The EV game is all about one thing really: Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure!
Sure, I love looking at which new vehicles are coming to market and their (battery) specs. But the thing that keeps me up at night (no really!) is the charging infrastructure, especially all around Europe.
Last weekend my friend Hugo and I jumped into his Hyundai Ioniq EV halfway through the Friday afternoon and started our trip to Paris with the first leg to Fastned Hazeldonk. This feels utterly normal now because it’s already my umpteenth visit, recently no trip in direction of France gets underway without some coffee/snack/toilet break and a quick charge up at the HPC’s put there just early this Summer by the Dutch Kings of Charging.
Fastned brings to the Netherlands (and Germany, and UK and hopefully soon Swiss, Belgium) what any EV driver loves: a reliable charging option when you’re (un)expectedly longer on the road. Reliable because of redundancy, always many options on site. This also helps when more and more drivers are looking the fast charge. Of course we’re heading towards a time when there will be many more people charging up on their way. Just because the amount of EV drivers will continue to rise. Especially locally in NL with the Model 3 exploding in sales recently.
Abetterrouteplanner suggests an Allego stop somewhere in Belgium, and then some more Corri-Door charging on the way to Paris. Now if Allego sounds new to you, I’d still call them trustworthy, even though they don’t build a lot of redundant setups, mostly you’re stuck with just one phyiscal charger next to the highway in Belgium. Corri-Door on the other hand, very hit and miss. Those are the typical French highway chargers, one device and very unreliable in my last two years of experience all over the country. Where Allego is actually building out fast sites (like Ionity and Fastned) in some places, the so called Ultra-E corridoor, in France the infrastructure is getting old, not up to speed with the range of new vehicles presented to market by Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes and soon Porsche.
Meanwhile Hugo and i are thinking that with a very small detour, we can just make it to Ionity Froyennes Nord. It gets very exciting as we enter turtle mode ‘way before we arrive’, so the closer station is actually Froyennes Sud and that is where we will charge. Ionity stations are expanding quickly all over Europe, some of the biggest (German) car brands are behind it and recently Hyundai joined the consortium.
Unfortunately we drive into bay 3/4 and find the closest charger to our charging port to have a not working touch screen! After turning the car around it seems the NewMotion charging card from Hugo does not work, no response by the machine, after a short call with the hotline to also tell them about the defective touch screen we’re charging up! The Ioniq can handle fast charging to a 94% SoC and that’s what we’ll take because the situation when heading to Paris is … far from ideal still in Fall 2019.
The night starts to fall as we enter France, the temperature actually goes up(!) because we’re heading South, with huge head wind coming at us. I took over the wheel from Hugo after arriving at the Belgian border, and that means he is in charge of finding us a trustworthy spot somewhere along the route, he points us to Roye where we find two beautiful CHAdeMO chargers.
So on we go and we find ourselves at Ressons-Ouest, just before we get to turtle mode again! This is actually my first time trying the Izivia Zen charging card that I requested some months ago, and it works like a charm. It’s also the only way to charge at the French highways and not pay a crazy starting fee (on machines that often fail so you even need more than one start a lot of the time..) If you’re interested in more recommendations when driving around an EV in France, you can use my request advice button and I will get in touch.
We’re juicing up nicely, even though you’re lucky in France when the machine actually has 40kW output.. Luckily the Ioniq is one of the most efficient EV’s around! But then, after delivering 18,1kWh of energy with a lot of noise and heat generated around the machine, it suddenly stops. Since we have more than 100km on the GOM with only 90km to go, we decide to go for it immediately. Typical, it’s hard to find ‘the perfect charge’ at Corri-Door machines like these in France.
Today we will celebrate the birthday of one of my closest friends. The car can get some rest, we walk around town and watch all the crazy emobility that is happening in Paris. Kick scooters everywhere, Lime, Bird, Uber, Voi, Circ, Dott seem best represented. Also lots and lots of cars, Model 3 is the obvious new kid on the block. And Zoe, i3, e-Soul, e-Golf (police!) and a lot of Twizy by Renault, C-Evolution by BMW, Cityscoot, Coup scooters spread out accross the central neigbourhoods.
I was also surprised by the amount of ads around the city spreading emobility options like Dott has been doing here.
In the East of the city we found ourselves staying the Saturday night, where we could use the free of charge Schuko connector because there is a normal power outlet on the street. Sometimes Paris is just the best. This is such a moment.
Thanks to the lovely city of Paris this means we can start fully charged on our way back North. Convenient.
Waze shows 504km when we start our journey. 199km on the GOM after some city driving. We decide on a short topup because the last charger in France is just too far to make it with the cold weather. Temperature today is dropping in direction of 10 degrees celsius.
When I get back from a short toilet break Hugo points to a Dutch Ioniq in the parking lot just arriving. We got company! Since we have enough SoC % to make it in direction of the Belgian border I decide to leave immediately to create space for the other Dutchies to charge. We wave and off we go! But then, we arrive at Phalempin-Est, and what “I’ve always been afraid of in France”, finally happens: we meet fellow Dutchies all on their way home.
An Ampera-E is charging up, and soon after our arrival, ‘the other Ioniq’ shows up yet again. We wait our turn, I explain to the relatively new driver of the Ioniq that he should (also) aim for Ionity Froyennes Sud, that way you only need a 10 minute charge here, it’s 30km more or less. At Ionity 8 euros stil gets you a full charge which is decent value and especially timewise the Ioniq can do almost 70kW charging there. This break costs a lot of time, but it gets worse when we get to Ionity!
Because of people ICE’ing the station like crazy we have no choice but to drive back into bay 3/4 like last Friday (it’s Sunday now). There we find the same non working touch screen as two days earlier (Charger #3). Charger #4 doesn’t accept Hugo’s NewMotion RFID. Oops. Another hotline call, error when starting the charge.
Charger #1 seems to work fine, and we’re blocking off the way for the BMW ICE. As you can see, we do this so the BMW i3 in the back can still get out of bay #2. After our charge stops, for no apparent reason, the i3 just left and we move into bay #2 and I make yet another service call to fill us up till 94%. The rain just keeps on pouring which is definitely the reason for all the ICE’ing going on, by now bay 4 is also ICE’ed.
The distance in between the stations, with the temperature dropping further, wind, huge amounts of rain, the GOM just keeps on dropping. Luckily, behind the truck it stabilizes and we make it safely back to the Netherlands. Wouldn’t have mattered much if we did an extra Allego stop in Belgium, which you can obviously do if you want to drive faster.
So yes, infrastructure, is what it’s all about! Fastned (and normally Ionity too) have this game figured out. Fastned even covers you from the blistering rain! Back in December ‘18 I drove to Berlin twice (click for blog in Dutch), with the Jaguar I-Pace and it was a big adventure in the cold with only two Ionity stations and a Fastned station way South of Hanover. By now there are many more HPC possibilities which changes the Amsterdam-Berlin game totally. When you bring the I-Pace to Paris, as long as you don’t drive at 130km/h you can make it (depending on weather and wheels and so on) with just one long Ionity charge near the Belgian French border. Infrastructure. Batteries, and infrastructure. And then some. I’m looking forward, 2019 is not over yet!
Never a miss a blog? Sign up for the electricfelix newsletter.