Electric cars are often portrayed by mass media and ardent petrol heads as expensive toys with limited range, incapable of life outside of a busy city like London. They are, we’re told by everyone from Top Gear to the bloke down the pub, nothing short of useless.
But a YouTube video posted over the weekend begs to differ, pointing out what we already knew: with the right charging infrastructure.
Enter Quentin Clark, head of sustainability at Waitrose. In a celebration of Ecotricity’s Electric Highway of high-capacity rapid quick charge stations — many of which are located at motorway services alongside a Waitrose store — Clark and colleague Suzy Wadsworth set out to prove it was possible to drive 500 mile in a single day using electric power alone.
Starting out at 6:30 am from the company’s Bracknell store, the intrepid duo visited eleven Welcome break sites throughout the day, charging their LEAF up at the CHAdeMO compatible DC quick chargers at each location.
Pulling in just before midnight, the duo managed to visit 14 Welcome Break services, charging successfully charging at each rapid charger they encountered and covering over 500 miles in the process. While Clark and Wadsworth’s trip was naturally a publicity stunt for Waitrose, it nicely highlights the ever-expanding network of motorway rest stops with 50 kilowatt direct current and 43 kilowatt AC rapid charging facilities, as well as the growing ease with which it’s possible to make a long-distance EV trip in certain parts of the U.K.
Just how easy however depends on a number of factors, including where you live, where you’re planning on driving, the distance between rapid chargers, and which sites you plan to visit on your trip. While rapid charging infrastructure is undeniably more reliable than it once was, varying rapid charger density from region to region means some routes are only covered by a single rapid charger with no backup in case of failure or vandalism.
Ecotricity, the not-for-profit utility company behind the Electric Highway and consequentially the largest deployment of rapid chargers in the U.K. to date, tells Transport Evolved that it considers the reliability of its network to be a top priority, that it is committed to improving electric vehicle infrastructure, and is working “at full speed” to expand its network for electric car drivers across the U.K.
Currently, access to the Electric Highway is free, although drivers will need to register for a membership card in order to access the charging points. Over the coming months, the number of Electric Highway sites is expected to increase, with charging stations being installed at various IKEA stores across the country.
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