Following the first day with our ZOE, including our excellent adventure and bogus journey (with apologies to Bill & Ted), its range capabilities weren’t stretched further as it took up its primary role of commuter (40 miles per day) and around-town transport.
However, just over a week later, I needed to fly abroad on business. Normally I would go from Luton airport which, at about 40 miles from home, could be achieved on a single charge for the roundtrip. Unfortunately the travel was arranged at short notice and the only flights available were from East Midlands airport. Not only is that 60 miles from home (virtually straight up the M1 motorway), but I needed to go via Milton Keynes to pick up a colleague so the total trip would be about 85 miles. Although that is within the range of a single charge there are no fast chargers near the airport so there would be no way to recharge for the return journey.
I therefore decided that I needed to make use of the new Ecotricity fast chargers at the Leicester Forest East motorway services. That gave a fairly comfortable range required of 70 miles. To allow enough contingency to get into Leicester to look for other chargers if the fast chargers weren’t working, I needed a total available range of 80-100 miles.
I therefore set off on the journey with the aim of maximising range. I reset the trip computer on leaving so I could monitor instant and average power usage, and drove entirely in the ZOE’s Eco mode (which limits acceleration, air conditioning power, etc.). I drove carefully – with gentle acceleration and braking – and once on the motorway also limited the speed to about 55mph. The strategies worked and – to keep a long story short – we arrived at Leicester services with plenty of range in hand. The odometer indicated a distance travelled of 64.5 miles, with a range remaining of 35 miles, so ZOE was promising a whisker short of 100 miles of range. In fact, I was tempted to drive around the car park a few times in the hope that the total range indicated would go over the magic 100 miles!
Arriving at the services we looked around for the chargers and found them close to the main building entrance, much like at Newport Pagnell. We plugged into the big fast (43kW) charger and it seemed initially that it was working fine but then I spotted on the dashboard that the charge time was over two hours, when it should have been about half an hour. I tried again with the same result so I didn’t try a third time (given my experience at Newport Pagnell) and instead immediately moved the car over and plugged into the medium (22kW) charger. As at Newport Pagnell that worked perfectly the first time. I reported the problem with the fast charger and we went and had a drink. When we returned about 40 minutes later the car was charged and ready to go.
The trip to the airport was uneventful and we had no trouble parking. I was worried the car park would use valet parking – how does that work if the driver has never encountered an electric car before? – but fortunately it didn’t.
The next day we flew back in, late in the evening. Having been able to charge at Leicester on the way up – even though not at maximum speed – the decision to return there on the way back was easy. Fortunately this time, on the south side, the fast charger worked fine (and the car charge level was still quite high anyway) so we were on our way again after another quick drink.
The rest of the journey went fine, with range not being an issue and, anyway, a guaranteed charge was available at home. In fact, approaching each charge location I had relaxed and given up on speed restrictions – driving 70mph+ on the motorway – and there had been no problems with range.
This was still just a week after getting the car so I’m very confident that 100+ mile range is comfortably achievable with the ZOE, though it is increasingly clear that with an EV the range capability is almost entirely dependent on driver behaviour.