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Our electric car adventure to England - January 2022

Setting off from Glasgow to visit family in Nottinghamshire in January 2022 in our Renault Zoe ZE50 (able to use CCS DC rapid chargers at 50kW and AC at 22kW), we wondered whether, since our last visit to England in October 2021, the increase in electric cars would be matched by the growing number of charging points.
So this journey, as well as visiting family, was an attempt to find out whether the charging situation had improved or perhaps got worse!
Some charging points new to us were visited, and some have been upgraded. It was also going to be very useful to determine just how the low temperatures of winter would affect the range in motorway driving, in what was our first attempt at a long journey in winter.

We started out from our garage at a temperature of 5 degrees with a 10 minute preconditioning (which warms the cabin) while still plugged in (to preserve the range), and a 100% charge and a reported range of 193 miles on the "guessometer" (which actually seems quite accurate!). Stopping at Annandale Water Services on the M74 for half an hour, the sole but upgraded Gridserve charger was available. Gridserve chargers are available at most (soon to be almost all) motorway service stations, so it is a convenient default to use them. They now cost 39p per kWhr.

Having just charged, we were able to avoid Gretna Services where the Ecotricity chargers have not been upgraded, and didn't need to stop at either Todhills (1 charger) or Southwaite (2 chargers) (both have been upgraded). We moved on across the A66 to Ripon, where there are four Instavolt chargers (one of the most reliable charging companies, but they now charge 45p per kWhr) at Booths - (a very classy supermarket). One charger out of 4 was available, so having topped up there for an hour, with no other cars charging by the time we left, we set off down the A1, and had enough range to get to Bingham, Nottinghamshire, a distance of 294 miles with two charging stops, so taking about an hour and a half longer than in a fossil fuel car, and arriving with 68 miles of range.

After an overnight stop in Bingham, the BP Pulse charger at the Town House Hotel was available, and in a convenient location for a visit to the shops while you charge

We charged there twice during our visit of a few days. On the morning we left to set off north again, we had a less than ideal winter range of 160 miles for a 99% charge at a temperature of 0 degrees with frost all over the car, so we preconditioned it from the Renault App in the comfort of the house for 5 minutes, which didn't affect the range much, but melted the frost and made the car comfortable to sit in.

We planned to top up at one of the 4 Instavolt chargers 95 miles away in Ripon, which we thought would be reliable and available, but stopped instead at Wetherby Services, which had been very busy with electric cars on our last visit in October, just to see if we could get a charge, which indeed we could - this time, thank you, Gridserve! Most of the time we were there, both CCS chargers were in use, a Tesla was plugged in to the AC charger too, and one car came and went away again as all the chargers were in use. This shows the usefulness of stopping with plenty of range left, as if we had arrived at a slightly different time, we would have had to wait or move on!

The most interesting aspect of our stop at Wetherby was to see the good progress on the new Gridserve charging hub, which looks like 12 high-powered chargers under construction, (since there were 12 holes in the ground). Hopefully this will become available in a couple of months, and should revolutionise charger availability.

We did a full charge at the Wetherby, then headed for a new experience at the Rheged centre, just west of the A66/M6 junction at Penrith. Zap-Map said there was one charger out of 2 available, so we headed there, but as luck would have it, a car pulled up and plugged in just in front of us, so we left for Instavolt at Booths in Penrith instead. There, two cars were charging, but both drivers said they would be 5-10 minutes, so we waited, and after 5 minutes, we were plugged in. After an hour, we had enough charge to get to Glasgow.

A brief stop at M74 Abington Services resulted in seeing that the Ecotricity chargers are being upgraded by Gridserve here too, but are out of service at the moment (late January 2022).

In conclusion, in winter, you may end up stopping with 40-60 miles of range instead of 100 miles, but we had got used to that idea and planned around stopping where there are groups of chargers, and not relying on places where there is only one. The range does seem to go down from 230 to 190 if you start out from a garage at 5 degrees, or down to 160 miles at temperatures around zero if you leave the car out in the frost overnight. The WLTP figure of 235 miles of range applies only in summer (but is reasonably accurate then).

Although the cost of electricity has gone up (Instavolt by 10%, Gridserve by 13% from a lower base) since mid 2021, the cost of petrol and diesel have both gone up by a similar amount or even slightly more, so the difference in fuel cost is still in favour of the electric car, even at rapid charging prices.

However, that's for a long journey using public rapid chargers. You may be able to use cheaper low-powered chargers at home or at destination chargers overnight and reduce your costs, but the main thing is that most people won't do such a long journey very often, so if you can normally charge at home, one kWh costs 5p for up to 4 hours in the middle of the night - a substantial saving on diesel or petrol.

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