Stu­dents find free power al­most ev­ery­where

The Witness - Wheels - - ELECTRIC - — Wheels Reporter.

A ROAD­TRIP with an elec­tric car, would that be pos­si­ble? Wouter van der Wal along with a group of five friends took the chal­lenge last sum­mer.

“The first ob­sta­cle was the elec­tric car it­self, which we didn’t have,” he ex­plained to Wheels in a state­ment.

“We cre­ated a pitch video and web­site to send to var­i­ous car brands.

“The pro­posal: an elec­tric car for three weeks in ex­change for a movie about our trip. It was al­ready mid- June, a month be­fore take- off. For­tu­nately, Kia was quick to re­spond and de­cided to join the mis­sion.

“They lent us the elec­tric Kia Soul EV and a Kia Pi­canto on gaso­line. Per­fect ref­er­ence ma­te­rial, it turned out.

“The Soul EV has a day- to­day range of about 160 km; af­ter Tesla one of the cars with the best range. On top, it is rel­a­tively spa­cious.” Per­fect for a road trip! In three weeks they drove al­most 4 500 kilo­me­tres through 10 coun­tries in Europe.

Van der Wal said they ex­pe­ri­enced the cur­rent state of the Euro­pean charg­ing net­work, learned the ins and outs of elec­tric driv­ing and mean­while had a great hol­i­day.

“With­out any elec­tric driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, it was hard to es­ti­mate the dis­tance we could travel in a day and the time we would have left for ad­ven­ture.”

The first thing they learnt was that Europe still needed a lot of charg­ing points.

“[ On the first day] af­ter we cross the Dutch bor­der close to Maas­tricht, we dis­cover that it is a na­tional hol­i­day in Bel­gium. Not only are all the shops closed, so is our first charg­ing lo­ca­tion at the Bel­gian su­per­mar­ket Del­haize.

“The re­main­ing two al­ter­na­tive charg­ers fol­low the same logic: com­pany closed, charger closed.

“It re­quires some clan­des­tine wire­tap­ping to reach the bor­der of Lux­em­bourg. Here, we can fi­nally plug the Soul into a func­tion­ing charger.”

The Alps proved no prob­lem for the Kia’s 285 Nm, all which New­tons are di­rectly avail­able from zero rpm. And re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing meant the steep down­hill sec­tions just added to the bat­tery range.

The stu­dents’ big­gest con­cern, that of fuel costs, dis­s­a­peared in Italy and France, where free charg­ing of elec­tric ve­hi­cles is en­cour­aged in sev­eral cities.

Even when they paid, charg­ing in gen­eral was very cheap, said Van der Wal. In to­tal the group paid less then R880 to travel 4 486 km, in­clud­ing tolls and park­ing fees, mostly be- cause charg­ers were free.

“As In­dus­trial De­sign stu­dents, we’re ex­cited about the op­por­tu­ni­ties of new tech­nolo­gies.

“With this trip we want to show that range anx­i­ety is some­thing of the past.

“In our ex­pe­ri­ence this is­sue is as much about the cur­rent range of elec­tric ve­hi­cles as it is about the charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture.”

Van der Wal said many charg­ers they used were less than a year old, and they popped up from var­i­ous di­rec­tions, from stores to pri­vate homes.

“Com­pared to travel ex­pe­ri­ences of EV en­thu­si­asts in past years, we see big im­prove­ments in cov­er­age of fast charg­ers in Europe,” he said. • Read their ret­ro­spect on the trip at: https://elec­tri­croad­mov-ie.atavist.com/en

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

FROM LEFT: Yan­nick Brouwer, Daphne Lam­berts, Wouter van der Wal, Joch Jansz, Rachel Ri­et­dijk and Gijs de Boer in Nancy, France.

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