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There and Back Again - an EV's Tale (Part I - France)

From Cherbourg in Brittany, to Constanta on the Black Sea is quite a daunting road trip to undertake, close to 3000km, made more so by venturing into the unknown (for us) and doing it in an EV.

We are Ana and Mark Kane, co-founders of Sustainabil-IT, and we decided to undertake the journey by road in our VW ID4 with our two children, travelling from Ireland by ferry to France, then on to Germany, Austria, Hungary and through Romania to the Black Sea.

The first question you'll probably ask is, why?

Or you may just quote Gandalf from LOTR and simply say:

Well, we had a number of reasons. We work in sustainability, where actions speak louder than words; we were curious whether the charging infrastructure in Europe was better or worse than Ireland; we planned to spend the whole summer in Ana's hometown of Constanta; and hence we had quite a lot of luggage, but importantly, as recent and enthusiastic converts to an EV, we were dismayed by the recent hit pieces placed by the fossil fuel industry about EVs, particularly around "range anxiety" and we thought, what better way to counter this than try to cross the whole of Europe (and back again!). As Gandalf also said: "Go where you must go, and hope!"

Cualanor to Cherbourg

As the phrase goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or in this case, a single charge at home. We live in a new estate called Cualanor in Dun Laoghaire, which is very popular with families and it is heartening to see so many EVs, charge-points and cargo-bikes outside the houses and apartment blocks here. Night-time rates at home offer the cheapest way to charge your EV, (other than having sufficient solar panels to generate all your electricity yourself, which is our next project). On this occasion, we charged our car to 100%, which in retrospect, wasn't necessary, as we had a relatively short journey to Dublin Port. Having booked a charge-point on the ferry (€15), we were given the ferry equivalent of priority boarding and could have fully charged as we travelled to France.

Cherbourg to "Cultural Chernobyl"

Where is that, you might ask? Mark used to work for an American company back in the 1990s and happened to be working in Paris on the day that (then) Eurodisney opened its doors 30 years ago. American colleagues arrived in the La Defense office that day, completely perturbed by the fact there were protests against the opening of Disneyland, which was being referred to as a "cultural Chernobyl". Mark completely empathised with the French that day, but 30 years and two children later, it was time to don the haz-mat suits and make a visit there ourselves.

Car Parks and Solar Panels

Disneyland Paris announced in 2021 that they would be installing a solar PV plant to be operational in 2023 and the scale of it, sitting above the car parking spaces, is something to behold, with the solar PV providing clean energy to the park, as well as much-needed shade to the visitors on the way in and to their vehicles all day.

The French government has legislated that car parks above 80 spaces are required to install solar PV above them, and it's a really intelligent use of the space.

The one big missed opportunity by Disney, (deliberate or oversight?), is that they didn't install EV charge-points around the car park. As visitors are going to be in the park all day, the opportunity to cleanly charge your vehicle, either for free or at a preferential rate, would be a real statement by Disney that they are looking at their entire scope of emissions, including those of the travel made by visitors to reach them.

Crécy La-Chapelle

By contrast, the camping site in Crécy La-Chapelle, where we had made our base for the trip to Disneyland, provided us with free EV charging, meaning that our entire "fuel" spend on the France leg of the trip came to €35, which was for charging at the Ionity fast-charger. This was considerably lower than the cost of the tolls we paid to use the roads.


We had first come across the IONITY fast-charger in Ireland on the way from Connemara to Cualanor, and Ana had since installed the Ionity App. The Ionity fast-chargers were our first choice whenever available, as you could always rely on them to be working, they charged quickly and they were so easy to use (and to find, as they are well-illuminated at night). Compared to many other charge-points, these aforementioned factors and their aesthetics (large touch-screens), means that they will dominate the market, especially as EVs move into the mainstream. What surprised us is how we didn't need to queue at the charge-points, often on our trip, we were the only EV charging.

Champagne Region

Having survived the visit to Disneyland, which the children absolutely loved, especially their lunch with the Disney princesses, it was time for the parents to experience their Disneyland - the champagne region! We stayed in Epernay and took a trip to Hautvillers (famous for Dom Perignon), but our target was the more affordable offering of J.M.Gobillard, a champagne we loved from Fallon & Byrnes in Dublin.

Our overall impression of EV driving in France? Douze Points!

For anyone who missed the nod to Eurovision above, a song by George Gershwin comes to mind: "Summertime and the living is EV".

A number of years ago, we ourselves had opted for a hybrid car instead of an EV, particularly with future ferry/car holidays to France with the children in mind. On the ferry, we noticed one or two other EVs, but the vast majority of travellers were driving petrol/diesel cars, so we hope that anyone who is on the fence for the reason we once were, will be encouraged by our experience to make the switch when they are buying their next vehicle. Below we've included a short video that shows how, even in a rural part of France, there is excellent charging infrastructure available. When we think about Ireland and our fear of getting stranded on a country road, we need to be emulating the French and accelerating our charging infrastructure coverage, if we are to encourage Irish drivers to make the switch in the numbers needed to meet our 2030 climate goals.

Au Revoir France. Next Up, Germany.

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Sep 12, 2023

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