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There and Back Again - An EV's Tale (Part III - Austria & Hungary)

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Apologies to my Austrian and Hungarian friends new and old, putting the two countries together on the blog is not an attempt to resurrect the Austria-Hungary Empire (below).



AUSTRIA

Having taken the leisurely and scenic route to-date through France and Germany, we felt we needed to accelerate our journey, and travelled through Austria and Hungary in one stretch. We promised ourselves we would allow time on the way back to visit beautiful Vienna and in particular, we wanted to experience the "SDG Hotel" there. While we weren't on a particular deadline, we also wanted to demonstrate that you could travel a long distance in a short space of time with an EV, where necessary.


Vignette

To drive on Austria's motorways, you are required to buy and display a "Vignette" sticker. You can purchase these before or after the border, we bought a 2-month sticker at one of the German Tankstellen before crossing (to save us the hassle of buying another 1-month sticker on the way back). You display it on the top-right of the windscreen.


Speed Limits

Again, our VW ID4 let us know when we had crossed the border into Austria, which you otherwise might not notice. It also lets you know about speed limits! It was in Austria where we received (upon our return to Ireland) our only speeding ticket of the 8000km round trip. In a zone on the motorway, the limit went quickly down to 80km/h, and we were snapped doing 91kmh while decelerating. We found out on our return home, that the Austrian authorities were efficient, not only in finding our home address in Ireland based on the registration, but considerately sending the fine in English and in German!



Wiener Melange

As we were planning on driving through the night and being in Austria, our first stop was for coffee! Anyone who has visited Vienna will attest to the amazing kaffee-kultur, and this extends to the rest-stops, evidenced by the choice at the Gerersdorf petrol station!


What would the coffee-loving Austrians have made of Gandalf?



QR Code "Deppert"

We took the opportunity in Gerersdorf to charge up to 100%, after navigating our way through the DA Emobil chargepoint. Thankfully Mark speaks German, although it was easy to make the mistake of scanning the QR Code on the screen, which directs you to a form to order your charge card, so felt a bit 'deppert' as the Austrians might say.

Seems like the wrong QR Code to prioritise when you're on the motorway looking to charge?


The QR Code you need to scan as a guest is small, located directly above the chargepoint itself, so it's trial and error angling your smartphone to scan it.



DA Emobil could improve their UX on the large screen (less text, more icons), having the chargepoints and their QR Codes shown there directly after you select the "Direct Payment" option. But, "first bake the strudel then sit down and ponder", as they apparently say in Austria - we were happy to get it working and fast-charged to 100%.


OMV, Schwechat


Much as we would have loved to spend time in Vienna, we carried on directly through, passing the gigantic OMV refinery in Schwechat, Vienna, beside the motorway.

We thought about a statistic that around 1/3 of oil is used simply to transport fossil fuels themselves, so by fuelling up with electricity transported by cables, you are also not contributing to the journeys made by diesel-fuelled tankers to re-fill service stations.


HUNGARY


e-Vignette

To travel on Hungary's motorways, you also need an Vignette. We had purchased an e-Vignette online in advance, which was the most convenient. You can buy them online here: E-vignette purchase | National Toll Payment Service PLC (nemzetiutdij.hu)


Lébény

Our first impression of Hungary was this wildlife bridge near Lébény, built to provide safe passage for animals migrating across the motorway, ironically, in contrast to Viktor Orban's immigration policy towards migrants, which has been found to be in breach of European Law.


Away from sensitive political topics, we were aware that there would be a lengthy "dead-zone" of motorway after Budapest in the direction of Romania, that was sparsely served by fast-charging infrastructure, so we charged up fully at Ionity in Ács (again we were the only car charging) and then drove as far as Rokus, Szeged.



Rokus, Szeged

The Plugee chargepoint was a unique experience on our entire trip, in that it had a sign saying to get assistance from the petrol station. Mark used two of his seven words in Hungarian "Jó Napot", the others being Jó Reggelt (Good morning) and Egy sört kérek (A beer please) and a very friendly gentleman set us up for car-charging, while our girls happily played in the playground nearby.


What came to mind was that for mainstream adoption of EVs, there will be a lot of people uncomfortable with charging technology (and maybe technology in general), so it needs to be made as simple as possible (a la Tesla, which recognises your car automatically), or else have people willing and able to provide assistance.


Another observation we had since switching to an EV, is how helpful other EV drivers are whenever they see you are struggling with a chargepoint you are not familiar with.



Viszontlátásra Hungary. Bună ziua, Romania.


In the fourth installment, we cover our journey in and across Romania to our destination.


Another disclosure at this point is that we had left our car registration book in Ireland and knew there was a chance we'd be asked for this at the Romanian border.

So our premonition was that we might hear the following from the border guards:



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