30 October 2013

One of the most frequently used arguments against driving an electric car is its limited range. To show what these cars can and cannot do, staff of the Royal Dutch Touring Club, ANWB, are literally crossing borders on a number of short trips to see where their vehicle can take them. By sharing their experiences, the ANWB hopes it can give its members a better idea of what it is like to go on holiday with an electric car.

At the beginning of September, the first team hit the road with a Nissan Leaf – maximum range 140 kilometres – to drive to Montpellier in the south of France. Marco van Eenennaam, Business Developer at ANWB Electric,drove 1186 kilometres along with colleague Lars Smit.

Shortly after crossing the border, their journey threatened to end in Antwerp due to a broken fast charger. Luckily, Twitter came to the rescue. Marco said: ‘We tweeted that we couldn’t find a charging station. Within no time we had 1000 new followers on our Twitter account and were inundated with tips.’ Once in France, Marco and Lars made use of a deal: Leaf drivers can take their car on the auto-train from Paris to Nice free of charge. Having arrived in the south of France, Marco and Lars unfortunately had to go back home for personal reasons before they were able to test the local fast charging network, which Nissan has installed on the Côte d’Azur.

Other teams took a gastronomic trip to the Belgian coast, travelled to Germany for a family weekend at an amusement park and went to the Belgian Ardennes for a weekend of outdoor adventure.


The latter trip proved to be the biggest challenge, despite the short distance. ‘That trip turned out to be more of a team-building exercise,’ Marco confirms. ‘We sent six colleagues off in three different electric cars. We put bicycles in roof-mounted bike racks. It was cold. The car batteries had a tough time.’ The charging infrastructure in Belgium was not up to scratch. The ANWB staff saw it all: Broken charging posts; charging post that did not exist at indicated locations; and posts that had been switched off outside of office hours. One team was stranded 88 kilometres from the finishing line with an empty battery and had to get assistance from Belgian colleagues.

Although the trips did not proceed entirely smoothly, they provided ANWB and its partners with valuable information. ‘Charging stations in the Netherlands are frequently located next to a restaurant or cafe: you charge your car battery while you’re having lunch. In other countries, these poles are situated in industrialised areas: not a pleasant wait.’

A second issue is that chargers in countries such as Belgium are based on differing operating systems. ‘In the Netherlands one pass allows you to make use of charging stations operated by a large number of different suppliers. Belgium doesn’t have a standardised system, so you have to check how each charging post works and whether you can get access to it. But the good news is that one operator of fast chargers has already promised to see what can be done in Belgium.’

Apart from these teething problems, Marco sees opportunities for clubs. ‘People who drive electric vehicles depend a great deal on reliable information about the charging network. Clubs should gather this information and market it by means of paid applications.’

Interested to learn more about the experiences of our explorers?  Take a look at ANWB website