Conclusion 2013

One year later… and has it gotten any easier ?

Even though there was not as much of a difference as we had hoped, there has been progress. Especially in the Netherlands, where there is a well developed network of rapid (and non-rapid) chargers. There’s no more “range-anxiety”, even on trips near or beyond the car’s range, since you know you’ve always got a way of getting home. As a result we’ve seen quite a few other electric cars on the road! A big thanks to “The New Motion”, for giving us our RFID card that gave access to all the chargers on their network, and on the other networks. And we’re also grateful to the ANWB, who were all the same one of the first to install rapid chargers in handy locations.

In the UK, there’s the “Charge Your Car” network, which has expanded quite a bit since last year. Unfortunately there are several networks in the UK, and all need their own RFID cards. There’s no interoperability between them. Because of this we weren’t able to make a planned detour through the west of Scotland. There were charge points, but we simply didn’t have the right card. 🙁

In France there has been some progress, but it is slow. The Nissan rapid chargers at the IKEA stores are an excellent idea. They are well situated along major roads, and they cover most of France. We’ve used them twice on this journey. Apart from that there’s Leclerc and Auchan supermarkets that have installed charge points, and there’s quite a few public car parks that have now got sockets (usually in the train station parkings). What is lacking in France is an association or company that manages a “network” of chargepoints, and paiement etc.

We even hope that one day, all this will work accross Europe! Currently you need quite a collection of RFID cards to get around…

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We’ve also noticed a lot of progress in the on-board navigation system in the LEAF. The chargepoint information now seems up-to-date (which was definitely not the case last year), and we were able to completely rely on it for our journeys, without needing to plan too much ahead.

For the trip itself, we’ve decided we much prefer the relaxed way of travelling, where we take minor roads, and visit places while the car charges. Even though this does mean you don’t get anywhere fast, and you do feel you’re travelling all the time. The initial idea of doing Paris->Rotterdam all by motorway, driving from rapid charger to rapid charger, is much more stressfull and not as enjoyable. But you need to have the time for this, and that’s not for every year… 😉

To end this post, after 2 years and 30.000kms we’re still very pleased with the car! Here she is in Scotland!

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And in France…

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The 2013 itinerary

The 2013 journey; 3593km (2231 miles). All the points below are charge points. try counting them 🙂

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Back home…

After a relaxed journey down from the Netherlands to Paris, we have arrived home with 3593km (2231 miles) on the clock, and lots of new experiences.

 

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Paris

A 122km to go today to get back to Paris and put the car on the train. With the car heavily loaded, and the bicycles on the back, this will be difficult all the same. In the end we decided to stop at the Leclerc supermarket in Meaux, where there’s 4 charge points. 2 of the places were ICEd, one by a Prius that was obviously not a plug-in… You need to pick up a card at reception to activate the charger, but charging is free.

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2 hours of charging gives us plenty of charge to be able to take the motorway into Paris at full speed. We drop of the car early at the station, where we had been expected, since it is not often that they get to plug in the car to their very own rapid charger! The girl at check-in remarks that it is very pleasant, a car that doesn’t produce fumes. She’s had enough of sitting in exhaust fumes all day!

After having dropped of the car, we pick up the children who stayed with their grandmother for a couple of days, and who arrived by Thalys from Holland. The hotel deal we reserved included tickets for a boat tour on the Seine, so we set off by foot (avoing the metro), and stumble on the “Berges de Paris”. The sides of the river have been transformed into pedestrian zones, with plenty of activities for young and old. Really really nice! And a big difference with the smelly roads that used to take up all that area!

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paris_les_berges_1We spent quite a bit of time wondering along the river sides, so we only get to the boat tour when the sun is starting to set. However, this is actually probably the best time to do the tour. Some photos of the boat ride to finish off… the following morning we take the TGV down to Nice ourselves to pick up the car, and head back to our house…

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Champagne!

The French Ardennes are in fact endless agricultural fields! But with beautiful spots of nature here and there, and lovely little villages. It is the time of the harvest, so we cross many tractors, and hughe farming machines, on roads that aren’t particularly large enough… We also found quite a number of wind mills here…

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The villages all seem to have “fortified churches”. Not sure what that means, and why this was done, but they’re sign posted everywhere.

eglises_fortifiesToday we’ve planned another visit of a French Electric Car forum member. “moulino”, and as his name suggests, he lives in a water-mill in which he’s restoring the generator. After another very good meal (we’re in France again ;-), he gives us a tour of the building, and all the work he’s done so far.

moulino_generatorWe even get to enter into the turbine chamber, which is currently empty (fortunately). An impressive mechanism dating back to the 1920s.

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With a little delay (there was a lot to see, …and to hear 😉 ), we continue our way to the next Bed & Breakfast, which is situated in a national park called “The mountain of Reims”. (note: we’ve never actually found the mountain there… ). Unfortunately, the charge at “moulino” hadn’t actually worked (we tripped the breaker), so we stop at an IKEA along the way. Charging is free once again, but don’t let you’re wife loose in an IKEA….. 🙁

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The Champagne region is actually very quiet at this time of year, and there’s far less tourists than we were expecting. We have dinner in Epernay before going to the B&B, which is actually a champagne domain 🙂

champagne_gilmaire_etienne…and we were NOT the first ones to ask if we can charge the car here! Previously an Ampera from Belgium had also charged. So the owner was not surprised, and we charged on an outside socket not far from the parking.

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The return journey…

295 km to drive today, to go and visit a member of the French electric car forum. Luckily there are 2 rapid chargers ideally placed at 100km intervals, so we can take the motorway without any worries!.

The first charge point is at Nissan Benelux, in Aartselaar, Belgium. On sunday everything is shut unfortunately, except the shoe-shop right next door. Charging is free, but the shoes aren’t… 😉

aartselaar_nissan_beneluxThe second charge point is another “New Motion” point at the “van der Valk” hotel/restaurant in Nivelles-sud. An excellent buffet lunch is served here as well. Not cheap, but since the charge is free… 🙂

nivelles_love_to_loadAfter this, we enter France via small roads. This makes a change from crossing the border on the motorway, and we can stop for a picture to prove we’re back 🙂france_retour

The person we’re visiting is Gabriel, where we also stopped during last year’s journey. A nice welcome with freshly baked cake, and a display of the latest miniature car models that Gabriel creates – impressive detail! Unfortunately I did not take any pictures, so here’s last year’s photo. Nothing much changed 😉

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And the final destination for the day is a Bed & Breakfast at a farm in a tiny village in the French Ardennes. Another warm welcome, a very good meal, and the car charging, all for a very reasonable price. Definately a place to recommend! Chambre d’hote “l’Hirondelle” in Girondelle.

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Rotterdam

Before returning to France, we have a dinner with the family in Rotterdam. We don’t need to charge, but we find quite a few chargepoints indicated in the car. They are on-street charge points with free charging, however, you need a special card to pay for the parking. Not very practical for tourists like us. Fortunately, we also find a nicely decorated chargepoint inside a multi-story car park where we can pay by credit card.

rotterdam_elektrischOnce again in the company of an Ampera. We see lots of them here! (but also a lot more LEAFs than we’ve seen elsewhere).

 

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The Netherlands, the country of the bicycle!

Today, we leave the car behind, and take the bicycles to go and visit friends about 10km away. A revelation for the children; it is really easy when the country is so flat 🙂

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It does get a little more difficult when there’s some wind on the way back though… Good excersize!

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The Netherlands, lots of rapid chargers…

…but also lots of electric cars! This is what we found at the first charge stop in the Netherlands (at Schiphol airport).

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First time that we actually have to wait at a charge point! A good chance to talk with a fellow LEAF owner, and to have a good moan about the price of the charge at this Total station! 4 euros per 10 minutes, and that at reduced power, since the 10 minutes only gave us 3 extra bars (25%). Normally the charge goes fastest when the battery is empty, but not here… We’re not convinced about the “good intentions” of Total!

We decide to charge for only 10 minutes, and do another charge 30km further on, at a rapid charger from the “New Motion” network, conveniently sited at a motorway hotel/restaurant. There, a full charge would only have cost us about 5 euros with the New Motion tarif…

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That was the last stop before arriving at the grand parent’s house, where the charging is free ;-). We do need all of our 30m cable to reach an outside socket in the rear garden!

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