Transport Evolved’s Guide to Taking Your Electric Car for a Family Christmas

In the past week both Nikki and I have taken a trip back to our parent’s house for a early Christmas get-together with our family. Mark made a 67 mile journey in his Leaf and Nikki made a 250 mile journey in her Volt.

So we thought we’d bash our heads together to bring you a guide to driving to, charging at and enjoying your time with your family. Using our two journeys as a template, you’ll be showing off your shiny electric car to Uncle Bob and Great Aunty Margaret in no time.

The Journey

Depending on how far you have to go and what car your drive, there will be a certain amount of planning.

While I only had to drive 67 miles to my brother’s house – easily within the EPA 73 mile range of the 2011 Leaf – it was up and over various hills. This is the elevation profile of the trip.

Y-axis: Feet. X-axis: Kilometers.

Y-axis: Feet. X-axis: Kilometers.

All of these ups and downs meant that 66 miles was pretty much the limit of the car’s range. To make things worse, according to the Ecotricity Electric Highway map, the public rapid charger at 50 miles into the journey was offline.

Luckily a local Nissan dealer just off the route had a rapid charger and I was able to divert there.

Nikki, using the various charging maps (Open Charge Map [world wide], Zap Map [UK only], Ecotricity’s Electric Highway [UK only]) also planned out her journey and found it was possible to take her Leaf – but in the end decided against it due to the changing weather and the need for a roofrack. Sometimes taking the fully electric car isn’t the right decision.

Travelling West to East in England using Rapid Chargers.

Travelling West to East in England using Rapid Chargers.

What’s important here? Planning! Know your route.

Check charging infrastructure maps and have an idea of how reliable the information and the charging stations are.

Check the elevation profile of your route. You’ll use more power going up hill and less going down.

Take a look at our Autumn and Winter driving tips. These will help you eco our a few more miles and get that little bit further.

Charging While There

If your relatives don’t drive electric then the chances are that they won’t have a charging station ready and waiting for you. You may be lucky and find they live near a rapid charger – or even a fast charger; you’ll have discovered this from your charging map preparation above.

But if this is not the case, you’re going to need to plug in while you are there.

Many people are still ignorant to how much charging an electric car costs. In their mind you are ‘filling up your car’ and their only experience of this is with a internal combustion engine car. You may first be told to ‘take a walk’ when asking to charge your car as they’ll be expecting it to cost £40 – £70 for the full take of petrol (UK prices, adjust for your region).

I have always found that telling them how much it will cost along with offering to pay more than that helps. ‘It costs about £3 to fill up the Leaf, but I’ll chuck you a tenner’ usually results in the family member not caring about you charging – well, at least only asking for a beer in return. Result!

Catflaps aren't just for cats!

Catflaps aren’t just for cats!

Most electric cars come with a 10A cable – and while this may be ‘slow’ to charge from, it is generally fine for an overnight charge. A little forethought is required when using this cable. Have a think about the state of the electronics in the house and try to find a circuit with very little load on it. Garage circuits, downstairs circuits once everyone is in bed, that type of thing. This will avoid the junction box tripping.

You may also need to use an extension cord. If you are using one of these make sure it can cope with a 10A continual load. Also, if it comes wound up, unwind the whole of the extension cord even if it is not needed.

You may need to get the cable from the socket that is inside to the car that isn’t. Catflaps, postboxes and small windows are all good for this.

Go to sleep and enjoy waiting up with a full car.

Top Tip: Maybe talk this all through with your host before you get there. Just assuming you’ll be able to charge may result in some stress which will take away from the family stress you should be experiencing.

Enjoying Time with your Family

Take people for rides. Show off all the gadgets. There is still a high level of ignorance about electric cars with many people still thinking they are ‘milk floats’. Show them what the car can do – before you’ve had a drink. Be patient as you explain to them how the battery in the car won’t have a ‘memory effect’ or become useless like the one in their laptop after a year.

You are an ambassador for electric cars.

But most of all, have fun. Enjoy the attention the car brings.

Here at Transport Evolved we know that family comes in forms and Christmas can be celebrated in many ways – whatever that form takes for you, we hope you have a great day.


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  • vdiv

    Ask your host where the circuit breaker/fuse panel is located and if they have spare fuses if used. Plug in as close to the panel as possible to reduce the length and potential for faulty wiring as much as possible. Outlets normally used for high power appliances (air conditioners, stove tops, washer/dryer) are usually a safe bet. It may be a good idea 30 minutes and an hour or so after plugging in the car to check the connectors and other nearby outlets and make sure they are not too warm (btw that’s a good way of tracing the circuit back to the panel). Deploy the extension cord cautiously so people can see it and not easily trip over it. Use door mats to keep it on the ground. Keep the end of the extension cord and your EVSE away from possible rain and possible water pooling.nnThough you may need the charge, give your hosts a ride or two in your EV. After all they paid for it, will enjoy it, and next Christmas when you visit them again they may have an EV of their own AND a charging station waiting for you 🙂

    • Michael Thwaite

      A friend of mine had his Focus at the front of the house but the only outlet with available capacity was at the back of the house – a long extension was called into service.nnnI came in when the car just didn’t seem to charge all that fast. I measured the voltage at the panel and at his car – he was loosing a continuous 190W of power heating up his house wiring. Or, about 2-3kWhr a day or, about $10-13/month.nnnA quick re-jig of the available outlets and a breaker swap was all it took to save that.

      • vdiv

        Similarly I lose about 150W through approximately 120ft of AWG14 copper wiring and the eight receptacles (one GFCI) on that circuit. At the breakers’ panel the voltage is about 121V, at the EVSE it is down to 109V. That is 12V drop times 12.5A current drawn.nnUnfortunately there isn’t much I can do. I have replaced all of the receptacles connecting the wiring with the screw terminals. The outside outlet where I plug is on the opposite side of the breakers’ panel across my condo. There is no feasible way I can run a new dedicated circuit without tearing down half of the walls, ceiling, and drilling through the studs and joists. :(nnNevertheless I consider myself lucky as most condos in the development are too far from where people can park. Maybe about a quarter of the 140 folks can really charge “at home”. It is no wonder my Volt is the only plug-in. There is also no dedicated parking so the three spots that are reachable by the extension cord are sometimes taken up by my neighbors and their guests.nnThis is partially why I got a Volt and why I try to charge in public as much as possible.

  • Michael Thwaite

    I always use more power coming home than going to work – my office is 36 miles south, that’s why.nnBTW: I’d cheerfully swap my 12A 120v lamp-cord for your 10A 240v unit. I suspect that so many people could service on that day-to-day. That said I’m surprised at how many of my friends live on 120v cords… more than have 240v 30A EVSEs actually.

  • Dennis Pascual

    We had a mini-EV meetup at home this Christmas… My mom took her Leaf to the Christmas Day gathering at our house. I kicked all the relatives in ICE vehicles off the driveway so she can drive right up and use the J1772 connection that I use for our car.