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Electric Cars Are Now a Real World Alternative, We Prove It

The challenge was simple, to get from Folkestone to Rotterdam. The hard part was doing so on a single charge of an electric vehicle.

It meant fully charging before the Eurotunnel, driving through the easterly corner of France, all the way through Belgium and then into the Netherlands. Roughly 265 miles, 5 hours 35 minutes, all to be completed in a single day. Finishing at the Hilton, where we’d plug in overnight.

Obviously, we needed an EV with stamina. The Renault Zoe was a good shout, but with its real world range of 190/200 miles it would fall a little short.

The answer came in the form of Tesla’s new 100D model. The largest capacity of any current electric vehicle. Officially it has a range of 393 miles, but as with any MPG figure, you need to take that with a hefty pinch of salt. You’re looking at roughly 300/320 miles over real world driving.

Picking up the Tesla on Thursday afternoon I topped it up with a trickle charge from the mains overnight. At 6 miles of range per hour, I wasn’t expecting miracles, but every little helps, right? 

From empty the Model S would take roughly 24 hours to fully charge from a 3 pin.
Obviously if you were an owner you'd have a home charger installed for overnight top ups, this would take roughly 8 hours to go from 0 to 100%.

Bleary eyed, we woke at 4am, drizzle greeted us behind the curtains and Folkestone was about 90 miles away. Getting there burned up roughly half the volts we started with. Down to 120 miles it was time for our first Supercharge. Plugging in, the Tesla told us it would take 1 hour 10 minutes to fully charge. Time for breakfast.

7:10 came and as near as dammit the Model S finished charging. Boarding the Eurotunnel I completely switched the car off, preparing for the long slog ahead I didn’t want to use any juice if it wasn’t needed.

The route could’ve been more direct, but a stop was planned at Dunkirk and Ypres. Mainly to sightsee, but it would also break up the monotony of a nearly six hour drive across uninspiring European motorways.

From Calais we transitioned to the wrong side of the road and headed to the newly opened Operation Dynamo Museum at Dunkirk. Having seen the film just weeks beforehand it seemed fitting to make a historical education stop…and the name has an electric theme to it.

Back in the car the next stop was Ypres. From our murky, early morning UK start the weather was horrific. It lashed down the whole day. No matter the country, the conditions were terrible. Reaching Ypres we still had plenty of charge, the clever sat nav in the Tesla was indicating we’d have 16% battery left by the time we reached the Hilton in Rotterdam.

Now for the big drive. 2 hours 40 minutes from one side of Belgium to the other. It’s an odd thing, but when you’re in an electric car the silence attunes your hearing to everything else. The beating rain on the windscreen and the constant thud of the wipers was like torture after an hour. Especially in my sleep deprived state.

Pace had to be slowed as we neared the border of Holland. Conditions were downright dangerous. Even in the all-wheel drive Tesla it wasn’t a bright idea to be doing more than 50 MPH when you can’t see the car in front.

Range had dropped to 93 km’s and the battery on the display now turned orange. Just like when you hit the red light in your traditionally powered car…only this time filling up wasn’t going to be so easy.

We hit the outskirts of Rotterdam and watched the range drop, and drop some more. Missing a few turns in the built-up city the tension started to rise. How many times could we be sent under and over bridges whilst still having cells to spare?!

But there was really no need for concern, we reached the Hilton with a generous 50 km’s left.

The valet greeted us and took the Tesla to the underground car park where it was given some much needed amps from the Destination Charger. It would take 8 hours and 40 minutes to get us back to 100%. 

Destination chargers are far quicker than mains sockets. Even so, at 48 or 72 Amps they are significantly slower than the 115 kilowatt’s we’d been used to guzzling at Superchargers. 

The beauty of the thousands that are dotted around the UK and Europe are that they’re at locations where you’re likely to spend a great deal of time at, spas, golf clubs, restaurants etc. 

As the name suggests, destinations.

Some are generously free to use, others you may have to ask nicely, the rest will require you to have a drink or a meal whilst you top up.

Driving through three countries in a single day, without any range anxiety proves how internal combustion has a limited lifespan. This journey wouldn’t have been possible even two years ago.

I know what you’re thinking…that’s all well and good but the car you drove costs £110,000.

Correct. And that high entry point is a limiting factor to most. But that’s changing too. 

Nissan are currently teasing the all new, second generation Leaf. It’s being rumoured to have an equally capable range of around 300 miles. Expect prices to be roughly the same as the current model.

As mentioned earlier, with 200 miles range the newest Renault Zoe is a great option. Your current hatchback sat outside can probably only muster around 270 miles on a tank, maybe 300 at a push. Price for the Zoe? £19,845.

It’s getting close, oh so close, to the day that a small hatch can comfortably drive for 300 miles on a single charge, whilst still being affordable for the average Joe. 

When that happens, petrol and diesel are dead.