All posts by Surya

From the Ardennes to Wales and Back – Part 2

[Part 1 is here]

Day 2

After breaking up the tent we went to Chieveley to top up as we where planning to go off of the electric highway for some sightseeing and the extra juice could come in handy. When we arrived there we found the charger we had used the day before opened up with 2 technicians working on it. Apparently the DC side needed fixing. They were very friendly and even came in to the cafeteria to inform us they had finished and we could start charging. They stayed just to make sure we could actually use the charger, but they had done a good job, everything worked fine.

The Chieveley charger undergoing repairs (Image: Surya)
The Chieveley charger undergoing repairs (Image: Surya)

Then we went on to the Membury charger to find the same technical guys fixing the charger there. Apparently a snake had found it a good idea to sleep in the 300v system, frying itself. Since we didn’t really need the extra charge we didn’t wait for them to finish up and went on our way.

Charging at Membury services (Image: Surya)
Charging at Membury services (Image: Surya)

We went to the Leigh Delamere charger for an uneventful session.

We then headed south to Bath as I make a yearly stop there to use their skate park. Unfortunately the former skate part is now a construction yard. I guess they are upgrading it. Too bad, because their ramps were top notch. We did find a very nice vegan restaurant though.

Now we had to start making sure we made it to our destination in time. There wasn’t any time pressure yet, but we wanted to make sure it stayed that way. We went on to Bristol as there are many charging opportunities there. We first tried the IKEA one, but found it to be switched off, so we headed further north. I decided to not make any detours and head straight for the Michaelwood charger on the M5 as I knew that even if the fast charger was broken we could use one of the 22kW units they have there. When we got there we found a Model S using the fast charger, so we did indeed start charging on the slower unit and went inside. When we went outside again shortly after we noticed the Tesla had left, so we switched chargers.

Using the rapid charger at Michaelwood (Image: Surya)
Using the rapid charger at Michaelwood (Image: Surya)

Next we went on to the charger in Brookthorpe. Last year that one wasn’t online yet, but now that it was, that came in very handy. We found that the facilities there were very different from the usual ones. The entire building is hidden under a roof covered in grass and inside it doesn’t have the usual junk food restaurants and the big chain stores. The choices are much more diverse and seem to be healthier. I hope we’ll see more of these kinds of service stations in the future.

Topping up at Brookthorpe (Image: Surya)
Topping up at Brookthorpe (Image: Surya)

We made it to the camp site in Ross-on-Wye well on time, with plenty of time to set up the tent and grab a bite before we went out to visit some friends and play board games.

Settled down for the night at Ross-on-Wye (Image: Surya)
Settled down for the night at Ross-on-Wye (Image: Surya)

Part 3 to follow.

From the Ardennes to Wales and Back

Just like in 2014 we made a trip to the UK again in our Renault ZOE. In the previous year we basically went from home to the south of Wales and back. This year we decided it had been too long since we had visited the Lake District. A quick look at the Ecotricity map made it clear that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. We had 10 days to make it there and back, so plenty of time.

Day 1

We set out from home in the Flemish Ardennes early in the morning to catch the ferry around noon. Just like last year we made a stop in De Panne just before the border with France. It is a 22kW unit, so charging took about 45 minutes, but that was planned. There are very few fast chargers in Belgium, the vast majority of them are 22kW AC units – which is one of the reasons I chose the ZOE over other models.

Charging at De Panne (Image: Surya)
Charging at De Panne (Image: Surya)

From De Panne we went to the ferry terminal using secondary roads to save some energy as the total driving distance to the first Ecotricity charger is about 120km. But we had also planned for this and arrived on schedule.

At the border check I accidentally drove past the French booth right on to the UK one, so an officer came out and quickly remarked “Is that an electric car?” after which he said everything was fine and let us go on to the next check. He didn’t say much else which made it funny.

Just like last year we where the only EV in the queue for the ferry, I hope that changes in the future.

First charge in the UK (Image: Surya)
First charge in the UK, at Medway (Image: Surya)

After the ferry trip we went on to the Medway charger on the M2. We made it with enough juice left, but it surely would be more comfortable if Ecotricity would install one near Dover or Folkstone. The charger was free and working perfectly. I did find a red Nissan Leaf charging on the other side.

Next we went to the Clacket Lane charger. We had plenty of juice left, but I know there probably would be some chargers down on the next couple of stops, so topping up seemed like a good idea.

Clacket Lane Services (Image: Surya)
Clacket Lane Services (Image: Surya)

We went on our way as soon as we reached 99%. We made a stop at the Cobham charger even though I expected it to be offline. We arrived there to find a other ZOE who had just found out the charger was indeed not working. They where also heading westbound, but they did not have enough juice to make it to the Chieveley charger (according to my info the charger in Reading would also be offline) so they went back to go and charge in Clacket Lane as I confirmed that one was indeed working. I hope they made it.

I decided to try the Reading one anyway and found it had just been fixed, which was good because if the Chieveley one was unexpectedly down, I could run into problems.

Reading charger working fine (Image: Surya)
Reading charger working fine (Image: Surya)

Next we went to Chieveley and found the charger was indeed working fine. We went for some groceries, set up the tent in a nice campsite in Newbury and went for some Indian food. We opted not to get a pitch with a hookup as the charger was working fine and paying extra didn’t make much sense.

ZOE filled up at Chieveley (Image: Surya)
ZOE filled up at Chieveley (Image: Surya)

At the supermarket we found another ZOE in the parking lot. On my first day I saw 2 Leafs, 2 ZOEs, 2 Tesla Model S, and 1 BMW i3.

Part 2 is here.

An open letter to Renault

My ZOE charging at 43kW on an international trip (Image: Surya)
My ZOE fast charging at 43kW on an international trip (Image: Surya)

Ever since I received my ZOE earlier this year, I have been very happy with it. It has done everything I have expected from it. So far I have been a happy customer.

Some of the issues I had with the car have also been dealt with since then: the dashboard has been updated to a darker colour and customers now get the option to buy the battery with the car. Renault has also restated their intention to offer battery upgrades with longer ranges in the future. All of this had strengthened me in my opinion that I had made the right choice in buying the ZOE.

This week Renault released information on future changes to the product line which includes a smaller, more efficient motor with built in inverter and up to 8% longer range. That is fantastic news of course. The news also had a small bit of detail in it which doesn’t sit right with me: the new, more efficient inverter is now better suited for charging at 3kW, but only goes up to 22kW, not 43kW. This increases the minimum charging time from 30 minutes to 60 minutes.

Renault argues that the 43kW feature isn’t often used. And that is no doubt true. I have used that function a number of times, but 95% of the time, I don’t use it. But when I do use it, I am more than happy it is there. I’ll go even further: I wouldn’t buy a ZOE that can’t charge at least at 43kW. When I make my yearly trip to the UK, I’ll be doing multiple fast charges a day. If those took twice as long, not only would I be unhappy, the other EV drivers waiting in line for me to finish would be unhappy as well. But it would make international travel with the car impractical.

Renault probably argues that that is not what the car was designed for. And it probably isn’t, but my experience tells me that it is perfectly suited for that. It certainly didn’t bother me and in fact I bought the car with that in mind.

But I already own a ZOE. Why would I then complain? My fast charge capability won’t go away, will it? No, it won’t. But I will be impacted.

Renault has given a strong signal to the industry it won’t support the 43kW AC standard in the future. If they don’t support it, why would the people who install the infrastructure support it? After all, the amount of cars with 43kW capabilities is still low, and if Renault does indeed execute this change to the car, the amount will stay low in the future.

The surplus cost for 43kW against 22kW might be low, but the cost is there and I can certainly imagine some companies unwilling to invest further in this standard. And that will have an impact on me when I use my beloved car.

So therefore my plea to Renault:

Please don’t leave your existing customers with capabilities they can’t use. Keep on supporting this great technology you pioneered and which was one of my main reasons for choosing the ZOE.

The changes Renault has made since I bought my car confirmed that I was right, but if Renault now stops supporting their own standard, I will see no other option than to distrust the company in the future, and in that case I can’t see me buying an EV from them in the future.

I’m certain I’m not the only person with this opinion, so please Renault, respect your customers and support your own technology today and in the future.

A concerned customer

My 600km trip from Belgium to Germany

Each year I go to Essen, Germany for a big board game convention. Since I bring home a sizable amount of games, we have opted not to use the train. Hauling back is simply easier with a car.

This year is the first time we don’t have an ICE available to make that trip, so we again faced the choice: go by train or use the ZOE. A quick look at the charger map made the decision easy: there’s plenty of AC chargers along the way, most of them 22kW or more.

The trip would take me from the South of Flanders in Belgium through the South of the Netherlands in to the Ruhr region of Germany. A 300km trip, one way.

We already have a The New Motion charging pass which we occasionally use in Belgium, but it also works on a lot of chargers in The Netherlands. After all, The New Motion is a Dutch company. So I felt confident I would be fine with just the one card.

I also had a look at Germany. The last charger I would use in The Netherlands was in Venlo, 65km from my destination. Going from there to Essen and back was certainly possible without recharging, but not at highway speeds. I quickly found out there where 2 AC quick chargers in Duisburg, only 15km from Essen that sould work with my New Motion card.

I also knew an RWE charger at the end of the street my hotel is in, so charging there would be more convenient. I contacted RWE and they told me I could use their chargers using the PlugSurfing service. I went on to the PlugSurfing website to register, and found they had two options: use the app or get a pass for almost €10. They where so nice as to tell me that not all chargers would work with the app yet, so the pass was a safer option. Since I probably wouldn’t have 3G connectivity and the app wasn’t compatible with my older smartphone, I got the pass, which arrived just in time for the trip.

We left from my home and drove to Turnhout, some 126km away. We drove mostly 90km/h on the motorway, and we arrived with about 20km of range left. Since the Turnhout charger is – like most AC chargers in Belgium – only 22kW, we had plenty of time to grab a bite.

We then drove on to Venlo, 101km further, also at 90km/h for most of the time. We had slightly more range left, but this was the last charger on our route that wasn’t in Germany, so I felt it was the last one we could count on. A nice surprise was that this charger was 43kW, even though the website had indicated it was 22kW. But there was also a secondary 22kW charger available. I did notice that even though it is rated at 43kW, it did take slightly longer to charge than it ever did on my trip the the UK, using Ecotricity chargers.

When the battery was at 99%, we went on our way to Essen. We arrived there with about 80km of range left, enough to get back to Venlo if nothing unexpected happened. But I decided to charge in Germany if possible just to make the trip back more comfortable.

After 6 days at the convention it was time to head back. Before breakfast and packing, I went to the RWE charger with my car. Upon arriving there the charger was ICEd, but my cord was long enough to reach it from a nearby spot. But the charger didn’t have an RFID reader, meaning that it could only be activated with the app, the opposite of what the PlugSurfing site had warned for. On the Duisburg then.

When we arrived in Duisburg we found the charger very easily. A plug-in Volvo was charging on one side with a Schuko plug, but the other side was free and both sides could be activated independently. You can’t plug in unless you unlock the port with your RFID card, so I swiped my The New Motion card, which was the one that was supposed to work. It took very long to authenticate before being rejected. I tried again, but the rejection was clearly cached in the charger, as it was immediately rejected again. I tried the PlugSurfing pass just in case it would work, but I got an error message which I didn’t understand.

I didn’t feel like placing an expensive international phone call to get the thing to work, so we went on to Venlo to charge there. We arrived there with 20km of range left. The rest of the journey went as planned.

I’m glad this happened in a situation where I didn’t really need the charge, but if I ever make a longer trip through Germany, I’ll make sure to do more research and be better prepared because this can hardly be called a success.

Travelling Internationally with the ZOE – Part 5

Myddelton House Gardens (Image: Surya)
Myddelton House Gardens (Image: Surya)

[Part 4]

The next day, after visiting some nice English gardens and a garden centre, we made our way to the charger near Thurrock Town Centre. A Leaf had just started charging, so we had to wait a bit before charging. The owner of the Leaf had the car for a week or maybe two. He loved the car but he had had a lot of trouble charging it and was thinking of returning it. We talked about our experiences and the change in mindset an EV requires and by the time his car was full (about 45 minutes) he was convinced to keep the car and do some more research. It was clear his dealer (who hadn’t sold an EV before) hadn’t informed him properly and the fact that he had no cable with Type 2 connector certainly didn’t help with the charging situation. I hope he is happy with the car now.

Waltham Abbey (Image; Surya)
Waltham Abbey (Image; Surya)

Next, disaster struck! Well, that’s a bit dramatic maybe, but it wasn’t fun…
As the Leaf unplugged, we noticed an error on the charger ‘Circuit Breaker’ error. Oh no, we had just waited 45 minutes only to find out the charger wouldn’t work for our car! I called Ecotricity but as I expected they couldn’t fix it remotely. As the nearby IKEA charger was also down, we had little choice but to be on our way to the M2 charger where the whole journey started. That charger was 40km away and we had 55km of range left. On top of that it was boiling hot and the M25 was completely stuck. We weren’t in a rush, but we did want to conserve energy to make sure we would make it to the charger. Since we where moving so slowly, we decided to open the windows and turn off the air conditioning. This was the only time we did that, all of the other trips had it on auto (in Eco mode). As soon as we got off the M25 and started moving a bit faster, we closed the windows again and turned on the air conditioning when needed. We kept a close eye on the remaining distance and range. It was clear that we could make it if nothing else went wrong. We drove a huge part of the route cruising at 80km/h behind a lorry. The lower speed and lower wind resistance did wonders for conserving range.

We arrived at the charger with the low battery warning flashing and the GPS constantly asking us to add a charger to the route. In the end we had 16km of range (11% charge) left. Not a lot, but at no moment did we have range anxiety. The remaining charge was always predicted to be between 20km and 15km so we knew we would make it if we drove smart.

A much needed charge (Image: Surya)
A much needed charge (Image: Surya)

The following charge was the last quick charge on the Ecotricity network we would do. Charging from 11% to 99% took 35 minutes (not the predicted 50), which is much faster than the 0% to 80% in 30 minutes advertised by Renault if you ask me. Supposedly the speed of charge drops after 80%, but as Trevor has pointed out in previous posts, the drop isn’t dramatic. In fact, the speed appears to be very high up until 95% after which there is a notable drop off. Having now witnessed the charging of a Leaf a couple of times I can testify that the drop in charge speed with a Leaf is very noticeable indeed and becomes very slow towards the end. On the other hand the Ecotricity chargers do show state of charge and current charge speed with the Leaf, neither of which are visible for the ZOE, except on the dashboard.

Last fast charge at Medway (Image: Surya)
Last fast charge at Medway (Image: Surya)

Arriving at the campsite near Dover we found they also had RV Mennekes plugs connected to 20A fuses. Charging here would not be a problem. We set up the tent and plugged in the car. During the night it started pouring rain. This was the first rain of the trip, so I’m glad it was dry for the rest of the trip, but the charging cable was connected to the adapter cable in open air. I always put the connection on top of a plastic box so it wouldn’t touch the ground in case the ground would get wet, but having so much rain fall on top of it, I crossed my fingers it would be OK. In the end it proved not to be a problem. The battery was full and we only had about 70km to go till the charger in De Panne. There we charged at 22kW again until the car was full and drove to Ghent to do some more board gaming with friends before going home. To be sure the way home was comfortable we added a charging session in Ghent at 22kW as well.

With a charging network like the one Ecotricity has, travelling longer distances with a lower range EV proved not to be a big challenge. The ‘Circuit breaker’ errors certainly were a bit annoying but nothing we couldn’t handle. The granny cable in combination with the RV adapter allowed us to comfortably go further from the Electric Highway than would otherwise be possible, so if you’re going camping, I cannot recommend this setup enough, even though that cable comes at a price.

Little Satmar campsite, Folkestone (Image: Surya)
Little Satmar campsite, Folkestone (Image: Surya)

Talking to other EV owners and people passing by being curious was a lot of fun. It’s amazing how many people have no idea what current EVs are capable of, but we always got very positive comments from everyone and some people said they would look into getting an EV. We also had a couple of Leaf owners comment on how nice the ZOE looks. Apart from Trevor’s ZOE, we didn’t spot any other ones though.

Next time we hope to make our way back to the Lake District, I’m sure that by then that won’t be a problem either.

As Nikki from Transport Evolved showed, doing a similar trip on the mainland might prove to be more of a challenge. The amount of different networks and modes of operation will certainly not make it as easy as ordering a free Ecotricity card and rolling off the ferry. So if you want to do it the other way around, do your research, and don’t do as I did: rely on a single network. The situation in the UK is not perfect, but it is improving all the time and it certainly is far superior to what Belgium has to offer in terms of charging infrastructure.

Some stats
Total distance: 1510.2km
Charging sessions: 3 in Belgium (22kW), 18 in the UK (1 @ 22kW, 4 @ slooooooooow speed)
Total energy used: 217kWh
Money spent on charging in the UK: £0
Money spent on charging in Belgium: unknown. The website of the operator still shows 0 sessions and hasn’t billed me. So for now: €0

Later this year I will make my annual trip to Germany in October. This will have me use chargers in Belgium, the Netherlands and of course Germany. Maybe I’ll skip the German one as I should be able to make it from the last Dutch charger to Essen and back. We’ll see but if I have anything of interest, I’ll do another write up then.

Travelling Internationally with the ZOE – Part 4

Charging at Toddington (Image: Surya)
Charging at Toddington (Image: Surya)

[Part 3]

The next day we started making our way to Dover again, with a planned stop somewhere along the way. We had a full two days to drive from Milton Keynes to Dover, so we had plenty of time to do some extra things like going for a walk in the lovely Ampthill Park.

Tesla Supercharger at South Mimms (Image: Surya)
Tesla Supercharger at South Mimms (Image: Surya)

At the South Mimms charger, we also encountered 2 Tesla superchargers under wraps. At least, I can’t think what else it could have been, but it didn’t say anything on them. A few minutes later we passed a Tesla Model S on the M25. In the UK you certainly see more Leafs than in Belgium, but we certainly have way more Model S’s.

Lee Valley Campsite (Image: Surya)
Lee Valley Campsite (Image: Surya)

We ended our day by finding a camp site in the Lee valley. They had Mennekes (the RV type, not the EV type) to Shuko (regular household plug in mainland Europe) adapter cables for sale for £15 so we got one as we knew we would use it in the future. This camp site also had RV outlets available. But they were only 10A. I decided to give it a shot anyway. The car started charging right away, but a couple of minutes later I noticed it wasn’t charging anymore. I guess the fuse didn’t hold up. The two power outlets where dead, that was for sure.

[Part 5]

Travelling Internationally with the ZOE – Part 3

Charging at Pntyclun (Image: Surya)
Charging at Pntyclun (Image: Surya)

[Part 2]

The next day we made our way to Ross-on-Wye where we had some activities planned. The closest charger is the Gloucester one which was indicated as being down. So we were really hoping to charge at the campsite otherwise our mobility would be severely limited as we only had a small amount of range left apart from what we needed to get back to an Ecotricity charger. Luckily the campsite gave us an adapter cord to connect to the 16A RV outlets they have on each pitch. Charging there overnight worked as expected: slow and steady. Charging about half the battery took an estimated 8 hours 40, according to the car. I don’t know if it actually took that long, but by the time we got up, the car was full again. Using the granny cable, the whining noise the car makes while charging is significantly less loud, which was good since the car was right next to our tent.

Ross-on-Wye campsite (Image: Surya)
Ross-on-Wye campsite (Image: Surya)

After visiting some friends, playing some board games, having some excellent Indian curries and mountain biking in the Forest of Dean (highly recommended!) we started making our way to Milton Keynes. On our way to the Cherwell Valley charger, we passed a Leaf in the Cotswolds. This was the first Leaf we found that was not either parked or charging.

Charging at Peartree, near Oxford (Image: Surya)
Charging at Peartree, near Oxford (Image: Surya)

Arriving at the charger it had an ‘AC Circuit Breaker’ error. Apparently the charger had gone down minutes after I checked the website. So we made our way down to Oxford. It was just 20km extra, and we still had 57km of range left after driving 110km – proof that 100 miles on a charge is perfectly possible as long as you don’t do motorway speeds.

Beware of over charging (Image: Surya)
Beware of over charging (Image: Surya)

The Oxford charger worked fine just as Ecotricity had assured me it would be on the phone. We went to Milton Keynes to visit another friend, a guy called Trevor who drives a ZOE himself. We talked about EVs, the ZOE in particular of course and compared the cars we have. That RHD glove box is really pathetic, I feel sorry for the ZOE drivers in RHD countries. The one in the LHD version is of regular size. Not huge but useable. We also discussed the black piece of carpet Trevor had custom made for the dashboard. We checked if just mirroring it would work for LHD models (it does) and how it could be improved.

Which colour is nicer? (Image: Surya)
Which colour is nicer? (Image: Surya)

After our visit to Trevor we went to the shopping mall. We found a lot of Polar network chargers there, most of them ICEd. Not nice. Fortunately we weren’t relying on them and didn’t need them.

[Part 4]

Travelling Internationally With the ZOE – Part 2

Cobham Services - first Nissan Leaf (Image: Surya)
Cobham Services – first Nissan Leaf (Image: Surya)

[Part 1]

The next day we went off to the charger at the Cobham services on the M25. Upon arriving we found a Leaf charging, but there was a second unit which seemed to work. Except that it didn’t. I could choose to charge and swipe my card, but than an error occurred. I called Ecotricity and they told me it was a new installation and that it wasn’t properly online yet, and that it shouldn’t work at all.

Chieveley Services, Hermitage - second Leaf (Image: Surya)
Chieveley Services, Hermitage – second Leaf (Image: Surya)

So we waited about 10 minutes until the Leaf was done charging to fill up ourselves. The owners of the Leaf where very pleasant to talk to. Upon seeing we where from Belgium, they asked how the car was holding up and such, and they told us they where hoping to make a trip to France in their Leaf. I asked if they had looked into the charging infrastructure. They hadn’t but were aware that it could be a challenge.

Leigh Delamere Services (Image: Surya)
Charging at Leigh Delamere Services (Image: Surya)

As we made our way towards Bristol, we started skipping chargers. The range of the car is more than enough to do that as chargers are about 50km apart. They seemed reliable enough and there is little point in making a stop at every single one unless you love service stations.

Michaelwood Services (Image: Surya)
Charging at Michaelwood Services (Image: Surya)

Along the way we also encountered a second Leaf that was charging. The owners had just picked up their second-hand Leaf hours before and it was their very first charge. We had a really nice chat and they where really looking forward to driving electric from then on. They did have quite a trip ahead as the dealer was far from home.

Crossing the Severn Bridge into Wales (Image: Surya)
Crossing the Severn Bridge into Wales (Image: Surya)

Our last stop of the day was at the Caldicot charger before making our way North towards a camp site. The camp site had no amenities so charging there was not an option.

Final charge of the day at Caldicot (Image: Surya)
Final charge of the day at Caldicot (Image: Surya)

[Part 3]

Travelling Internationally With the ZOE – Part 1

Waiting for the ferry (Image: Surya)
Waiting for the ferry (Image: Surya)

Two weeks ago I went on a road trip of about a week with my ZOE. It was kind of a last minute decision as a free time slot came available and stress levels at work were high. We had the ZOE for about a month by then so we did have some experience with the car, we had put about 2000km on the odometer. But a road trip is not something we had done yet. In fact I hadn’t traveled outside the range of the car a single time (I don’t normally need to).

To prepare I went to a public charger in Belgium to make sure the charge card I had for Belgium worked. I would have to charge once in Belgium, in De Panne, close to the border of France. I had also received an Ecotricity card, but I didn’t have any other charge cards for the UK and I had ran out of time to order any. They simply wouldn’t arrive in time. I phoned Trevor to talk about the feasibility of the trip with just an Ecotricity card. We agreed that if we didn’t divert from the Electric Highway too much, we should be fine.

The day before we left I got the great news that the ‘granny cable’ to charge from domestic sockets had arrived and I could pick it up. This added an extra charge option just in case, which increased my confidence.

To get to the Electric Highway would be about 60km from Dover, where the ferry would land. To get to the ferry in Calais would be about 60km from the charger in De Panne, so well within the range of the car if I didn’t do anything crazy. The De Panne charger itself is a 22kW unit about 100km from my house. So I had to charge for about an hour to be full enough to make it to the Ecotricity charger on the M2 in Medway. To be sure I bought a flex ticket for the ferry in case we’d run late. And we did. Not because of technical reasons, we just left too late.

The trip to De Panne went smooth, the charger was easily found and free and worked. The car was full in about 40 minutes, charging from a remaining 64km. The car had predicted more time but we also stopped charging at 99%. I noticed the car keeps on charging very fast up until then, and then it takes a very long time to finish that last percent. For the rest of the trip I would always cut off at 99%. It’s simply not worth the extra time.

For the trip to Calais we didn’t take the motorway but a parallel road with speeds of 70km/h and 90km/h, as proposed by the GPS when selecting eco-route. That is something else we would use for most of the trip as usually it isn’t that much slower but it can make a big difference on range.

Coming off the ferry, we entered the postal code for the M2 charger. We knew we could make it, as we had 60km to go and 90km of range left. Clearly not a problem, but the car thought otherwise, constantly proposing to add a charger along the route, sometimes multiple times in a single minute. A bit annoying.

First charge of the trip (Image: Surya)
First charge of the trip (Image: Surya)

We arrived at the charger with 28km of range left. The charger on our side of the road was down, as indicated by the Ecotricity website, so that wasn’t a surprise. But there is a public bridge just past the services so going to the other side wasn’t a problem, and that charger worked fine. This was our very first quick charge, and man, that is indeed quick! The car was full (that is, 99%) in less than half an hour.

Charging at Clackett Lane (Image: Surya)
Charging at Clackett Lane (Image: Surya)

We did a second quick charge in Clacket Lane to take us to the Gatwick area where we stayed in a B&B for the night.

[Part 2]

The special ‘top up’ cable for the ZOE

ZOE Domestic Charging Cable (Image: Surya)
ZOE Domestic Charging Cable (Image: Surya)

Today I received my ‘top up’ cable, or the granny charging cable as it is being called by some. Not only does this mean that yes, the cable does indeed exist, but it also means I have an extra charging option when I make my trip to the UK starting tomorrow.

In Belgium the cost was €737. Not cheap for a cable that you will use as little as possible, but especially not cheap if you consider that the cable is supposed to come standard with every ZOE in the future.

In the box you will find
– The cable with on one side the domestic socket, on the other side the Type 2 connector and in between a control unit with 3 indicator LEDs.
– An extra cable storage bag (identical to the one that comes with the car)
– An instruction manual in English, French, German and Spanish.

ZOE Domestic Charging Cable waiting to be unboxed (Image: Surya)
ZOE Domestic Charging Cable waiting to be unboxed (Image: Surya)

In the manual there are a lot of things they tell you to look at before using a socket, but of course on the road this will not always be possible. I hope the control unit is smart enough to detect problems and prevent damage, because I will not always be able to check the thickness of the cable the socket is attached to, or the kind of differential used among other things.

Complete ZOE Domestic Charging Cable (Image: Surya)
Complete ZOE Domestic Charging Cable (Image: Surya)

I also wish the control unit (or the car) had a way to control the amount of current drawn to prevent problems.

I have yet to test the cable, but there you have it: it exists, and if you want one, contact your Renault dealer, they might be able to help you out, just as mine was.