Sunday 7th – I have been keeping notes in a journal throughout the day as typing and updating a blog while trying to work out how to travel long distances in an electric car was extremely difficult. So what is written below has been typed up in a McDonald’s at a service station and our ‘Lands End Hotel’ room – while very tired!
Getting there to Land’s End
Of course I inevitably slept in… a little. Vince was up at 4am and also commented on his “long sleep” at some point today. We agreed to attempt the journey to Land’s End in one day using the range extender (petrol engine that charges the battery), which still involved an early departure. However with Vince packing and answering emails, me saying good bye to the cats and the both of us attempting to load up the car… we left at 10:45am. The ‘mileage’ on the display read 79 miles of electricity, at full charge, in the battery and I forget now but I think around 80 miles of petrol.
McDonald’s – Considering the Hum has not yet started… it appears we have had a very long day already, which isn’t over yet. We have already had a number of adventures (calamities?). Vince has succumbed to tiredness, perhaps from such an early rise, and is napping/sleeping in the boot bed as I sit in McDonald’s (free wi-fi and plug sockets) to type up some of my notes from the day.
The first point of interest in the day would be, of course, our first stop! (12:24pm) at a Little Chef near Aylesbury. Due to previous research we’d discovered that Little Chef had recently rolled out fast charge points to all of it’s restaurants. So with this in mind we pulled up and Vince, upon my request, began teaching me how to charge the car. I should point out that we only worked out how to use the ‘trip mileage’ on the i3 7 miles into the journey, so when I write total mileage for today bear in mind that it’s actually plus 7 miles! Therefore the Little Chef we stopped at (reading 51.2 miles on the trip meter) was actually 58.2 miles into the journey. So Vince is teaching me, quite… patiently? to charge the car. It’s all plugged in and… ‘ka-thunk’ – error – nothing. The Type 2 fast charger (3-4 hour charge) doesn’t work… and the regular 3-pin 12 hour charger does not work. We try calling ‘ChargeMaster’ who manage these particular posts, but no answer. “Oh well” we think… “let’s sit down to have a coffee and use the range extender to get us somewhere else.”
The waiter (Steve – the mechanic who can re-wire a car and, like Vince, owns a few classic cars) comes over and asks whether we’d like something to eat. Vince and I start explaining our predicament, in that we didn’t want to waste time sitting around while the car wasn’t charging, so we wouldn’t stop to eat, but would like a coffee. At this point Steve the waiter told us that the charging point had never worked as it wasn’t properly connected to the mains… Oh… helpful. Well actually he was, he pointed to the mains sockets in the restaurant, by the tables, and suggested dangling our regular 3-pin charging cable through the window… Ok. So Vince ran out to back the car up to the restaurant window, clipping another car in the process – the parking sensors appeared to fail in warning against the oncoming danger (details were offered but not taken – no damage I think), while Steve hung out the window to catch the cable. All plugged in, we decided to eat something. Upon leaving the restaurant the very helpful encounter seemed to have charged the car enough to give us one extra mile in the battery… so range extender it is.
While driving along I managed… somehow… to convince Vince that it would be a good idea to find one of the rare Combo rapid charging points (30 mins charge) which does not reside on a motorway – usually ones that the BMW require are on motorways. The downside was that I had found one in the middle of Bristol (Temple Gate Car Park)… that took forever to find; many a trip round an awful one way system arguing about Temple Mead and Temple Gate. We also drove around Bristol station a few times where Vince began pointing out Brunel architecture and explaining to me something about broad gauge train tracks. With petrol and electricity running out we tried using a combination of the BMW’s smart navigation and Vince’s Samsung phone (to look at maps and the zap-map website) to take us to this elusive car park. Eventually we did find it… tucked away (4pm now)… and when I saw that there WAS indeed a rapid charging point I was quite relieved. So out we get, this time ‘Charge Your Car’ access card in hand; flash card at charging pillar, plug cable into car, wait to see if it works…. it begins to charge!… all excited we start to relax and smile. Naturally 2 minutes later the post encountered a fault and stopped working – “Sigh”. Vince tried calling the Charge Your Car network help number, which just kept ringing – no help for electric car drivers on a Sunday. We looked at each other bemused, only able to console ourselves by finding the Type 2 charging point in the next bay (3-4 hour charge). So we plugged in, paid the £4.50 parking fee (which we only meant to pay £2 of – silly non user friendly machines…), and went to find some facilities. I’ve left out a lot (all) of the squabbling that happened throughout this experience…
We sat and shared a toasted falafel wrap (another thing I’d convinced Vince to try – he seemed to like it though) inside Bristol train station. By this point we had travelled 137.5 miles, had 16 miles of petrol in the tank and 7 miles of electricity left. Vince then decided that instead of sitting around and charging for hours, when our only mission today was to get to Land’s End, we would unplug and find a petrol station. Back to the car!
Of course the charger had stopped working at some point during the charging session as an error message displayed on the pillar. We did however manage to gain about 20 miles of electricity for the battery. Though I am learning that these numbers are dependent on many factors and change often depending on the gradient of the road, speed, acceleration and so on. I suppose that’s the same for petrol cars too?
Off to find a petrol station in Bristol – which only took about 1.5 miles… taking the petrol charging capacity to 85 miles while the battery still had about 20 miles of charge in it now for some reason.
Now on the M5 we continue to practice finding charging points by using the on board BMW i3 computer thing. First it tells us that the closest one is 150 miles away… however when inputting our destination again the car worked out that we didn’t have enough charge for the whole journey so offered to find a charging point for us… Ok… Oh now there are closer ones? Thank you car.
However deciding that petrol may be the safer way to actually get to Land’s End we pull in to Exeter services at 6:45pm (214.7 miles into journey to Land’s End) and fill up the 9-litre petrol engine again. This time the petrol gauge goes up to 89 miles while the battery hovers around 26 miles stored.
A stroke of luck finds us looking for a place to park in the services and spotting an Ecotricity rapid charge point! No map or website I was using seemed to know of its existence. Wave card, plug in, cross fingers. IT WORKS! At this point Vince would probably say that I was full of excitement and joy… I’d probably describe it more as delirium… but yes I was happy about the find and joyful that it actually worked!
After spending only 10 minutes inside the services we went back to the car and found it had charged over half way already! We hung around, staring in awe at the speed of the charge, when a group of people came over interested in the car. Vince and I told them about the journey and why we were doing it and then discussed the car, range extender and charging facilities (and that they aren’t so reliable at the moment… but currently many places are trying to improve their services). What seemed particularly interesting was when Vince mentioned that many of the charging points were actually free to use. In true Vince style he then took two of the group around the car park to demonstrate the quiet and power of the car. I think they liked it.
McDonalds – I may have been quite tired at this point as I forgot to write down the mileage for where we stopped. But while Vince filled the tank with another 9 litres and proceeded to have a nap in the boot bed I wandered over to the McDonald’s, at whichever services we were at, and plugged in the laptop to begin typing this post! An hour or so later Vince called and we were off again, this time no stops between us and The Land’s End Hotel.
The Hotel – About 365 miles from our starting position and over 13 hours later we arrived at the very dark hotel in the hopes that there would be someone there to check us in.
Well… I am now typing this in the hotel room so a successful day! Time to sleep and wrap up this post. Tomorrow we shall begin the HUM!!!!