Zap map electric vehicle charging map

We’ve been spending a bit of time with our electric campervan, EV Blue, in between hires the last few weeks in order to give first-hand experience and advice about the electric campervan life (though we also have an electric car that we use for our daily vehicle). By far the most common questions we get about hiring our electric campervan is around range, charging and route planning, so let’s delve into these now and, for the lazy, you can skip to our top tips for electric campervan trips at the end.

Range

Fully charged…comfortably 100 miles, but realistically, it depends. It depends on the road conditions, the driving style and yes, even the weather. Like team Shore Campers, electric vehicles operate much more optimally in warmer weather. But let’s break it down a bit.

electric campervan hire range
EV Blue’s range guessometer – lots of stop go driving here!
Road conditions

So firstly, here we’re talking about motorway driving vs A/B roads vs city roads. Electric vehicles have this brilliant technology called regenerative braking (regen). When you break, or even when you take your foot off the go faster pedal, the kinetic energy of the electric motor slowing down is converted into chemical energy that is stored in the battery, i.e. it puts a bit of charge into the battery. So any kind of road conditions that cause you to slow down, or stop frequently, means the potential range increases. Driving long distance on a motorway though, where you are unlikely to have to slow down that often and typically travel at faster speeds, means the range is reduced. Driving uphill, driving downhill – these also both impact the range.

To put this into some real-world numbers. We had a weekend EV Blue exploring the Purbecks, lots of stopping off, mostly on small relatively flat B roads and we easily got around 140 miles range on a full charge. In comparison we made a couple of runs to Weymouth and back, mostly on faster A roads with some dual carriageways, and our range was reduced to 120 miles on a full charge. The range “guessometer” (because it’s making a slightly educated but sometimes rather harsh guess of the range) on EV Blue updates very frequently, which can be a bit frustrating on motorway driving as you will go up a long uphill and see the range actually dropping, and then go down a long down hill and can sometimes see the range increasing! During a long trip to Cornwall recently we learnt to just trust the estimated range of 100 miles and not keep staring at the guessometer.

Driving style

When it comes to driving style, you’ve got to put the bad boy/girl racing days behind you and learn to take it easy. If you put your foot down, EV Blue WILL move. Electric motors have incredible torque and EV Blue is no different, but it does use up a lot of energy. And you might think with regen that racing to the lights and braking hard would generate a lot of energy, but if you learn to slow down by lifting the pedal and coasting to a stop, you will put a lot more energy back into the battery then braking hard. So take it easy, life’s about the journey after all!

Weather

I’d probably say by far the thing that surprised us the most is just how much of a difference warmer weather can make. Quite simply the charge from the battery is due to a chemical reaction, warmer temperatures increase the efficiency of this reaction which in turn gives greater range. Although, too warm and the chemical reaction loses efficiency. A study was done analysing 4,200 EVs and 5.2 million trips and they worked out that the optimal temperature is in fact 21.5°C – pretty much an average UK campervan season temperature. In real world numbers, excluding other range impacting factors driving in 21.5°C compared to 10°C will give an estimated 14 miles more range.

What does all this mean for range when hiring an electric campervan?

Well, when it comes to thinking about the range, we always say to work off 100 miles, as we know EV blue can comfortably do that regardless of the conditions (heavy right foot excluded!) and anything above that is a bonus. And you know what, sometimes it makes sense to take the scenic route, get off the motorways and explore the backroads, it’s what campervanning is all about!

Charging

With an ever-increasing public charging network and options for charging on the electric hookup at the campsite, you really should not have any concerns about getting a charge. Zap Map (see top image – showing all compatible charging points in the South West) is pretty much THE resource for finding charging points in the UK, and as it’s community driven it will report on faulty chargepoints and can even show whether some chargepoints are in use or not. Finding a place to “refuel” is part of the adventure and very simple. It may just take a bit of planning and a bit more patience than what you’re used to compared to filling up with dinosaur juice in your traditional car. As before, charging times are also impacted by other factors such as the ambient temperature, in-vehicle loads and charging rates slowing down as the maximum charge is reached to protect the battery, so all times below are a guide only.

EV Blue campervan charging at a pub
EV Blue getting a quick pub stop top-up
Public charging

EV Blue has two charging sockets. The first is a Rapid CHAdeMO socket. Using rapid CHAdeMO charging you can charge at 50kW from 20%-80% in about 40 minutes. These are typically the chargers you will find at large motorway services, although more frequently they are also popping up in public car parks, some attraction sites and our favourite, pub car parks. There are a number of different charging providers and to use the chargers are super simple. They all now have touch screens and accept contactless and card payment, so you simply follow the instructions on the screen. These will all be tethered, i.e. they will have the charge cable physically attached to them, so you literally just drive up and plug in. They also all have apps that you can download which allows you to monitor your charge remotely so you can see if have time to stay for that pudding after the pub lunch or not. One thing you may have heard if is something called Nissan Rapidgate, that is where rapid charging happens at a much slower speed than anticipated. There is no hard and fast rule to prevent this, but we would always suggest to try not do more than one complete to full rapid charge per day, this ensures the battery has time to cool down overnight.

The second is a Slow/Fast Type 1 socket which charges with a Type 2 connector – bit confusing but bear with us here. As the name implies you can charge using this socket with either a fast or slow charger. The Fast charger will charge at a maximum of 6.6kW, so a full charge from 0 will take approximately 6 hours, but we’re sure you’re not going to be driving it to 0! To be clear, you can connect this to higher powered Type 2 chargers, such as a 22kW charger, but it will still only charge at 6.6kW. The fast charger will usually be a Type 2 charger, these can frequently be found in car parks, supermarkets and typically wall sockets people will have at home. They will usually be untethered, meaning you need to use the cable supplied in the van to charge. This cable is a Type 2 to Type 1 cable – see it makes sense eventually. Again, using these are super simple, charging stations will have a touch screen and app interface and will accept contactless and card payments. You follow the prompts and simply plug the cable in to charge.

Finally, you have slow charging, this also uses the Type 1 socket but the other end will plug into a normal 3-pin socket using the supplied charger. As the name implies this is rather slow though, a full charge will take approximately 18 hrs, but if you’re staying somewhere that has an external power plug, you can get a pretty good charge overnight. It is also this type of charging that you will be using by utilising the onboard electric hookup charger at a campsite, although that is even slower.

Campsite charging

Without getting too technical, EV Blue has a 3-pin socket hidden away inside the vehicle with a slow wall charger connected to it. This socket is turned on when connected to an electric hookup point. The other end of this charger is in the engine bay with a cable you can plug into the Slow/Fast socket. This charger has been rate limited to 6 amps, this is to ensure that it will not trip out any campsite pitch-side power supply but it does mean that the charging rate is reduced even further. A safe estimate is that you can add around 50 miles of range in a 12 hour period, still enough for the occasional top-up though.

With all of these charging options at your disposal, you really do not have to worry about finding a charge. Certainly, do top-up when possible, as you’re out and about exploring, look for car parks with chargers, it’s really the best way to keep the charge topped up. Download and register with some of the charging apps ahead of time too – the most common ones we’ve come across here in the South West are BP Pulse Osprey, MER, Instavolt, Swarco, Geniepoint and Podpoint – but there are many more.

Dos and don’ts for charging

Do:

  • Plan your charging ahead where possible.
  • Check charging status and availability on the Zap Map app.
  • Try and top up your charge in car parks.

Don’t:

  • Hog a chargepoint. If you’re full, move the campervan to another parking bay to give other people the chance to charge.
  • Park in a charging bay and not charge the van.
  • Unplug another car – I mean come on.

Route planning

The Zap Map app is THE single best resource for finding charging points and planning routes around it. EV Blue does have a built-in route planner which can be quite clever as it will work based on the vehicles current charge and suggest charging locations, but we find using the Zap Map app is far superior. The free version of the app gives you everything you need to find charging points and plan your route around them although you will need to register to use the route planner. Details for using the route planner can be found on their website. Using the app you can filter it to only show the appropriate charging points, for EV Blue you will want to filter it to select all of the CHAdeMO ones for rapid and all of the Type 2 Mennekes ones for fast charging.

Zap Map has extensive coverage of all UK charging stations, for Europe though we would recommend https://www.plugshare.com/ and https://openchargemap.org/.

Top tips for electric campervan driving

That pretty much covers it all. As you can tell by this extended post, there is a lot to cover, and we can continue to go on for hours. Honestly feel free to test it by getting in touch if you have any questions. But in a nutshell, here’s our top tips for range, charging and route planning on your electric campervan hire adventure:

  • You can comfortably do 100 miles in EV Blue, our electric campervan on a full charge, anything over that is a bonus so plan your journey based around this.
  • Keep your eyes on the road, not the range guessometer.
  • Take it easy and take the scenic route. Campervanning is about the roadtrip as much as it is about camping so you may as well enjoy it.
  • Always follow our dos and don’ts for correct chargepoint etiquette.
  • Zap Map. Zap Map. Zap Map. For route planning, charging points and, yes, even which pubs to visit.
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