Cold Weather and the EV – A Trip to Wales in Winter

Last week we had a sad task of travelling to Wales to say goodbye to a lovely old lady. Marie’s sister’s mother had passed peacefully a couple of weeks ago. We knew Doreen well, apart from meeting her at family events, we stayed with her on more than one occasion while walking and climbing the Snowdonia mountains. She was always welcoming and great company, as well as being a store of local knowledge. So there was no chance that we wouldn’t be there for her funeral.

Travel options? This is deep winter; there is a deep freeze forecast and Wales is known for hard weather. So taking the EV might not be the best option. But other travel options from Cork to North Wales are limited. No airports, so no flights. The nearest airports would be Liverpool or Manchester, but that would entail hiring a car, which is not cheap at the moment. Anyway we are trying to avoid flying at the moment, for both climate and health reasons. We could take the train. But there is no direct route so you have to go via Shrewsbury which means an 8 hour journey to cover 53Kms! And we would still need taxis. So we took the car. We travelled from Cork to Dublin on the Tuesday, stopping at our favourite Dublin hotel, the Clayton, and taking the Ulysses fast ferry to Holyhead on the Wednesday. Returning on the Friday by the same route.

Cork to Dublin is easy. We always stop at Ballacolla just beside Exit 3 on the M8. They have ESB fast chargers and good coffee. Distance is 155 kms from home. From there we plan to drive straight to the port which is 130 kms. I have booked a charger on the ferry. We don’t actually need it but it’s good to try it out. There’s a fast charger right beside the port at Holyhead that we have used several times and if necessary we will use that. But when we get to the mountains and Porthmadog it’s different matter. There are loads of 7kw chargers shown on Zapmap, indicating a healthy tourist industry catering for charging during overnight stays. There’s just one 22kw charger with two connectors just outside Portmadog but no information online re status.

On the Tuesday everything goes as planned. I do decide to stop between Ballacolla and Dublin Port at the Ionity ultra-fast chargers closer to Dublin. Firstly to get topped up prior to the ferry and secondly to check them out. I have an Ionity account, and have used them several times before with very mixed results, but if they ever worked they would be very attractive because of the charging speed. Faint hope! The first charger connected but gave me a message that the charge was free because of slow speed. What use is that? The second charger didn’t recognise me. Like many chargers, Ionity recognise the presence of my app, checks my account status and in theory allows immediate connection and charging. But this time, my app showed it was still speaking to the first charger! I couldn’t reset. Spoke to the help line, they said, “delete the app and reinstall”. At this point I aborted. I’m not sure I will bother with Ionity again. This is the third time they have shown their systems are highly fragile.

At the hotel I use the ESB fast charger beside the hotel up to the 45 minute limit. Then we park underground and I plug into one of four Podpoint chargers. What a pleasure! I have a Podpoint account, I just locate the connector with the app and connect. Very straightforward. I haven’t yet seen any Podpoint transactions, so am unsure of the cost, or indeed if they are charging me! But great facility. I leave the car on charge and unhook when near full, and make the parking space beside the chargers available for others.

On the ferry the four chargers are located on the car deck at the rear of the boat. Boarding in Dublin we had to speak to the loaders to park in front of the chargers. Not easy in the frenetic loading process! However on the return journey we were given a paper sign to put on the dash which was spotted by the loaders who directed us. The chargers are 22kw Podpoint and work perfectly. No charge. I assume this will change down the line. All I have to do is connect and turn the power on at the wall. Easy.

When we get to Porthmadog, near to our destination the first thing we do is to visit the 22kw chargers. They are easy to locate behind the Golden Fleece pub. There are two 22kw Podpoint connectors. All work fine. After 5 minutes I unhook and come back the following day to get a decent charge prior to the return journey. I am very conscious of the brutally cold weather. On leaving we have about 100 kms to Holyhead, the range is showing around 180 kms and the kw/100 kms are abnormally high around 18 even though we are driving very gently. But there are lots of hills. This is Wales! We get to Holyhead with good contingency and 50 kms indicated range left. So, like with previous cold weather drives we are very aware that battery efficiency is seriously impacted and we need to up the contingency.
At Holyhead we go straight to the Gridserve charger at the port, just beside the railway station. Have used this before; it’s fast and efficient. Simple wave of the credit card and we are charging. Also used the ferry chargers on the return journey to top up.

Back in Ireland we head through heavy early Friday evening traffic around the M50 and out onto the M7/8 heading for Cork. The weather is bloody, freezing fog, temperature varying between -2 and -4. We drive around 85 – 90 kms/hr. First stop is Ballacolla, our regular half way stop. I use the ESB fast charger with no problems. However as usual the ESB send me reminder messages not to exceed 45 minutes charging time, or to be hit with a €10 penalty. And here, probably influenced by the ESB penalty, I made a serious misjudgement. We have 155kms to travel and an indicated range of 200. Up to now the indicated range has tracked pretty closely to the actual kms travelled. But I should be well aware that the effects of very low temperature can change. And they did. As we drove through the Irish midlands with -4/5 below freezing all the way we started seriously eating into the contingency.

I should have started a new charge on a separate charger back at Ballacolla. (I assume I could have done that, but I do need to check). Anyway I didn’t and there are very few if any chargers after Cashel. We didn’t stop there because the situation didn’t look serious. But down the road it started to worry us. Marie was driving and she slowed right down, concentrating on maximizing recovery on the downhills. She wasn’t best pleased! There were actually slower chargers in Fermoy, about 20 Kms before Cork, but coming off the highway and trying to find chargers in the dead of night didn’t appeal. We just kept going.

In the end we arrived home with some 40 Kms to spare. The slower speed and recovery on the long downhills coming into Cork had worked. But it’s a lesson that we shouldn’t have needed to learn a second time. It shows how easy it is get into a difficult situation.

About davidsprott

Artist, writer, veteran IT professional
This entry was posted in Electric Vehicles, EV, Renault Zoe, Technology and Society, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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