All posts by timbo

Renault Zoe electric car owner also with interest in weather and solar PV. Living on northern edge of the North York Moors.

More long distance in ZOE – 520 miles in a weekend

ZOE Charging at Woodall South (Image: Timbo)
Two ZOEs Charging at Woodall South (Image: Timbo)

I’m using my Zoe more and more these days. Although I work from home a lot, I also regularly stray quite a long way from home on the northern edge of the North York Moors.  Recent (now routine) trips have taken me to Newcastle, York, Leeds, Sheffield and even Manchester airport and I’ve also visited family in the Scottish Borders. All trips with one, two or three charges in each direction. I’m doing about 1,000 miles a month now – thanks in large part to the Electric Highway from Ecotricity and Charge your Car.

Chepstow Route (Image: Timbo)
Chepstow Route (Image: Timbo)

My most recent trip over the Easter break was  to Chepstow. Both the southbound and the return trip were straightforward. All of the Ecotricity fast chargers were in working order – despite the Ecotricity website reporting some as faulty. I was a little worried when the Whetherby one showed as off-line as without this I have a long detour via York. So,  I contacted @ElecHighway via Twitter to check the status of Wetherby, since I was aware that the majority of faults are on the DC-side. They came back quickly to report that only the DC-side that was out of action. So whilst no use for LEAF colleagues, but fine for ZOE. On the back of this and experience on the way home too, I decided that I’ll always try a fast charger that is reported as off-line – the AC-side seems pretty reliable to me.

ZOE Charging at Michaelwood (Image: Timbo)
ZOE Charging at Michaelwood (Image: Timbo)

I rapid charged at Wetherby, Woodall and Tamworth then broke my southbound journey at Frankley Services on M5 near Birmingham (why pick anywhere to stay that doesn’t have charging …?).  I also saw my first other Zoe on a motorway when I stopped at Woodall. The driver here had tried the fast charger but had given up on it and was using the 22kW one. The rapid worked fine for me,  so we twinned up for a while and chatted.

ZOE Charging at Hopwood (Image: Timbo)
ZOE Charging at Hopwood (Image: Timbo)

The following morning, I left Frankley for the run down the M5, stopping at Michaelwood services, followed by a quick top-up at the Severn View services at the Severn Bridge. This last charge wasn’t really necessary, but as I was staying with friends who didn’t have a charge point, I figured arriving with a full charge was sensible.

ZOE Charging at Donnington (Image: Timbo)
ZOE Charging at Donnington (Image: Timbo)

My return trip a couple of days later was done in a single 260 mile trip. I tweeted at each of the 5 charging stops this time which Welcome Break liked so much that they sent me a £5 voucher for a free coffee! The sun shone for the whole trip and I lost count of the number of people who came up to me to  ask me about the car whilst I was at each service station.

ZOE Charging at Woodall (Image: Timbo)
ZOE Charging at Woodall (Image: Timbo)

Charges on the way back were at:

  • Michaelwood,
  • Hopwood (M42),
  • Donnington (M1),
  • Woodall (M1) and
  • Wetherby (A1).

At each I charged to between 80-90%, so that I was on my way again in 20-30 mins each time.

ZOE Charging at Wetherby (Image: Timbo)
ZOE Charging at Wetherby (Image: Timbo)

The verdict from this trip and others – it really is easy these days. I really don’t think I’ll ever go back to an ICE car.

North Yorkshire to Worthing – 340 miles in a day

22kW Charge at Woodall (Image: Timbo)
22kW Charge at Woodall (Image: Timbo)

So, following the success of my day trip to Nottingham, I decided that it was time for a much longer expedition – from North Yorks to Worthing – again in a day. Although some 340 miles this looked entirely feasible given the number of fast chargers all the way there.

North Yorkshire to Worthing by ZOE Route (Image: Timbo)
North Yorkshire to Worthing by ZOE Route (Image: Timbo)

I planned my route to use the M1 for much of the trip, but with a small diversion in Oxfordshire to collect another passenger then M40, M25 and finally M23/A23. I also stuck with my ‘tried and tested’ approach of aiming to have plenty of contingency (c20-30 miles of range) as I arrived at each of my chosen fast charge points. This meant that approx. 6 fast charges would be needed, and I planned to stop at Wetherby, Woodall, Leicester Forest East, Cherwell (M40/A43), Hounslow (M4) and Pease Pottage (Crawley, A23). That way if there was a problem, I’d have enough to jump back in the car and head to the next fast charger, rather than back-tracking or heading for a slower 7kw charger nearby.

43kW Fast Charge at Tibshelf (Image: Timbo)
43kW Fast Charge at Tibshelf (Image: Timbo)

I left home at 0805 on Feb 16th, and all went to plan at the first stop at Wetherby where I charged from 35% to 83% between 0900 to 0923. An hour later at Woodall (M1 South) I couldn’t get the fast charger to work, so plugged into the 22kW to charge from 20% to 46% before leaving at 1045 to get a  ‘proper’ charge at Tibshelf (32% to 93% between 1103 and 1126).  Then it was on to Leicester FE (36% to 99% between 1212 and 1244); Cherwell (28% to 96% from 1356 to 1422) and Hounslow (36% to 99% between 1557 and 1625). Finally, for the last charge of the day I filled up at Crawley (39% to 94% from 1728 to 1750). All charge points were part of the Electric Highway (Ecotricity).

I arrived at Worthing at 1835, after some 10.5 hours in the car (6h47 driving time) and 339.7 miles on the ‘clock’ and some 86kWh consumed. I tracked my trip using Glympse  and tweeted progress, which I was surprised to see was picked up by the Speak EV forum folks .

43kW Fast Charge at Cherwell (Image: Timbo)
43kW Fast Charge at Cherwell (Image: Timbo)

The trip home a couple of days later was pretty similar, and just as smooth.  I left at 0825, followed much the same route (except that I stuck with the M1 as I didn’t need to detour to Oxfordshire), and arrived home at 1835 – just over 10 hours later.  I even had another problem fast charger – this time at Leicester Forest East (N), but was able to press on to Derby (M1 jn 23A). The stats for my return journey were 327.5 miles, 70kWh (4.62mpkWh), with a total driving time of 7hr 17 min.

So I think I can safely say now that, even with the odd fast charger not working correctly, there appears to be sufficient redundancy being built into the Electric Highway for southbound  journeys from the north east of England.  Last weekend, I went north of the border and really missed the Ecotricity fast chargers, but that’s a story for another day…

300 miles in a day – North Yorkshire to Nottingham and back

Today I have the pleasure of introducing the first guest post from a new contributor, Timbo, on his recent 300 mile round trip. I believe it’s the longest journey in a day undertaken in a ZOE, at least in the UK – but if you’ve gone further I’d love to hear from you!

Zoe charging at York (Image: Timbo)
Zoe charging at York (Image: Timbo)

I eventually took delivery of my Renault Zoe on 1 September 2013. I’d wanted an electric car for ages and I seized the opportunity to replace my ageing Renault Megane. Zoe’s purpose was simply to be the second car – transporting me to the station and providing the local taxi-service for the kids. I didn’t plan on using this car for long-haul – the family barely squeezes into our other (estate) car.

Like many others my first few weeks of ownership were spent gathering RFID cards and testing local public charge points around the Teesside and Tyneside area. I soon realized that we lived in an area where public charging was well catered for, and a working charge point was never too far away.

After a couple of weeks, I  began to feel more adventurous. Simple 100 mile round trips to Newcastle, with a charge before the return journey, were too easy.

So on 16th November I decided it was time for a trip to Nottingham – some 130 miles if done direct, but with the planned detours for fast charge points, more like 150 miles each way.

North Yorkshire to Nottingham and back (Image: Timbo)
North Yorkshire to Nottingham and back (Image: Timbo)

I did my homework beforehand, making sure I knew the locations of the Ecotricity charge points on the M1 as well as others nearby. Given that I would have the kids with me too, I planned not to take any risks with range – topping up at each fast charger felt right and the kids didn’t mind stopping three times in each direction rather than attempting to do it in two.

We left home on the northern edge of the North York Moors at about 0815 and headed for the first stop in York. This is not the most obvious route but, as this journey was done before the new Ecotricity fast charger was installed at Wetherby, I had to begin with this slight detour. The 55 mile drive on mainly A-roads saw me arrive at the Designer Outlet with 40%. I charged at the 22kw/hr charger and left 55 minutes later with 96%.

Zoe charging at Woodall services (Image: Timbo)
Zoe charging at Woodall services (Image: Timbo)

Then I headed for the M1 and did the next leg to Ecotricity’s fast chargers at Woodall Welcome Break services near Sheffield. This 50 miles of motorway took 70 minutes. I was glad this stop has the 22kw chargers as well as the superfast ones, as I couldn’t get the superfast one to charge my Zoe. So, another coffee whilst I charged from 32% to 97% (45 mins). At this point I began to wonder if my day trip might take a bit too long.

I left Woodall at 1235 for the 20 mins drive to the next charge point at Tibshelf, wondering if I’d get any fast chargers to work. My luck was in, so I topped up the car to 99% whilst I fed the kids. We left at 1335 and headed for Nottingham safe in the knowledge that we’d have enough charge to return to Tibshelf later in the afternoon.

ZOE charging at Tibshelf (Image: Timbo)
ZOE charging at Tibshelf (Image: Timbo)

On the way home I simply reversed the sequence. I charged for 25 mins at Tibshelf (50% to 95%), 12 minutes at Woodall (80% to 95%) and just 30 minutes at York (32% to 79%). Safe in the knowledge that my home charger was working fine, I stopped in York just long enough to get me home. I arrived home after a trip of 13 hours and about 300 miles with the battery at 18%, and three kids in remarkably good spirits.

My conclusion after a 300 mile round trip? Ecotricity’s charge points really do make long distance travel perfectly feasible, and now that Wetherby has joined the Electric Highway, my journeys south just got a whole lot easier. I’m quite convinced that the Renault Zoe is a whole lot more than a car for local errands.

Half term will see me attempt the 320 mile (one way) trip to Worthing. Watch this space….