From Totnes to Oslo in an electric car

It’s been a full week: clients fitting in a final session before I go; storing, charity-shopping or recycling personal things so tenants can move into an empty (and clean) house; poignant goodbyes, and packing.

16th May has long been in my diary as cause for anticipation and excitement. Today, I would have been facilitating The Kitchen Table’s annual Conversation Café with Natalie Bennett, but she had to withdraw due to having an important campaign to run… which means we get to set off a day early, which means we get to spend a night with Peter’s sister Sue and family in Kent.

It takes us 7 hours to do 200 miles (this includes stopping for four charges and getting lost twice), which may be a benchmark for the remaining 1200. The UK’s motorway network is well covered thanks to Ecotricity, but the A303 is sparse: we charge at the shiny Nissan showroom in Wincanton, and a petrol station in a suburb of Andover. Other than Ecotricity there’s a lamentable lack of joined-up thinking both here and abroad, with different councils, networks and providers all doing their own thing; some overlapping, some not. This has meant considerable homework on Peter’s part – searching websites, downloading apps, sending off for cards…

Before supper Mark helps us plug in for a slow charge from his garage, and remarks how hot the cable gets with so much energy passing through it.  After an evening of champagne, kittens and lively conversation, and a leisurely morning, we take the scenic route (also the shortest) to Folkestone. We stop at Benenden’s village shop/café for coffee and then lunch, and send off our requests for postal votes. At Bonnington, on the edge of the Kent Downs, we get out to listen to warblers and woodpeckers in the forest, unable to resist the random summery day. We arrive at Folkestone in plenty of time to get a full charge before boarding the shuttle. On the other side, we’d planned a short run up to Wisques. A diversion means a slightly more bendy route and our first right-hand driving near-miss – but we arrived at La Sapiniere cursed but intact, and with plenty of juice in the battery.

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On Thursday morning I meet a new Skype client on the patio, and have a session with an existing one – cut short when the laptop cuts out. A late start meant a short day’s driving across flat Belgium: two charges and 122 miles. We get excellent mileage, largely from being sucked along amongst the astonishing number of trucks on the E32. We’re staying at the Beveren Hotel for its slow charger. So we find ourselves in a huge conference hotel with suited receptionists behind an imposing desk, and the toxic smell of synthetic interior décor throughout. We can do that, but both chargers are in use. Both cars are hybrids, which have small batteries and must have finished charging hours ago, but no-one knows how to find the owners… they’re probably here for a conference, so the likelihood of their moving the cars tonight is probably low.

But there are fast chargers in Antwerp, so that’s our first stop when we head out for an early start tomorrow. I have a client on Skype at 5pm so we’re aiming to be in Anloo, at the far end of Holland, by then. 186 miles – should be a piece of cake…

For the geeks:

Miles: 440

Charges: 6 fast, 1 slow

Cost: approx £10 (thanks Ecotrocity, Nissan, and Sue and Mark!)

Average speed: 35mph

Average energy use: 13.2kwh per 100km

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