We went on a road trip to Europe the summer of 2015 in our new electric car, a Tesla Model S 85.
Charging an electric car on road trips is still a challenge for most makes of electric cars. The notable exception is Tesla, which makes it easy by having double range compared to almost all other electric cars, and by the network of superchargers that are dotted across most of Europe.
These superchargers can charge the battery at a rate of up to 120 kW (if the battery is empty), twice as fast as the other common DC fast charger, CHAdeMO. And using the supercharger is free (actually prepaid, as a part of the car price).
Our trip started with taking the Color Line Superspeed from Larvik to Hirtshals. To be sure to catch the ferry, we had to leave Oslo before 05.00 in the morning.
The first stop for charging was at Graceland Randers in Denmark. After an almost 4 hour ferry ride, and a total of 288 km driving, it was time for lunch while the car charged. Since we had ordered the tickets for the ferry too late to get a seat in the buffet restaurant, we ordered a large lunch here instead. Which would also be our first lesson in how to drive efficiently with an electric car.
If one is to drive far in an electric car, we learned that the car should either be moving, or it should be charging. We broke this rule by taking too long to order and eat our lunch (it also took time for it to arrive), so the car was fully charged by the time we could continue driving. Charging an electic car completely full is wasteful time-wise, as the last 10% charges much slower than the first 10%. It is better to stop charging when one has enough (plus a safety margin) to reach the next supercharger.
Our first night would be spent in Hotel Kaiserhof, close to Hannover in Germany. The driving distance from Randers is 518 km, and we also had to make sure that we had enough power to get us to the next supercharger the next morning. So, our last charge for the evening was at Bad Fallingbostel, a 2 stall supercharger. It was by that time obvious that we would not be able to reach the hotel by closing time of the reception, so while charging, we called the hotel and told them we would probably arrive 10 minutes after closing of the reception. They would not wait for us, but they put the key to our room on the counter for us to pick up when we arrived.
After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we started on the 950 km long drive to Geneva. There are around 10 superchargers on the way, a little depending on the route selected. We probably visited 5 of them.
It was a hot day. At each supercharger we visited, there would be a cafeteria or similar where we could eat, go to the CR or buy stuff we needed. The kiosk at one stop had wines next to chocolates, and the chocolates were so hot that they were sagging on the shelf.
There seems to be roadworks on the German autobahn everywhere. Normally this would be done alongside the traffic, the road being narrowed down to allow for the work. This would only result in slower traffic, nothing to worry too much about. But at one point the road was closed, and the traffic redirected to other roads. This turned out to be a difficulty when one is dependent on the navigation software of the car.
This software can be quite sophisticated, it turned out to be very good in avoiding congestion. But in route planning, it can be atrocious. When we had to leave the suggested route, we were not updated enough on the geography to select the correct roads, and the navigation software displayed what I would call a bug: It routed us back to the supercharger we had just left. After charging some more to make up for the lost range by our involuntary 'sightseeing', we were off again, and this time we were able to select roads that went in the direction we wanted to go.
In Switzerland we charge first at the Egerkingen supercharger. From here we could have gone straight to Geneva, but we charged at the Lully supercharger too, in order to have some range left when we arrived in at Scott and Ninez in Geneva.
When we married in 1982, calling home to the Philippines was very expensive, it cost 35 NOK per minute. Now, this is very different, the internet being the carrier of almost all kinds of communication. On a smart phone that would be Viber (Skype has disqualified itself by using up the data qouta even if one is not using Skype for calling at all). So, when nearing Geneva, we wanted to call ahead to Scott and Ninez to tell them when we would be arriving. Oops... We didn't have any phone numbers, only Viber accounts. But Viber was no good, because we were outside Norway, and the roaming costs for data traffic is prohibitive. So, we just had to drive on, and hope that our host would call us instead. Which they finally did, when we were about 5 minutes away.
Sam and Malou had arrived ahead of us, and Ate Baby had come from Zürich. That evening Scott and Ninez treated us to a very Swiss restaurant, the same one that we went to in 2003.
We played a lot of Mahjong these 2 days. We always play the Chinese version in this company, not the Philipino 'tumba-tumba' version.
We went to Zürich today, bringing along Sam and Malou. We stayed at Ate Baby's flat, which is close to the railway station.
Sightseeing was done by foot and public transportation (tram), and this was a hot experience.
In the afternoon, we were invited to dinner at Ate Baby's daughter, Marikita, her husband and her son, Cosmo, who lives in walking distance from Ate Baby.
With Ate Baby as our guide, we drove around outside Zürich. The car needs to be charged now and then, so the first stop was at the Beckenried supercharger, where we sat down in a nearby restaurant to wait for the car to charge.
After charging the car, we went to Luzern, where we parked and did our sightseeing by foot. We started with the Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge.
Leaving Luzern, we continued driving, selecting smaller scenic roads, heading in the general direction of Emmental. I hadn't really understood where Ate Baby wanted me to drive, so at one point I consulted the navigation system, and decided to take the shortest, but smallest road going to where I thought we should go. After a few minutes driving there was a shout from the back seat: We're there! It turned out that Ate Baby wanted us to visit the Emmentaler Schaukäserei in Affoltern.
After this, it was time to continue our way back to Geneva. We dropped Ate Baby off at the train station in Burgdorf, where she took the train back to Zürich, while we continued on to Geneva.
We needed to charge the car occasionally while staying with Scott and Ninez, and the closest supercharger was in Archamps in France, just south of Geneva. This is listed as a 2 stall charger, but only one was in service. And to make it worse, the highest charge current the car could get was 40 kW, no matter what the state of charge was.
This means that charging would take on an average of 2 to 3 times longer than if the car was given as much current as it could handle. And if one is unlucky and it is already in use, the waiting time before charging could be 2-3 times longer than normal.
Good thing I had a Kindle to read, and aircon to keep the car cool.
We went to Nyon for lunch, Sally treated us at a restaurant close to the castle of Nyon.
Today we drove to Lourdes. This is about 920 km including side trips to superchargers.
Until now we had always been able to get what we needed (CR, food) while the car was charging. Not so in France. It turns out that in France, the superchargers are always located at a conference hotel. Which may or may not have an open restaurant. So, when we stopped at the supercharger in Toulouse, which is the last supercharger before Lourdes, we expected to be able to have our dinner there. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed. We were able to buy some frozen sandwiches that the young lady at the front desk kindly heated for us in a microwave, but mine still had a frozen core. Bummer! So, when using superchargers in France, make sure that you have a picnic basket along, because you can't rely on there being any food available at the supercharger.
I already knew beforehand that we would not be able to drive from the supercharger in Toulouse to Lourdes and back, we would need to charge a little in Lourdes. Around 20 km from Lourdes, the car started popping up warnings that we were now getting out of range to the closest known charge position.
We dropped Sam and Malou off close to their hotel. We got their suitcases out of the trunk, and also something from the frunk. With both ends of the car open, and obviously both ends were storage compartments, the people sitting at nearby restaurants looked surprised at us. Here was a completely silent car with no engine!
We had to book our stay at a different hotel, because we needed the possibility of parking close by the hotel in order to get a little extra charge for the return trip. The hotel, BEST WESTERN Beausejour, had never had an electric car visit them before. We were allowed to use an electric socket in the restaurant and to string an extension cord across the lawn to our car, but only during daytime, since doors and windows had to be closed nighttime because of the alarm. I didn't dare draw more than 6 amps from this socket, but one full day gave us enough power to ensure our safe return to the supercharger in Toulouse.
Today Sam and Malou took a very early train from Lourdes to Paris, while we returned the same way we came to Geneva. We had learned our lesson and had enough to eat and drink for the trip.
The Autoroute system in France consists largely of toll roads. Each of the 4 stops to charge required leaving the toll road, paying for the section just travelled, charging, and reentering the toll road. During one of these stops, I made an error that uncovered something that I would call a bug in the system.
When entering the toll road again, I got the ticket that shows where I entered. But, I missed my turn to go in the correct direction, so I had to leave the toll road again to get started in the correct direction. The toll booth where I presented my ticket said that it was invalid, and would not let me pass. While the trafic built up behind me, I had to use the calling to get help. When someone finally arrived, they checked the system, and discovered that the ticket was from there - the entry and exit point was the same. I explained what has happened, and the gate was opened manually for us, no charge.
The designers of the system had simply not considered the possibility of someone taking a wrong turn and having to exit the toll road at the same place that they entered it.
Today we went for a drive to the closest mountains, in France. We passed Cessy where Ketil and Petra lives, and on the way back we passed by to see if we could find their place for the visit later that day. Their address was one that the built in navigation system had wrong, good thing we checked, so that we could use other means of finding the place later on.
We needed to charge the car, so we went to the Archamps supercharger. But, this being in France, the local conference hotel did not have an open restaurant, so we had to walk almost one km to a mall where we found a chinese restaurant where we had our lunch.
That afternoon we went back to Cessy to have a grill party at Ketil and Petra's place.
July 14 being the French national day, there was a big firework at Lac de Divonne, we all went there to watch.
Today we drove along Lac Leman, to the Lavaux Vineyards. After admiring the view for some time, the need was there to go to the CR. We decided we could have some lunch too, so we found a small restaurant where we thought we could get a snack, and visit the CR.
This was in the middle of the wine growing districts, and the waiter was fairly surprised that we did not want any wine for our lunch. Which was rather high end, innovative starters and small portions (not to mention expensive).
That evening, it being the last day of our stay in Geneva, we treated the Gerbis and Piezas to dinner at a lakefront restaurant.
We left Geneva for Zürich, and with Ate Baby as our guide, the three of us went sightseeing in the afternoon. We started off with the cable car in Adliswil, going to Felsenegg. After that, we went to Horgen, where we took a ferry across Zürichsee to Meilen, and drove the other side of the lake back to Zürich.
After a hearty breakfast, we packed a picnic basket, and went to Appenzell.
Once done with sightseeing there it was time for lunch, so we headed for the hills. There was a restaurant at the end of the road, and GI wanted to eat there. I had to beg, could we please have the picnic we planned instead of going to a restaurant, just this once?
After lunch, Ate Baby wanted us to visit a friend of hers. I had to do some calculations to see if we had enough power for this side trip instead of going straight to the nearest supercharger.
In the evening, we had dinner at Restaurant le Cedre, a Lebanese restaurant.
Time to head for home. We weren't going quite as far this time, to Aarhus only, so the first stop was in Göttingen, a little south of Hannover.
Ate Baby joined us for the first part of the trip, she wanted to go to a friend in Germany. At the German border, we were singled out for inspection, I think they just wanted to have a closer look at a Tesla.
The next day the navigation software sent us to a supercharger in Hamburg. Apparently a lot of other cars had been sent there too, the supercharger was 2 stalls only (upgraded to 4 now), with many cars waiting their turn to charge.
This was no good. Looking at the map, there was an 8 stall supercharger only 20 km away, but in the wrong direction, but we went there anyway, waiting in line at a 2 stall charger was out of the question. When we arrived there, only one stall was in use.
There was a lot of trafic, and the navigation software routed us on to side roads to avoid it. While on these side roads, we again made the mistake of having lunch at a restaurant, while the car was sitting outside not charging. With the result that it was fairly late by the time we arrived at Sven and Jojo in Aarhus.
We spent the day with Sven and Jojo in Aarhus. Singing karaoke, walking the dogs, going shopping, charging the car at the Tesla store.
While GI went with Jojo to the local superstores, Sven took me to the largest pet shop in the area. There we got some stuff for our dog, Aiko, and I was able to get 2 pairs of wild caught Congochromis dimidiatus.
We went on the Color Line Superspeed from Hirtshals to Larvik. This time we had seats in the buffet restaurant, and could eat and drink whatever we wanted.
We drove 7266.5 km on this trip, and practically all of the charging was done at superchargers. With a little planning, a Tesla can go almost anywhere an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car can go.
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