Kielder Water

First stop in the UK:Nissan Newcastle (Benfield) for a fast charge. Plenty of LEAFs around here. The area around Newcastle seems to be one of the most LEAF-dense areas in the UK (Perhaps because they are now made in Sunderland, just a few miles away).



Unfortunately their rapid charger has been out of service for 3 months. They’re not impressed with the “french” charger…


Fortunately, there are plenty of rapid chargers around. We choose to go to a local shopping centre, the “metrocentre”, which has 2 rapid chargers as well as a number of slow charge points.



Succesfull charge on the first of the “Charge Your Car” network of chargers. My badge from the year before is still active, and we’re fully charged in the time it takes to get a coffy at the first Starbucks of the journey 🙂20140721_Newcastle_Metrocentre_2

Next stop Hexham. We don’t really need another charge before today’s destination, but we know there’s a rapid charger there, and we feel safer heading into Norhtumberland National Park with a full charge just in case. We find a brand new ABB tri-standard charger here, that doesn’t even need a badge!



The very clear display is a little pessimistic, indicating 60 minutes for only about 30% of a charge. In reality it finished in under 15 minutes (while we were shopping in the Sainsbury’s just beside it).20140721_Hexham_New_ABB_Charger_display

The destination for the next couple of days is Kielder, on the shores of Kielder Water in Northumberland National Park. We reserved a B&B, and there’s a charge point in the village. Unfortunately, on arrival, the chargepoint is not in service. The association that runs the local petrol-station and the chargepoint is very helpful, but many phone calls further, it seems an electrician will need to be called out, so we won’t be able to charge at the chargepoint during our stay.

no blue light... bad sign!

no blue light… bad sign!

Instead we go for dinner at the Pheasant Inn, where we stayed last year. It has a chargepoint we have used before, and we manage to charge there no problem.


In good (?) company of a Vauxhall Ampera who’s also come for dinner because of the charging point 🙂


The following day we cycle the 42km around the lake.



We have lunch in a small tearoom at the south end of the lake, where by chance we find another chargepoint! Northumberland does not seem to be lacking chargepoints!



In the evening, the B&B owner helps us out with a cable out the first floor window (no window needs to be left open on the ground floor), so that we can depart with a full charge the next day.






To the ferry

After a shorter visit than planned (see previous episode), we continue our journey to the ferry. Quick LEAF family photograph before we leave…20140720_LEAF_family

We’re happy to find our “usual” charger at ANWB Badhoevedorp. ANWB were the first to install rapid chargers in good locations, and they’re still going strong! The ANWB centre is closed on sundays, but access is granted for people wanting to charge at any time. (we actually happened to find one of the service vehicles leaving just as we arrived, and he kindly let us in)20140720_ANWB_Badhoevedorp


Long wait at the ferry terminal. With our experience with fast chargers on the journey from Paris, we left plenty time today in case a charger wouldn’t work. However everything went smoothly, so we were early for the ferry…20140720_Ferry

By chance we are parked just beside some industrial sockets on the ferry. I do have the right adapter for this (32A monophase, or 16A triphase, IP67), but the personnel will not let us charge onboard due to a fire they had onboard one of the DFDS ferries with a car charging 4 years ago. 🙁20140720_Ferry_Sockets


Paris to The Netherlands

Will we get to The Netherlands in one day ? Last year it wasn’t possible. To few rapid chargers. What difference does another year make ?

Well, there’s more rapid chargers in France, that’s for sure! Unfortunately the only rapid charger we were able to use was the one at the car-train station in Paris. All 6 rapid chargers I had planned to use were either “not functioning” (3), “not available outside of office hours” (2), or simply not there… (1 – due to roadworks).

So a 2 day journey yet again… But a very nice journey all the same, visiting Amiens, Lille and Gendt. And with a large increase in the number of public slow-charge points, we no longer need to ask restaurants & hotels if we can plug in…

The rapid charger at the car-train terminal in Paris (Gare de Bercy)

The rapid charger at the car-train terminal in Paris (Gare de Bercy)

Staff from the SNCF had plugged in our car as soon as it got there, so it was well charged (charge level set to 100% on the charger!) when we arrived.

Slow charge in Clermont after failing first rapid charger at IKEA Roissy

Slow charge at Intermarche in Clermont

A couple of hours on a slow charger halfway between Paris and Amiens.This charger, installed by Lafont Pulse, operates by SMS; plug in, text a code, and off it goes. Free of charge (apart from the standard sms cost). Unfortunately, there is nothing in Clermont… As Rhona put it after walking around for an hour in the heat, she’d never been so happy to see a McDonalds! (and that’s saying something 🙂 ). When we got back to the car, we learned there’s a swimmingpool just next to the Intermache… perfect for a couple of hours charging… we’ll know for next time!

Note; This charge stop might not have been necessary if the first rapid charger at IKEA Roissy would have worked, although the distance would still have been on the limit of the range of the car.

Rapid charger right in the centre of Amiens...

Rapid charger right in the centre of Amiens…

After our mis-adventure in Clermont, we fancied a charge in a nicer place! Amiens has a rapid charger right in the centre. However, you need a card from the Renault dealer, and it was shut by the time we got there… The charger did not accept any of the 12 RFID cards I have by now…

Rapid charger at Nissan Amiens

Rapid charger at Nissan Amiens

So on to the Nissan dealer in Amiens, which is more on the outskirts of Amiens. We know that rapid charger, as we used it last year. I had actually phoned earlier in the day to make sure it worked, and “yes, someone just used it”. So we were pretty confident… …until we arrived and saw this. Overheated. Fans blowing full (like on the previous one). It seems these rapid chargers do not like the sun… Several reset trials later we gave up, and went to a slow charger at a nearby Leclerc supermarket. However, it was getting late (7pm), so we were never going to get much further today. While charging a little, we phoned around for a B&B.

Comme une parenthese

Comme une parenthese

Charging at the B&B

Charging at the B&B

We’ve seen the centre of Amiens before, and we found a nice local-produce restaurant to have dinner while a thunderstorm passed outside.

Amiens Cathedrale (et la voiture ;-) )

Amiens Cathedrale (et la voiture 😉 )

The thunderstorm had passed, and the cathedral is light-up at night, with wat were apparently the original colours (now all stone grey). Very impressive! The light show is accompanied by a story telling the past of this magnificent cathedral. Worth a visit!

The cathedral in colours.

The cathedral in colours.

Following day we headed north to Lille. Lille has 3 rapid chargers, so surely today we’d be able do a rapid charge! But no… First charger at IKEA Lille tells me it has a ground fault. Seems to be only on the DC side, since a Dutch Tesla S manages to charge on the AC side.

IKEA Lille

IKEA Lille

A phone call to the local Nissan dealer (rapid charger no 2), tells us that there are roadworks around the dealer, and his charger has been temporarily removed.

The last hope is a rapid charger at the regional council. This is listed as “office hours only”, and this being the weekend, we weren’t very hopeful. However if you don’t try… We could see the charger behind the automatic gates, but the guardian was very clear; that charger is only for service vehicles, and he wasn’t going to let us in… thanks…

So back to our good old slow charger at Lille Flandres train station. We charged here last year too. It happens to be next door to a micro-brewery, which also does pretty good food! Not difficult to pass 4 or 5 hours in Lille (in fact we got back to the car “late” 🙂 ).

Les 3 brasseurs

Les 3 brasseurs

Next stop Gendt in Belgium. We know there’s no rapid charger there. All Nissan rapid chargers that had been installed at the Delhaize supermarket chain in Belgium have been removed due to reliability problems… So instead we head for a parking garage in the centre, and plug in at one of the ridiculously expensive BlueCorner points (7.95 euros / slow charge + parking charges – but our NewMotion card works so it is free for us at the moment 🙂 ). Charging side by side with yet another Dutch Tesla S!

Yet another Dutch Tesla!

Yet another Dutch Tesla!

What to do in Gendt ? Well, another micro-brewery perhaps…

Gruut brouwerij

Gruut brouwerij

And by chance this was the weekend of the “Gentse Feesten”. The city centre is all blocked off, and one huge festival venue. Bands playing everywhere, and good belgium beers all around. Pity I still had to drive 🙁

Gentse Feesten

Gentse Feesten

We got back to the car “late” again (the charge time is not the limiting factor…), and set of for The Netherlands. In theory, we could have done the last leg of the journey without charging, but it would have been very tight. (the range announced in the car went down pretty much in line with distance driven – meaning I was driving very carefully).

In the end we decided to chance one last rapid charger which was only a few kilometers of our road… it worked! This ABB charger is litteraly in the middle of nowhere – at a Shell petrol station with nothing but farm fields for miles around. Free of charge, accessible 24/7, and it just works!

Tholen rapid charger

Tholen rapid charger

Arrived at 1am… The conclusion; there seems to be a problem with the reliability of the Nissan/DBT rapid chargers, especially in the heat. Currently there’s about a 50% chance of a charger actually working when you get there. This is not really acceptable… The ABB chargers are much larger (and less elegant), but there’s a reason for that…


Departure 2014

The goal of the 2014 journey is to do the entire return journey by car. No Ferry, no car-train. With the increasing number of rapid chargers, this should be possible! The car is leaving one day ahead of us this year (we’re taking the TGV the following morning instead of the night-train). I’m getting to know the car-train station in Nice by now!