East Sussex couple proves electric vehicle motoring holiday is possible – just…

29th September

Is it possible to drive 3,000 miles through Europe in a Nissan Leaf?

This was the question posed in an article in the Heathfield News on 20th May.   The short answer is an emphatic “yes”.  However, the longer answer is that perhaps one might not want to.

We left home in East Sussex on a Wednesday in June and by the end of the sixteenth day, we had entered our thirteenth country in Europe.  We then stopped for five days in one place in northern Spain to recharge our batteries (as well as those of the car) and, by the time we reached home, we had completed more than 3,000 miles in just three weeks and two days. 

This might not seem to many to be a great achievement.  I am sure there is some nutter somewhere who has walked (or even run) the same distance in as many days.  I know very well that in a moderately comfortable diesel or petrol car this will not have been succeeded with any great effort nor seen as much of an accomplishment.  However, the trials and tribulations of locating a charging station on an app, then locating it with the diligent, but sometimes erratic, assistance of Google maps and then extracting enough electricity from the gadget to propel further forward motion can lead to a disproportionate waste of several hours.  When this operation needs to be repeated several times a day, the element of “holiday” dissipates rapidly. 

Don’t get me wrong – it was not all bad!  Life is perhaps strung together with good days and not so good days.  Occasionally, there is a downright bad day.  Likewise, our Nissan Leaf trip. 

Charging in Spain

Picture this: 

1. Time to look for a charge. 

2. Locate a “borne” (which I still can’t translate but means the gadget that looks like an old fashioned petrol pump but which dispenses electricity) on chargemap or plugshare (the apps which are probably the most useful to locate charging stations on the continent). 

3. Find it with the assistance of Google maps (because the map on chargemap/plugshare doesn’t work) to find that, despite a phonefull of apps, a different app is now needed to extract electricity.  However, to download the app requires internet and a command of a hitherto unexplored language. 

4. No 4G here – just about H if it’s a good day.  Approximately an hour therefore to download the app. 

5. Then you need to sign up.  Email, password etc. in Foreign.  Activate account via email and put in payment method details (still on H and still in Foreign). 

Sarah at a charging statiom
Sarah at a charging station

6. In some countries you also need your national insurance number and phone number both of which have a different number of digits to the UK and therefore don’t work.  Tip: make them up.  

7. Now to charge.  Well, the borne screen faces the sky (I am only 5’3” but fortunately I have a tall husband), has a QR code which needs lining up with the phone and has no shade so instructions can’t be read anyway.    Tips: carry an umbrella and a tall travelling companion.

8. It can now be established whether the borne is in working order.  Or not.

As you can see, several hours of a precious holiday have now been consumed and the tourist attraction which had been beckoning is now shut …. And you are possibly back to Step 1 above.  

None of this does anything for matrimonial harmony and I can’t imagine doing it with a young “are we nearly there yet?” brigade. 

However, it was not all miserable.  The weather was great for most of it.  We explored capital and other cities either using the excellent park and ride schemes, visiting on Sunday mornings or in the evenings.  Supermarket and municipal carparks often have charge points although some are slower than others.   We stumbled across sights and sounds that we had not planned as well as those we had.  We drove through the Black Forest in Germany, watched a Lipizzaner display in Slovenia and swam in the Adriatic Sea, to name a few.

The earliest we started looking for somewhere to stay was 4 pm on any day and we always found somewhere reasonable.  Very few hotels had charging points but several were happy to let us plug into their electricity supply through a window.  Without exception, all were interested in our trip and asked to be kept updated with progress. 

It is not easy to budget for such a journey.  The slower chargers and those at supermarkets are often free while those at motorway services charge.  Spain is poorly equipped with chargers compared to the rest of Europe but the Nissan dealers were happy to oblige with free charges and coffee.  Although the most difficult to navigate for this reason, it is the only country where we travelled completely for free.  

Graham and I would be very happy to talk through the finer details or advise on specifics for any of the 13 countries we travelled through.  As we are already planning our next trip (probably Scandinavia via Poland, Latvia, Estonia and a corner of Russia), it must have been ok really! 

The 13: UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Andorra, Spain.

This article was kindly written by Sarah Hutton. Sarah and her husband Graham own Greenwood Granary – a self-catering apartment set in the 2½ acre garden of Greenwoods Farm in Punnetts Town.