zur Mühle in Grüntal. The restaurant's website says you can charge your car for free if you eat there. We'd already eaten there the week before, and I'd arranged with the owner that I could plug in the night before our departure. So the next morning we leave with a full battery. The first leg is about 340 km, which we can easily do with a single charge stop. We start at an altitude of 700 metres and 60 km away the A5 is at sea level. When we join the A5 I'm getting 8.9 kWh/100 km: if only it was always as good as this...

We're on our way to the Allego fast charger in Limburg an der Lahn, about 2 km from the motorway. Unfortunately, I get a Smoov app message 10 minutes before we arrive: "charge point busy." When we arrive there's a Citroën C-Zero at the CHAdeMO charge point. That means I can't charge with the CCS plug at the same time, but I can use the AC plug. But there's a limitation: the car's hardware can only handle up to 7.4 kW on AC. The friendly Citroën driver says he'll have enough power in about fifteen minutes and then he'll be off. He's as good as his word, and I insert the CCS plug so we can carry on charging at 45 kW. Opposite the fast charger we see an Italian restaurant with a terrace! It's 25 degrees outside, so we go there for an iced coffee. With an 80% SOC we continue our trip to the hotel in Windhagen near Bonn.

We arrive at an almost deserted hotel. At reception they tell me I can charge from an ordinary power socket in the parking garage. That's fine: every kW is one extra. I connect the travel charger and set it to 6A. The next morning I see that I charged for almost 12 hours at 1.3 kW, which is still 25% SOC for free. That makes the last leg a cinch: just 352 km to go. It also means that we can put our foot down a bit on the German Autobahn.

The next planned stop is on the A3 just before the Dutch-German border: Hamminkeln. Opposite the fast charger there's a "Bors, mein Bäcker" café. It's pouring with rain, so we won't be sitting outside today. We go indoors for a nice Latte Macchiato and a Bienenstich, or 'bee sting cake'. After coffee we're already up to 80% SOC, so we'll easily make it. When I get in the car a van pulls up next to me, a Nissan NV-200. He's pleasantly surprised to see we're leaving at that moment.

Our conclusion

There's really no reason for going on holiday abroad with a fully electric car to be a challenge. A bit of advance planning and you'll get wherever you want to go. We find that we're much more relaxed when we travel these days. Instead of making short stops and then pressing on again, all we have to do is stop for at least 30 minutes every two-and-a-half hours. An added benefit is that it forces you to take a break. But doesn't that mean you get to your destination much later? Well, it might add just under an hour to a 700 km day trip, but at least you're less tired when you arrive. And what's an hour when you're going on a three-week holiday?