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.

Ireland to The Netherlands and back – Part 1


For the last few years my wife and I have done a road trip to my parents in Hardenberg, The Netherlands from our home in Mallow, Ireland. As Zoe is our only car I immediately started planning for an all electric road trip.

After reading Surya’s posts about his camping trip from Belgium to the UK, and considering the infrastructure in France seemed patchy, driving through the UK seemed the only viable route.

I would have to make use of several charge station providers in several countries. Ecotricity’s Electric Highway should see me through the UK. Signing up was easy and the card arrived in the post a few days later. TheNewMotion in Holland seemed to be a widely accepted card in several EU countries, including Belgium (Blue Corner), the UK (ChargeYourCar) and they had several stations in Germany. This was starting to look good.  Using their sign up page was not possible as it needed a Dutch address but after emailing their customer service with my address and bank details a personalised welcome pack was sent to me in the post.

After hearing of additional Ecotricity charge points in North Wales as part of the Rapid Charge Network I decided on the following ferries:

  • Dublin, Ireland – Holyhead, Wales (May 30th)
  • Hull, England – Rotterdam, The Netherlands (May 30th)
  • Dunkerque, France – Dover, England (June 13th)
  • Pembroke, Wales – Rosslare, Ireland (June 20th)

In addition to visiting my parents and my wife’s sister and family in Farnborough, a short holiday in Ostend and Weston-super-Mare was also scheduled.

The planning was complete and the countdown could start!

Manor Stone (Image: Jan-Bart Spang)
Manor Stone (Image: Jan-Bart Spang)

Mallow to Hull

On the morning of the 29th of May my electric journey began with a trip I had done many times. Mallow to Dublin is very easy in theory but the reliability of the charging network in Ireland makes it a bit of an adventure most times. This time I made a quick 10 minute stop in Urlingford, Co. Tipperary before moving on to a newly opened service station at Manor Stone, Co. Laois. Zoe was charged from 34% to 99% in 25 minutes. My next planned stop was the Tesco in Naas, Co. Kildare. Sadly this charge point had an AC error and after reporting this to ESB I moved on to a nearby 22kW charger which charged Zoe from 25% to 45% in 15 minutes. This was sufficient to reach Dublin Airport. After failing to get a charge at the airport parking I collected my wife from her delayed flight from London Gatwick and drove to our airport hotel. The charge point there did work and charged Zoe from 12% to 100% overnight.

Dublin hotel (Image: Jan-Bart Spang)
Dublin hotel (Image: Jan-Bart Spang)

The following morning we took the 8:15 swift ferry to Holyhead. After some careful driving we arrived at our first Ecotricity charge point: the new station at the services in Holywell. This was a very busy spot and after politely asking a car to park elsewhere we were able to charge Zoe from 12% to 83% in 24 minutes while enjoying some lunch. Next stop was Chester services where we met up with Dan, a member of the forum, who had just done his first 100 miles in one charge. Zoe charged from 52% to 99% while we spent a bit too much time having a nice talk and a coffee. 30 minutes later we were back on the road.

Chester Services (Image: Jan-Bart Spang)
Chester Services (Image: Jan-Bart Spang)

Birch services East was next. One of the 2 chargers there had a user session error which had locked the whole charger. Thankfully the other one worked fine. After 26 minutes Zoe had charged from 45% to 95%. The last stop of the day was Ferrybridge services. We arrived to find 2 Leafs charging. After a 10 minute wait one was finished and moved on. Zoe charged from 38% to 98% in 25 minutes. Here we also met up with a subscriber to my YouTube video log. Then it was time for the final 65 km to Hull. The plan was to grab a bit of a extra charge at The Deep in Hull but the charge point there kept tripping the fuse. It didn’t matter as I still had 40% of charge remaining. Plenty to reach the first charge point in Holland the following day.

Part 2

Renault Cléon announces jobs to accompany the launch of new electric engine

The Renault Cléon plant will create 100 jobs with open-ended contracts in 2015 as part of a plan announced by Carlos Ghosn on February 12. The plan involves the hiring of 1,000 people in 2015, including 500 in French plants.


More than 50 years after it was built in 1958, the Cléon plant is taking on the production of the all-Renault electric engine, the R 240. Combined with optimised battery management, this engine extends the ZOE’s range to 240 kilometres[1] – a boost of 30 kilometres.

To enable the launch, €50 million were invested from the €300 million earmarked for the plant in 2011. This new technology is part of the Alliance’s electric strategy and will also benefit Renault partners.

100 jobs created

By creating 100 new jobs, the Cléon plant is reinforcing its skills to meet high commercial demand from the Alliance partners. These permanent positions will go to candidates in a range of occupational categories and having varied qualification levels, from vocational training certificates to two-year post-baccalauréat diplomas.

This job creation program follows a training plan developed in 2012, which features approximately 6,000 hours of training in preparation for the production of the R 240. The plan includes general theoretical training on the electric engine for all players involved in the project as well as technical training on the machines, in cooperation with the suppliers, for operators and maintenance staff.

Renault’s acquired electrotechnical expertise serving the alliance

Cléon has been leveraging its experience for a little more than two years with the production of the ZOE Junction Box, the system developed by Renault Technocentre engineers that manages the car’s energy transfers. The Cléon plant has mastered the assembly of electronic modules and gained invaluable experience for the production of the powerful R 240 electric engine. This expertise has made it possible to extend the ZOE’s range to 240 kilometres[1] – a boost of 30 kilometres – and will also benefit Alliance partners.

For the comparable common components of Renault and Nissan engines, the engineering and operating teams drew inspiration from Nissan’s experience in producing the LEAF engine. Cléon also gained from the expertise of local businesses that manufacture electric engines for other purposes.

Recognised industrial activity

The engines and gearboxes produced at the Cléon plant have been a true success which, in the first quarter of 2015, translated into an overall increase in activity and proportionally more business from partners (Nissan, Dacia, Samsung, Daimler, General Motors). These partners accounted for 43% of the plant’s engine and gearbox production in Q1 2015 compared to 37% at end-2014.

In addition to this burst in activity to meet high demand from Renault, Nissan and Daimler, the Cléon plant is also gearing up for several launches. The plant, which already supplies engines and gearboxes for the Trafic, recently delivered the first engines for the Opel version of the van. New vehicles in the Renault range such as the Espace and the Kadjar also benefit from powertrain components produced at Cléon. And the ZOE already features the Alliance’s brand new electric engine, the R 240. These recent and upcoming launches should help increase the site’s manufacturing volumes.

“This is fantastic news for the Cléon plant. These new hires will reinforce Renault’s skills in terms of designing and manufacturing electric vehicles. This activity in France, at the heart of the European market, is part of the Alliance’s electric strategy and will benefit its partners as well.” Stefan MUELLER, SVP Operations, Europe Region.

Key 2014 figures for Cléon:

  • More than 1 million engines and gearboxes manufactured
  • 14,537 tonnes of aluminium parts cast
  • 65% of production exported
  • 63% of production for Renault, with
  • 37% going to other Group, Alliance and partner brands
  • Nearly 20% of production for Nissan.
  • 44% of production for passenger cars and 56% for LCVs

[1] Range measured in accordance with standards in force

Source: Fuel Included News

New Renault ZOE from £145 per month fuel included

The following offer is sponsored by, and is exclusive to, Fuel Included Limited;

Yesterday we received the new June 2015 prices for the Renault ZOE (effectively an electric Clio) and though they have changed slightly they are still looking remarkably good.

Latest prices are as follows for a Renault ZOE Dynamique Nav on 2 year PCP:

  • 3000 miles per year: £75 deposit plus £145 per month, Fuel included*
  • 7500 miles per year: £75 deposit plus £180 per month, Fuel included*
  • 9000 miles per year: £90 deposit plus £190 per month, Fuel included*
  • 10500 miles per year: £100 deposit plus £199 per month, Fuel included*
  • 12000 miles per year: £120 deposit plus £210 per month, Fuel included*
  • 15000 miles per year: £150 deposit plus £235 per month, Fuel included*

For clarity the monthly figure includes the battery rental. Renault will also pay for the installation of a home fast charge point (7kW/30A). In all cases the excess mileage is effectively 15.5p/mile (8p per mile for the car and £7.50 per 100 miles for the battery).

Road tax is, of course, free, and no MOT is required during the term of the contract.


A home 13Amp charge cable isn’t included, though it isn’t required if the charge point is used – it can, however, be taken as an option for £22 per month. Metallic paint (black, grey, blue, Arctic White) is also available and adds £10-£25 per month on a standard Glacier White finish.

For comparison, consider the current deal for the Clio Dynamique S Nav TCE 90 for which the deposit is a massive £2879 and the monthly payment is £169. Even at 60mpg, if you could get it fuel included it would cost an additional £55 per month in fuel for 7500 miles per year. Therefore in total over 24 months it would cost £224 per month compared to the ZOE’s £180. And being electric the ZOE is much nicer to drive, and can be run from a renewable energy supply. And of course you’ve saved that £2800 deposit.

It’s worth noting that you get a lot of car for your money. The ZOE Dynamique Nav is a very high specification including satnav with traffic control, bluetooth, MP3, auto-lights, auto-wipers, electric mirrors and windows, reversing camera, cruise control, speed limiter, traction control, keyless entry, alloy wheels, air conditioning, etc. And being electric you can monitor the battery charge and remaining range, and control the heating or air conditioning, from your smartphone.

Who’d have believed you could drive away a new high-tech high-end car with no fuel costs, no road tax and no MOT required, for a deposit of £75?!

It’s the ultimate in predictable, fixed-cost motoring. Note, however, that virtually all stocks have been sold so cars are being built to order. Delivery for orders taken in June will be delivered in September-November, first-come first-served.

Personally I think this offer is a loss-leader for Renault.

If you want to know more please complete our Contact form – the high interest in this offer makes it difficult to track contacts in other ways.

Update 26 June: Renault have historically always paid for the installation of a home fast charge point (7kW/30A) by British Gas but this offer is no longer available; you should therefore budget £200-£300 for this. Update 3 July: This offer has been reinstated but the intallation is now done by Chargemaster (for more details see the Chargemaster brochure).

Also note that due to demand ZOE deliveries are now likely to be October-December.


*Fuel Included

The following are included on a June 2015 fuel included deal:

  1. Fuel (electricity) for the first 10000 miles at the Economy 7 rate
  2. Registration and access cards for the biggest charging networks: Ecotricity and Chargemaster/Polar
  3. Registration for London congestion charge exemption
  4. Out of hours telephone and email support for the first 6 months
  5. Office hours telephone and email support for the first 12 months
  6. Advice and support on installing a charge point.
  7. Advice and support on switching to a renewable energy supplier and Economy 7 for overnight charging (both optional).

Note that fuel included pays for 10000 miles of charging through your charge point. It does not prevent you combining offers to get additional free miles in other ways:

  • Charging at all motorway services is currently free (and at some other charge points)
  • We advise and support you to switch to a renewable energy supplier, e.g. Ecotricity. Currently you can get an additional 1000 miles per year free from Ecotricity, so you could have a total of 12000 miles free motoring on this 2 year contract.

You can also take advantage of free parking at many locations (include central London, many other city centres, London Midland rail stations, etc.). Finally note that generally if you use your private car for work purposes you can currently claim and get reimbursed at the petrol/diesel rate (at least 40p per mile) even though your fuel is free.

Source: Fuel Included Blog

Renault ZOE Car Seats and Headrests

In answer to some questions about the back seat of the ZOE I did some experimentation on the fitting of car seats and head restraints (‘headrests’).

A large child’s car seat fitted in the rear of our Renault ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)
A large child’s car seat fitted in the rear of our Renault ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)

Our youngest daughter used a tall car seat in the back of the ZOE until she was about 11. I don’t know if it’s generally the case, but the seat we had (a ‘Concord Lift’ about 10 years old) fitted fine so long as the respective headrest was removed from the ZOE’s back rest. Then the seat fitted well, flush with the back of the backseat.

A large child’s car seat fitted in the rear of our Renault ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)
A large child’s car seat fitted in the rear of our Renault ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)

With regard to head restraints the ZOE has two for the outer positions on the back seat. Renault certainly provides the option for a third, central one, for example as part of the Luxe Pack. What is not clear is if this can be a post-delivery or even DIY option.

Today, after attending a customer test drive at a Renault dealership, I called into the parts office and enquired about buying just a head restraint. For that I was quoted £21.36 plus VAT (making £25.63) which seemed like a very reasonable price. Unfortunately there was not one in stock so I couldn’t see what parts were included.

The back seat zips are tucked into the corner as highlighted (Image: T. Larkum)
The back seat zips are tucked into the corner as highlighted (Image: T. Larkum)

At home I was curious to learn more and so took apart the back of the seat. The back is held on with two zips. To make things a bit more difficult – presumably to discourage fiddling – the zips don’t have handles on them, and the loose ends are tucked into the hole formed where the zips come together. With a bit of patience it’s possible to pull out the ends of the zips and open them.

Inside the back seat showing an existing head restraint, left, and the fittings waiting for a central head restraint, right (Image: T. Larkum)
Inside the back seat showing an existing head restraint, left, and the fittings waiting for a central head restraint, right (Image: T. Larkum)

Inside the back of the seat it is clear that there are structural tube supports for a central head restraint so it should be straightforward to fit one, though of course it would be necessary to pierce the fabric on the top edge (which appears seamless otherwise). A bit more investigation is required, however, to find out if all the parts required for DIY fitting are included in the standard part set – for example, the plastic liners to the tube supports (these can be seen for the existing head restraint but are not in place for the central one).

Source: Fuel Included Blog

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