Testing the EV Charging Infrastructure

Morgan and I have just got back a long weekend away which was a good excuse to test out our new Hyundai Kona EV on a longer drive. At about 500 miles in total we were going to have to rely on the UK’s charging infrastructure. We weren’t too worried about it, despite the various horror stories on social media. These generally revolve around:

  • The lack of charge points,
  • charge points that are blocked by other users or ICE vehicles,
  • charge points that simply aren’t working,
  • a nightmare using apps, and such like to get the charge points working.

There really isn’t much that we as EV drivers can do about any of these issues and no amount of planning ahead is likely to help. The only thing you can do is make sure that you charge earlier than needed and have a back-up plan. Doing so means that if you arrive at a charger that isn’t working you have an alternative to go to.

Planning

You can of course use all manner of apps (ZapMap being one of the best) to plan your route and find chargers along the way. We didn’t do a huge amount of planning and decided to a certain extent to ‘wing it’. Rather than have a plan to visit specific charge points at specific locations we had a slightly more fluid plan in place. With a range of about 250 miles at our disposal we shouldn’t have too many issues.

The idea was to leave home on Friday with 100% charge. That would be plenty to get us to Bristol where there are plenty of charge points. We’d find a suitable one, charge up there which would give us enough charge for the following days plans. Saturday involved a 90 mile round trip to Swindon and back so we should be fine for range. We’d then have a couple of days with shorter drives on Sunday and Monday before another very early morning drive back home on Tuesday morning. We’d therefore need to be fairly well charged on Monday evening so that we had the range to get home. We had to be home by 8:30am so had to leave at 5:00am and wouldn’t have time to stop to charge anywhere en route.

Heading to Bristol

The first stage of the journey went well. It was a cold day but the economy continued to look good and we arrived at The Mall in Bristol at around 45% charge. We had a few options here:

  • There were 7kW chargers in the car park at The Mall. These however cost 42p/kWh and there was a £10 overstay fee if you charged for more than 90 minutes. This seemed pretty useless to me. 90 minutes at 7kw would only be around 10 kWh which wouldn’t be much use.
  • There were two 120kW chargers at McDonalds. These were more expensive at 45p/kWh and with only two there I thought they might be in use.
  • There was also an MFG charging hub at a petrol station that had eight 150kw chargers. These were cheaper too at 39p/kWh.

There were a few others around as well but we headed to the MFG charge hub. When we arrived there was no one else there so we had a choice of chargers.

It couldn’t have been easier. We pulled up, started the charge on the touch screen and used my phone to pay wirelessly, plugged the car in and the charge started. We only got a maximum charge rate of around 45kW. I’m not sure why this was but the temperature was hovering around 0ºC which may have had a bearing on it. 45kW is still pretty fast and within 40 minutes we were back up to 90% charge at which point the charge rate decreased significantly. We disconnected and headed on our way.

It was actually quite nice to sit in the car for a while and chill. There was a large shop, a Greggs and a Costa there but we didn’t feel the need to visit any of them.

Topping Up

The following day we headed to Swindon and back but still had plenty of charge left after that so no charging was necessary. On Sunday we headed back to the Mall for some retail therapy. Whilst there we topped up again at the same charging hub. It had been so convenient and easy to use before that we thought we may as well top up whilst nearby. Once again all went well and there was no queuing as we were the only ones there again. This time we charged at around 60kW so it didn’t take long at all.

Preparation for the Journey Home

Monday had us driving to Dursley and Slimbridge and then back to my parents house. I also had a trip into central Bristol through the city rush hour traffic which further drained the battery. It was now 7:30pm and we were down to around 50% charge again. With a 140 mile journey home in sub-zero temperatures planned for 5:00am the following morning it was time therefore to charge as much as I could. As chance would have it, my route back to my parents took me past the same MFG rapid charge hub that we’d been to already. It made sense therefore to use it one more time for my final charge.

Once again I pulled in and was the only person there. Charging was easy and I now knew the drill. I did pop into the shop for some snacks this time. I had to phone Anna to tell her the details of the cardiology appointment so I sat in the car chatting to her. The charging speed was slower today at around 25kW. Temperatures were below freezing today and the battery started at above 50% so maybe that was why. It didn’t matter though as I was on the phone to Anna for about 50 minutes and by the time that was done the car was at 90% which I deemed enough to get me back to my parents house and then all the way home in the morning.

The Journey Home

We left my parents house at 5:00am the following morning. It was a cold foggy morning with temperatures around minus 4ºC most of the way home and some thick fog in places. Not the best of conditions as far as economy is concerned. We left with 87% charge and a predicted range of 188 miles. That proved to be about right. The drive was 140 miles and I arrived home with 20% charge left and 50 miles of range. Perfect planning!!

The Cost

The total journey was just over 500 miles. We didn’t use the cheapest charging available as we went for the rapid chargers for convenience, but even so we only spent £30.13 on charging. Obviously we’ll have to charge overnight tonight to top back up to 100%. That will be at the cheaper rate of 14.4p/kWh so that will cost £7.34 to get us back to the same charge state as when we started. That’s a total of £37.47 for 500 miles which sounds pretty good to me.

The current cost of petrol/diesel is around £5.35 per gallon. You’d therefore get about 7 gallons for that cost and would have to manage just over 70mpg to cover that distance. Considering economy of our EV is likely to be at its worst this time of year I’m happy with that. As we move into summer this should improve. The days will get longer and brighter too so this will be coupled with the fact that home charging will become free thanks to our solar panels.

On top of all of this, the car was lovely to drive and with the pre-heating, the heated seats, heated steering wheel and all the automation features it was a nice place to be as well. Roll on the next road trip!

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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