6 theme parks and numerous charging stations
In an interesting blog post by our used vehicle center employee Manfred Zeller, read all about his crazy adventures on a road trip through Germany in his Tesla. Discover first hand what the real advantages and disadvantages of an electric vehicle are on a day-to-day basis.
Day 1: Simple hotel reservation thanks to the e-vehicle app
It is October 2019, the car is ready to go and my girlfriend and I have packed everything we need for a road trip. Entirely unplanned without a single hotel reservation and just with the aim of visiting a few theme parks in Germany. But what is really crazy about the whole idea is that we are making the trip in an electric car, with everyone telling us that it will be a tricky business what with the range of the vehicle and the constant need to charge the battery.
After owning and driving an electric vehicle every day for six months, I am naturally aware of the widespread scepticism and have grown accustomed to having to explain myself on a regular basis, coming up against people’s judgements and prejudices. So what better to help change the sceptics’ minds than simply hitting the open road without a safety net or emergency generator.
We set out from Berne in a Tesla Model S, fully-loaded and fully-charged. Our first approximate destination is the Europa Park in Rust. We leave Switzerland via Basel without a hitch and what is the first thing a Swiss person does when they hit the German motorway? That’s right, we drive “a little” faster than on our own motorways. And you see a lot of people looking surprised at being overtaken by an electric car doing 230 km/h. Yes, the Tesla can get up to 250 km/h, but electric car drivers aren’t your typical speed merchants – it's not the high speeds that make us break into a sweat but the sight of the battery charge indicator! The wind resistance is very noticeable and eats up the kilowatts. Naturally, you can reduce the wind resistance by staying in the slipstream of another vehicle, although that is highly irresponsible at over 200 km/h and it looks pretty stupid sticking to the tail of a Ferrari in your electric saloon car. So we reduce our speed to a pleasant 130 km/h and let the Tesla Autopilot handle the tedious speed limit signs.
After a good 200 km, we reach the region near Rust where we are planning to make our first stop, not because the car has no juice, but because we are hungry. But this is when the change in thinking from a combustion engine driver to an electric car driver comes into play: with an electric car, you don’t drive until the tank is almost empty before filling up. Instead, you recharge the battery a little whenever you get the chance. That means taking advantage of our lunch break to charge our car at the supercharger (Tesla quick-charging station). These superchargers can generally be found at sensible intervals on motorways so that the battery range is easily sufficient to reach the next charging station. And almost every supercharger is located right next to a famous burger restaurant – unhealthy, maybe, but very handy.
So after a 45-minute break, we are back in our Tesla – which is almost fully charged again – and heading for Cologne (instead of going to Europa Park). With the unsettled weather keeping the roads relatively free from traffic, we make good progress reaching the next supercharger near Frankfurt in about three hours. Incidentally, supercharger stations are really easy to use, as there are no buttons or displays. You simply park up, connect the charging cable to the car and let the amps flow.
After a coffee each and the obligatory walk to stretch our legs, we are back on the road after about 35 minutes. The closer we come to Cologne, the quicker our pulse rate as there is no supercharger and at 7 p.m., we still haven’t found a room for the night. So we call up the Tesla app on our mobile, which lists both charging stations and hotels under points of interest. And lo and behold, after a 2-3 minute search we have already found a hotel that we like and that is ideally situated.
Arriving at the hotel, we immediately see parking spaces with two charging stations right beside the entrance. We park up, connect the charging plug and that’s it for the day.
Day 2: Only with an electric vehicle – a parking space right beside the entrance
We get up and are pleased to see on the app that the car is fully charged again – that only happens with an electric car. Or at least I never felt the same sense of joy about a full tank with my previous cars. It is also significant that, so far, we have not paid a single cent for the electricity. The so-called Tesla destination chargers, that can be found at hotels, restaurants and other businesses, can be used free of charge during your stay. It is naturally worthwhile finding out in advance whether the charging stations will be available at the desired time.
After a few hours of fun at Phantasialand in Cologne, we set off again, this time heading for the Netherlands. Our next destination is Toverland, near the Dutch town of Sevenum. Calling on the mobile app once again, we look for overnight accommodation near the park. The only condition is that the hotel has to have a charging station. This doesn’t appear to be a problem in Holland either. There seem to be significantly more charging stations here for electric vehicles than in Germany or Switzerland. So we drive to our lodgings and only on arrival do we realize that we have booked a room in a castle or, more accurately, we realize how big and attractive the estate is. The parking space is about 200 meters from the entrance across the castle gardens. At reception, we ask about the charging facilities. We have often noticed that the charging stations are located right beside the entrance to a business or point of interest. Yet another advantage of an electric car. Consequently, we are the only people in the castle gardens allowed to park our car right beside the hotel entrance, once again charging it up overnight free of charge. And what a pleasure to see the envious looks on the faces of the Porsche/Jaguar brigade as they are forced to drag their cases along the twisting paths of the castle garden just to reach the hotel entrance.
Day 3: Charging station blocked
Early next morning we are on our way to Toverland theme park. Unfortunately, very few of these types of park have any charging stations. I am nevertheless convinced that this will change in the coming years and that they will be forced to provided such charging stations.
We leave Toverland in the late afternoon and set off for Efteling, one of the largest and most attractive theme parks in Europe. After an entertaining drive of about one and a half hours, we reach our destination and this time we have a room in the on-site hotel. After two or three circuits of the car park, we discover the charging stations provided by the hotel but, as we have often experienced in the past, the spaces have been taken by ignorant “combustion engine drivers”. We check in to the hotel and the staff makes sure that we can use the parking space beside the charging station. The charging procedure here is different: a member of the hotel staff has a card which they use to activate the station, and only then does the current begin to flow. And the same procedure is necessary once the car has been charged. Unfortunately, this is a little laborious and the members of staff surely have something better they could be doing than accompanying me in order to disconnect my car from the charging station.
Day 4: The advantages of an electric vehicle in a traffic jam
We climb into our fully-charged car and, on the spur of the moment, decide to drive to the North Sea, and more precisely to The Hague. Both we and our Tesla enjoy the flat roads in Holland, as it makes driving particularly efficient, saving both electricity and range. And then it happens: we are in our first major traffic jam and thinking of all those pictures that haunt Facebook showing electric cars running out of power in a traffic jam without any means of filling them up again like a petrol/diesel-powered vehicle… In a traffic jam, the advantages of electric vehicles take full effect: while everyone around us is growing annoyed by the traffic jam, we push the Autopilot button so that the car coolly and calmly drives us through the stop-and-go traffic while we save time looking for a hotel for the evening on the mobile phone. Another advantage of electric cars in a traffic jam would be that in the future, people will be able to open their windows without having to inhale the exhaust gases of the stationary traffic. And important for anyone who enjoys heading south: a stationary electric vehicle needs no electricity, so there is absolutely no problem waiting 2-3 hours to enter the Gotthard tunnel. Naturally, you can help yourself by not turning the seating and steering wheel heating up full and by telling yourself that not everyone needs to listen to your choice of music. All these loads affect the range and while this is also the case for an internal combustion vehicle, you somehow feel this differently on the percentage/range display of an electric vehicle and pay more attention to this kind of thing.
At some point even the longest traffic jam thins out and we reach The Hague where we enjoy the view over the stormy North Sea. Unfortunately, despite an intensive search, we are unable to find a hotel with a sea view and a charging station. So we opt for the sea view rather than a charging station on site. As I have already said, the charging infrastructure in Holland is really good and almost every public underground car park has a charging station. So we drive to the nearest underground garage and park up in one of the e-parking spaces. And for the first time, a little curse passes my lips… There are charging stations everywhere here, but you always need a charging card and a subscription that you have to take out online. That’s when you realize that user-friendliness is unfortunately still in its infancy. All the gold Mastercards in the world are of no use if the charging stations do not accept them, and cash is absolutely out of the question. But I have planned for just such an eventuality, obtaining a charging card back in Switzerland from not one but two providers (among the countless operators on the market). To avoid any unpleasant surprises, I work through the providers’ apps to check the costs incurred for charging our car. And many people will be surprised by the ruses providers dream up to earn money. It is not just a question of electricity costs per KW/h, but also of site fees in terms of minutes parked plus roaming costs because the charging card provider is not the owner of the charging station used. You quickly break into a sweat amidst the confusion. What’s more, I don’t want to spend my spare time reading an app in a car park. You also cannot simply leave the car to charge overnight, as you would be billed a fee for blocking the charging station. That means that once the charging process is complete, you have to move your car to a “normal” parking space.
As we will not need the car for the next three days and still have a range of around 120 km, we simply decide not to charge the car and park in a normal parking space.
To be continued!