While theory is helpful to understand the basics of EV charging, there’s nothing like hands-on experience – not to mention learning the hard way. Chargemap would like to share the experience of drivers with an adventurous spirit who have dared to push back the barriers even in shorter-range EVs. We are beginning our series with Joëlle’s account – a pioneer of electric driving and moderator of your contributions at Chargemap.
Electric cars –unrivalled comfort
Joëlle belongs to the pioneers of EV driving. Her journey starts in 2015 on board the Ampera range-extender. “At that time, I was tempted by electric cars, but I travelled a lot and there weren’t as many charging stations as there are nowadays,” she recalls. ‘Having the option of switching over to the internal combustion engine was reassuring to start off with.”
Fired up to go 100% electric, Joëlle sported a Tesla Model S 70D, Peugeot Ion and today is behind the wheel of a Renault Zoé ZE.
“You quickly get a taste for the comfort and silence of driving electric. I couldn’t turn back now.” Joëlle comments.
First-time experience in a short-range EV: driving across France in the winter
“I had to pick up my Peugeot Ion hundreds of kilometres away in Chauvigny near Poitiers”.
All we can say is that this first experience of winter driving with a short-range EV certainly taught her a lesson or two.
“It was February 2016,” she recalls. “The car had a range of about 80 km. After a few scares, I managed to bring the car back home to eastern France. It took me two days!”
Clocking up journeys in her Renault Zoé
Since 2017, Joëlle has exclusively driven her Renault Zoé (first generation, Continental Q210 motor). In terms of range, the first generations of Zoé were far from rivalling the performance of a Zoé today.
“In optimum weather conditions and strictly observing the principles of eco-driving, I have a range of 190 km. I can bank on around 110 km in winter.”
Range doesn’t hold Joëlle back.
“I’m not afraid of taking a trip to the other side of France or popping over to our neighbours (Austria, Germany and Switzerland) for the holidays.”
She feels that just as long as you are fully prepared and know your car’s charging specifications, everything is possible.
She recalls her longest journey.
“I set off for Vendée in the West of France and then went through Aveyron and Paris before coming back to the East of France. All that in a 3 to 4-day trip.”
Successful trip in a short-range EV? Preparing is key
To avoid any unpleasant surprises along the way when travelling in a short-range EV, your best bet is to prepare carefully before you leave.
“I systematically exclude motorways from my journey plan. Energy consumption is just too high for my Zoé. I take the B roads instead,” Joëlle tells us.
Select your charging stops carefully
“I use Chargemap to pick out the charging stations along the route. It’s really useful for finding the charging stations of various operators. And I’m not just saying that because I work here!” Joëlle confirms. “I filter my search by the power rating of charging stations that match up with my car (18 or 43 kW) and I only display those open 24/7. So I exclude charging points at car dealers, but I open up as many networks as possible to have a broad choice.”
Joëlle then consults the charging station details screens on the Chargemap application and checks the comments left by other members of the community. Once she has selected her favourite charging stations, she just has to transfer the GPS coordinates to her on-board computer when she starts off on her journey.
What do you do while your EV is charging?
That’s a question we’re often asked and a point that puts ICE drivers off when they compare charging times with filling up at a petrol station.
Joëlle’s Zoé can charge up to 43kW AC (very rare today) in 30 min and 22kW in about 1 hour. She thinks you can really optimise that time.
“By the time you’ve done a check-in, posted up a comment or photo on Chargemap, checked out the next stop and transferred the info onto the GPS, most of the charging time has whizzed by.”
And if it takes a bit longer to charge, then you can make a break for lunch (and pop off to the loo) or explore your surroundings on foot if the charging station is located in a village.
Changing the way you drive and perceive your journey
“You have to change your perception of road travel when you turn electric,” states Joëlle with conviction. “When I was petrol-powered, I didn’t want to waste any time. Now I drive an EV, I see the journey as part of my travels. I’ve discovered new landscapes and new places where I would never have stopped off before,” she continues.
Of course, Joëlle is well aware that she benefits from some advantages. For example, travelling by short-range EV with children has its limitations that should be taken into consideration before setting off.
“I travel alone. My range therefore suits me perfectly.”
Driving a short-range EV: final words of advice
Have a plan B (and C) up your sleeve!
Joëlle advises you to stop where there are other charging stations within a 10-15 km radius. “If I like a charging station, but it’s completely isolated, I’m not going to risk it. Even if I have to do a detour of a few kilometres, I prefer making sure there’s a group of charging stations nearby – just in case.”
“You should never wait to have just 5% range before charging,” she also underlines. “It’s better to have a bit of juice in reserve in case you have to go on to another charging station in the area.”
Take your foot off the accelerator
According to Joëlle, the best advice to give someone who wants to travel in a short-range EV is to avoid using motorways and to take your time.
“You need to remember that the journey will take twice as long,” she reminds us. “If you’re well prepared and drive in the right frame of mind, you can take up the challenge.”
We hope this testimonial has helped reassure drivers who haven’t had the opportunity – or the desire – to drive long-range models and has opened up new perspectives about going on long journeys with an electric vehicle.
Do you have any tips for driving long distances in a short-range EV like Joëlle? If so, please leave a short comment.