Electric Road Trip: Belgium To Geneva

Electric Road Trip: Belgium To Geneva

I was invited by a great motorsport mentor of mine to give a presentation at the EEVC at the Geneva Motor Show. The session focused on electric racing, from E-Karts and E-Bikes to Electric GT, Formula E, and the launch of the new Formulino E car.

I was asked to speak about electric student motorsport and with help from my friends at Formula Electric Belgium, Ecurie Aix and AMZ Racing was able to show the amazing levels of innovation we are seeing in university motorsport teams. The industry was seriously impressed by the AMZ Racing world record video (0-100kph in 1.51 seconds!) which you can watch here.

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The trip to Geneva from Belgium seemed an ideal opportunity to take the BMW i3 for a longer journey and experience the charging infrastructure of some other cities.

So, what was the challenge?

  • Travel from Limburg, Belgium to Geneva, Switzerland in 1 day
  • Use only electric power (The i3 came with REx)
  • Use our ChargeNow charging card as much as possible

The journey was only 700-800km, which is not a painfully long trip to do in a single day and the i3 is definitely a comfortable car for long journeys, however I did not do a large amount of research on the charging points we would encounter on the way.

I wanted it to be a bit more of an organic process of finding charge points on the journey rather than doing a rigorous calculation of exactly when and where to stop. That way, it would perhaps give me a more realistic experience.

 

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The journey begins in Limburg, Belgium

The first charging stop was in Koblenz in Germany, at which point we had already briefly travelled through The Netherlands.

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The distance was around 186km and during the first part of the journey we took the Eco Pro route recommended to us by the i3 navigation system. This avoids the motorway and therefore saved us quite a bit of charge, however we didn’t stick to this for very long.

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Charging Stop 1
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Charging Stop 2

Charging stop 1 and 2 were both situated outside Media Markt stores and I assume this is a trend across Germany.

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The distance between charge point 1 and 2 was approximately 165km. The journey was becoming all autobahn now and therefore range was dropping. BMWi advises that 90km/h is the best speed to maintain a decent range, however we stuck to around 110km/h and were still achieving a reasonably decent range.

But how were we finding the charging points?

This is a really important discussion, because one of the biggest difficulties we found was accurately locating charging points.

There are 2 main ways we were using to locate them:

  • The navigation system built into the i3
  • The website of Fast-E

The problems we encountered with the navigation system is that they did not differentiate between fast and slow chargers (we were only looking for fast in order to reach Geneva in a decent time) and you could not rely on the information being accurate. Some chargers were listed and we could not find them and other good chargers were missing off the system.

Other issues were that some chargers were broken, vandalised, or irritatingly filled with a combustion car and of course, we had no foresight of this until we turned up at the charge point.

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Charge Point 3

However, we did discover something brilliant in Germany… We discovered that nearly all of their decently-sized service stations on the autobahn had at least 1 charging point, sometimes many.

This wasn’t necessarily listed or obvious, but with a little bit of guesswork we realised that the charging infrastructure in Germany is actually very, very good.

Charge point 3 took us to a service station in Freiberg, not far now from the Swiss border. This was about 190km from charge point 2, so we were getting a really decent range out of the car on just the electric power.

Here we purchased the vignette that allowed us entry to Switzerland with our vehicle and we set off for the final parts of the journey.

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Around 160km later we were in Bern, Switzerland and needed to charge. The charging point looked amazing- it even had its own roof, so we were pretty excited to experience our first Swiss charging point. It was also starting to get dark by this point.

We expectantly plugged in to the charge point and scanned our card but nothing happened! We couldn’t make it work.We phoned up the number on the charging point and the helpful man on the phone was also unable to help remotely. He suggested we purchased a card from inside the service station and gave us his details so they could reimburse us.

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The final leg was another 160km and we arrived in Geneva in darkness. We had travelled 800km (slightly more than google maps suggests).

It was a painless journey and even with very little research negotiating a trip of this size was not too difficult. Each charging stop was a minimum of half an hour (sometimes longer because we wanted the break) so we did spend 2-3 hours of the day off the road.

It is worth noting that weather was very good, with a peak temperature of 19°C. This had a positive impact on the range capabilities of the car.

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The Evodays BMW i3 in the sun

Here are the final stats for the entire trip:

Total distance: 801km

Number of charging stops: 4 (Began journey with full charge)

Average speed: 96.1km/h

Average battery usage: 15.6kWh/100km

 

What did I learn from Part 1 of the electric road trip?

  • People get excited seeing an electric car and ask lots of questions. This is a good thing! The car got quite a few nods of approval on the route.
  • Doing a long distance on electric power is perfectly doable, but maybe some more planning would improve the experience.
  • There is enough charging infrastructure in this part of Europe. The main issue is making sure this information is up to date on all electrical devices and- ideally- displayed in real-time.
  • Electric driving is less tiring. Possibly because of very comfortable drive and the breaks you must take in order to charge the vehicle.
  • Germany is very, very well-equipped with charging points.

The next parts of the electric road trip are coming soon. If you would like to ask me any questions about my experiences so far with the BMW i3 or electric driving in general, please feel free to send me a tweet.

 

We would like to thank our Partner BMWi BeLux 

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Author: Beth Lily Georgiou

Follow:  @BethLilyRace

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