Tony S drove from High Wycombe to Bilbao in his Hyundai Kona Premium 64kWh.
Introducing your road trip
Driving from High Wycombe to Bilbao in Spain via France.
Planning & preparation
I mainly used the app and website Chargemap. The searchable map covers all of Europe. The RFID card also initiates charges on many French charge points. Freshmile was another website that helped to identify chargers. In Britain I primarily use Zap-Map.
I have a few RFID cards for use in Britain and France along with apps to initiate a charge. In Britain, I primarily use my bank card to initiate and pay for a charge. France has now started to install machines that also work on bank cards making it less likely you will need an app or RFID card.
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We had only gone some 80 miles so we were not in a need of a charge, so I then put option 2 into the sat nav which showed a charger wasn’t far away. On arrival this was full up s we chose option 3 – a charge station on the motorway.
The drive from St Malo was an express road. The road out of Nantes to La Rochelle was a motorway with large service stations. The service station we used was easy to find and a row of charge stations was set off just to the one side. Plugging in and activating my Chargemap RFID card was easy and electricity was soon flowing into the battery. After using the services and a small walk around I was back up to 90% battery and back on the road after a 20 minute stay.
Our next leg was up to the Pyrenees and the city of Pau, a slightly longer trip of 245 miles (400km). It was toll motorway most of the way and our first top up after around 100 miles was again, at a service station. The row of 8 chargers which were in pairs had vacuum cleaners and car wash facilities in between each pair of charge stations. The first charge pillar I tried started then immediately stopped. After a couple of tries I switched places. The next pillar started and delivered our energy.
While waiting, a French campervan owner walked over to see how charging a car works. Then a Hyundai IONIQ 5 rolled in for a charge. My Kona is limited to a maximum of 60kW power, the IONIQ 5 can power in at speeds over 100kW so he didn’t stop too long although not before we had a nice chat about charging on French roads. The French owner had also not had an electric car for long and this was his first BEV and he was checking out charging on the go. He was very satisfied not only with his car but the methods of charging up.
We took another stop further along and charged up again while having our sandwiches. A group of Americans returning to their coach were also interested in how to charge a car. Some were very sceptical about using BEVs. One person would not believe how inexpensive it was to drive a BEV.
Again, when we arrived at Pau we were far too early to book into our gite, so I drove to the side of a shopping mall. On my Chargemap it indicated there was one charge station. In fact, a second had recently been installed. My first attempt failed after about ten minutes. I have an app on my phone that talks to my car and can show the state of charge. I moved to the second point and tried that one. This one was fine. I’m not sure if my car wasn’t keen on speaking to a French chargepoint as an VW ID.3 arrived at the pillar that wouldn’t work for me and they charged with no issues.
Arriving at our gite with 90% battery, I enquired with the owner if I could plug my car in later. He was surprised that it was possible to charge a car from an ordinary socket. He gave me the code to open up his garage door right in front of where I parked my car. I didn’t need much to get back up to 100% and he didn’t want any extra for the power I used. Keeping a car topped up is easy.
The next leg a few days later was from Pau to the centre of Bilbao. We had one night here so booked in the Ibis Central. A journey of 182 miles (292km), the first part on free French motorways then onto Spanish toll motorways. Before leaving home I had checked that in Spain very few charge stations accepted a bank card and would only start with an appropriate RFID card. The only way to get these cards was to submit a link to a Spanish bank.
The only way to get a Spanish bank account is to be a resident. I didn’t research chargepoints further into Spain but it looks like Spain is a no go country for BEV owners at present. I charged up at a supermarket chargepoint just off the main road. These chargers are much cheaper than motorway service stations. Using my Chargemap RFID card the charge initiated without a hitch and we went shopping for goodies while the car returned its charge back to 90%.
All of the motorway chargers and many of the town rapid chargers also had the ability to show instructions in English as well as French. At a rapid charge point (DC charger) it’s best not to charge the battery to full. Generally a charge to 80% or 90% is recommended so as to extend the life of the battery set in the car. Slower charging to 100% doesn’t affect the life of the battery in the same way. After 4 years with my IONIQ I never saw a reduction in battery capacity or range.
Back on the road and the sat nav guided me easily into the hotel car park. Two spaces are set aside for electric cars and again two ordinary sockets are provided to plug into (free of charge). We arrived early afternoon and would leave around 9 o’clock the next day. Plenty of time to take the car up to 100% while we toured the city on foot. The car park cost €10 euros for a night and without any parking nearby it was essential for car drivers visiting the hotel.
Did you encounter any great driving roads on your road trip? If so, where were they and why were they great?
The coastal motorways south from St Malo are scenic roads that take you up into Aquitaine and beyond. The local roads that follow the Atlantic north or south of La Rochelle lead to many beautiful villages and sights too.
The electric car itself
On the motorways the car drove with ease. In fact, it literally almost drives itself. With variable cruise control and lane assist on, the car will just go with little support from the driver. Local roads in France are generally in good condition. The sat nav in the Kona worked well and I was able to find destinations easily and the directions were easy to follow.
Road trip conclusion
We drove some 1,245 miles across France and Northern Spain. Charging in France was easy with plenty of choices. Although remember that distances between cities is much greater than in Britain so charge stations are further apart. The trip was so enjoyable we are now planning future road trips in France or other European countries. Maybe Carcassonne next time!