Have you ever wondered how electric vehicle owners manage to keep their cars running on longer car journeys? Our Chairman Jon Gething has given us this short account of a recent trip across France in his Tesla Model S electric car.

We have just travelled from St Malo in Brittany across France to a town near Toulouse where my daughter lives.

We left St Malo after getting off the overnight ferry from Portsmouth at 9:15am with the car charged to 75%. It had taken us over an hour from docking to get off the boat and queue at passport/Covid control.

Because of the time spent waiting to leave the port we decided to make the first leg a short one so the first stop was the Tesla Supercharger at Rennes where we arrived at 10:10am after a journey of just over 50 miles. The charge was at 55% and we charged for just over 30 minutes and left with a 90% charge. The chargers at Rennes are at a Novotel hotel a few minutes off the N137 where you can get a tea or coffee and have a loo break.

Looking at the Tesla chargers on the satnav we decided to head for the Supercharger at Aire de la Vendee on the A83, a trip of 120 miles. Leaving Rennes at 10:40 we arrived at the aire at 12:45 just in time for lunch. We stopped for 45 minutes and charged from 29% to 90% while we ate our lunch of fresh baguettes, French cheese, and pain au raisin, purchased from the services shop.

Leaving Aire de la Vendee at 13:30 we headed for our next charging stop at Angouleme a distance of 126 miles. We arrived at 15:40 and stopped for 30 minutes charging from 31% to 80% enough to get us to our final charging stop at Brive le Gaillard. The Angouleme chargers are at an Ibis hotel a short distance from the N10.

We had a choice leaving the Aire de la Vendee to go via Bordeaux or Angouleme. The Angouleme route was about half an hour slower but avoided the very busy rocade or ring road around Bordeaux which can be a bit of a nightmare.

We left Angouleme at 10 past 4 and arrived at Brive le Gaillard at half past six after a trip of 106 miles. The stop here lasted just under half an hour at a Hotel Mercure, time for a cup of tea and a snack, and we left at seven o’clock to make the final run down the A20 to Aussonne just north of Toulouse where my daughter lives. This final leg was 110 miles and we arrived at 9pm.

So in summary the total journey was around 520 miles, the four charging stops totalled 2 hours 13 minutes and the total journey time was just under 12 hours so an average driving speed of just over 50mph.

The total electricity used was around 150kWh which would typically cost about £45 at public charge points charging 30p/kWh. A petrol equivalent car doing 40 mpg would have used about 58 litres at around £1.35/litre so the fuel cost would have been about £80.

Compared with a similar fossil fuelled trip it probably took an hour or so longer but the enforced half hour breaks give the driver (and passengers) time to fully recover and relax and makes the drive much less stressful.

In terms of carbon saving this depends on the energy density in terms of kgCO2/kwh of the electricity used to charge the car. In France the electricity is largely from nuclear with some renewables so the carbon content is very low. 58 litres of petrol have a CO2 content of 2.4kgCO2/litre so the carbon saving is around 140kg CO2.

The Tesla charging network is very comprehensive in France (and other European countries) and makes this kind of journey trouble free without any range anxiety. I couldn’t say this for other makes of electric vehicles which rely on a much less comprehensive and assorted collection of charging stations mainly operating at a much lower power than the Tesla so charging at a much slower rate. There clearly needs to be a big improvement in the public charging network to match what Tesla is achieving. Tesla has plans to make their network available to all electric vehicles.

Jon Gething