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There and Back Again - an EV's Tale (Part II - Germany)

An Unexpected Journey

In Part 1, we posted about our "there and back again" journey from Cherbourg to Constanta. The Internet being the helpful tool that it is, the following map popped up in our Social Media feed shortly afterwards. While we're not following the same route as Sam and Frodo, the distances are similar, although they did it all on foot, and as Merry and Pippin discovered, without second breakfast!

Bidding Adieu* to France, the next destination country on the journey was Germany. We took the decision to take the scenic route, to visit Ana's two brothers in Morbach, having not seen each other since before Covid, since when we had all become parents and the respective cousins had not yet met. The unexpected part would take us through Luxembourg.

*adieu is a popular first word on Wordle, though Mark swears by STARE, as it contains the five most commonly used letters in the alphabet (according to the Cryptography Module on his Masters).


Rest, Play, Charge?


One of the often used arguments against EVs is that they take a long time to charge and that you have to stop more frequently than with an ICE vehicle. Travelling with young children, our experience is that it is the children who determine how often you need to stop, and for how long - and not the car! At Courtisois, we stopped at a rest area for a bio-break (after the 1-minute warning from the back of the car) and observed how these rest areas would be perfect for expansion of EV charging infrastructure, as there is a playground for children to be safely occupied for the 20-30 minute break.



Fastned Charging.

While still in France, in order to be able to drive all the way through to Morbach, Germany, we subsequently stopped at the Fastned superfast charger at Valmy. The , Fastned superfast chargers are recognisable from a short distance away, as they have solar roof panels above them. At the time, Mark was questioning in the video whether they were indeed providing 100% renewable electricity, but upon reading about the Fastned mission, that is exactly what they are all about!


Fastned was founded in the Netherlands and if you look at their charging locations, they are an excellent choice if driving through the Netherlands, and are expanding in France and Germany. Most if not all EV drivers really want to use electricity generated from renewables, so we would rank them right up there with Ionity as a preferred charging provider wherever available. It was interesting to read that the Dutch government sided with Fastned and against gas station operators who challenged their permit to place EV charges at rest-stops back in 2013. Superfast Chargers using renewable electricity, in rest stops - what's not to like?


Fastned also provide a painless charging experience when compared with some of the other charging providers we subsequently experienced on our travels. Fastned have a Fastned App and an "Autocharge" function that allows some models of vehicle, once set up, to simply plug in and start charging. Unfortunately it wasn't possible for our ID4 as we use shared codes apparently, but it is worth watching their short explanation video, for the elevator music alone!


Luxembourg


One of the greatest benefits of being within the EU as travellers are our open borders (and the single currency!). Driving from France into Luxembourg and into Germany is so seamless, if not for the legacy border infrastructure and the car telling us we are arriving in another country (see video below), you wouldn't notice that you had just travelled from one country to the next. (When choosing our route to mainland Europe, we consciously chose to take the ferry directly to France and not via the UK, to avoid the risk of being stuck in long queues at Dover in post-Brexit Britain).



Chargemap

At this juncture, we have a disclosure - in that we are doing this journey without having any charging cards in our possession, relying solely on our ability to use/download Apps and pay as "guest" at chargepoints using ApplePay or credit card.


We had ordered the Chargemap card which unfortunately didn't arrive in time for us, but which we will be using on our future trips, as it offers up to 30% discount on charging at our favourite stations IONITY, as well as making the charging process painless at other operators. It also has a really useful App, which you can see below connected up to the car display.


Having charged in France, we didn't need to stop to re-charge in Luxembourg, but for those who are interested, we can recommend the Chargy.lu network for coverage and speed of chargers. Their superchargers are located at main road and motorway service areas and you can use your credit card to pay, so there is no need to sign up in advance to a service.


Morbach and the Mosel Valley


Morbach is a small town near the Mosel valley wine region, which is where Ana's two brothers are currently living. Even in this small town, there was public charging infrastructure available, located directly outside the Rathaus (town hall). We travelled together to the picturesque town of Bernkastel-Kaus, with the castle overlooking the river Mosel. Even in these small towns, there is an abundance of available public charging infrastructure.


We should note that here in Bernkastel-Kues, these were all 22KW chargers - there weren't any fast-chargers, though when we saw the red light below (8 minute wait time), maybe that explains it, the pace of life is less hectic in the countryside.



Autobahns and LKW Bans.


We decided that we would take advantage of Germany's Sunday "LKW-Verbot", which prohibits trucks from traveling on Sundays, to use the Autobahns all the way into Austria., as the roads would be at their (relative) quietest. We bade farewell to Ana's brothers and family, who we would re-connect with later in Constanta and headed down the Autobahn. Mark worked in renewables for many years and was very impressed to see both large-scale wind and solar parks at many points along the journey.

Less impressive was that a number of the 'Tankstellen" (petrol stations) directly on the Autobahn route we took, were either not set up with electric chargepoints (typically we would have to exit the motorway to access them), or in one case demonstrated below, had a single chargepoint that was "ausser betrieb" (not working).


In order for EVs to go mainstream, it is essential that the EV infrastructure is highly visible and highly available wherever people need it, particularly to encourage those who are on the fence about making the switch. This includes ensuring that installed infrastructure works, and that signs on the motorways are highlighting the availability of charging stations at rest-stops. This latter point is targeted as much at drivers who are still ICE drivers, to re-enforce the message about charging infrastructure availability.



The lessons we took from experiencing a non-functioning chargepoint were two-fold:

Firstly, you charge up before you really have to - no different than with an ICE vehicle, you don't always wait till you get the amber warning light!


Secondly, it influenced us to actively search out charging providers that we knew we could rely on - in particular Ionity. If there is a lesson for all charging providers, it is to have availability as their #1 KPI, something that Ionity has cracked. Having high visibility and illumination at night is a massive plus, as often you are searching around these large parking/petrol stops for the location of the chargers.



The Fellowship of the EVs

At this point, we'll ask you a question:


When did you last get into conversation with another driver at the petrol pump?


When re-charging at the first Ionity chargepoint where we found we weren't the only car, we chatted with many of the other drivers who were charging. A couple from the Netherlands, driving a Porsche EV, told us that they had travelled from the Netherlands to the south of Italy and back without any issue. Another couple from Austria, Rene and Franciska, were doing their longest trip-to-date in their BMW i3 . We exchanged contact details with Rene, who wished us well on our journey and shared details of a useful app to use on our journey for accommodation - the TravelWorld App.





There was a great sense of camaradie among all the EV Drivers, something we had experienced on our very first long journey to Connemara, where another EV driver let us use his ESB charging card at the only fast-charger in Clifden when our tag didn't work.


There is certainly a sense that right now is the best time to make the switch to an EV, while the charging infrastructure is not at capacity and you can just drive up and charge. Another point to note is that it makes sense to just charge to 80% at the fast-chargers, both for the sake of the battery, but also because even the fast-chargers slow down for the remaining 20% to protect the battery. If you are charging to 100%, you want to do it where you know you will be driving immediately, and also, where you are not holding up others where there may be a queue to charge.


Charged up, it was time to say Auf Wiedersehen Germany, Servus Austria!





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