A few weeks ago a ‘rally team CHAdeMO’ comprised of Natalia Kozdra (from CHAdeMO Europe team) and an EV fan Jerome Fresnay has set out to participate in an EV rally ‘Tour Poitou-Charentes’ in the South of France.
The rally is not a typical speed-oriented event as the name would suggest, but a rally of eco-driving, where participating teams (EVs or hybrids) have to follow a set route in a given time and limiting the charging time. The guiding idea of this 370 km event is to demonstrate that an EV has enough of battery range for a day’s driving, provided that we alternate the driving and the charging time. The objective of CHAdeMO team was that and more, i.e. to also prove that it is possible to make 1000 km over four days (including 330 km in one day), 100% electrically, all thanks to CHAdeMO fast chargers.
In order to show how fast chargers extend the driving range of EVs, they decided to start the rally a day earlier and make their way from Rennes (home of the CHAdeMO-coloured EV) all the way to Poitiers, covering 330 km distance. The team and their CHAdeMO-branded Citroen C-ZERO set out in the early afternoon of 16/09/2013 from Rennes and here are their adventures as told by the co-pilot.
Pre-start of the rally – Rennes-Poitiers, 330 km
After two interviews with local journalists (see below) we decorated our vehicle and got on the road. Our first stop was a CHAdeMO DBT fast charger at U-Express in Grand-Fougeray. A quick top up of the energy and our range went up from 56% to 80,5% in 12 min. Next stop on the way was Nantes and its Nissan dealer. Calling a week earlier we made sure that the charger was functioning. Alas, despite hearing the ever so familiar humming of charger’s 50 kWh and best efforts by CHAdeMO team and Nissan staff, the screen of the charger remained blank and therefore the charger was of no use… As all pioneers do, we had to adapt to the situation. We opted for a 3-hour long slow-charge inside the dealer’s garage instead.
We stopped the charging at 6:30 pm, having reached 91% of the battery, which translated into 112 km of range shown on the meter. Since we had 106 km to cover to the next fast charger, we knew that the road was going to be a challenge… and it was indeed. When the ‘range left’ counter was showing 40 km and the GPS 45 km, the stress (and the real life range anxiety) started to kick in. But with a few tricks (slow driving, driving behind big trucks in the air corridors they create) we managed to turn the counter and upon arrival at the next charging station we still had 5 km left of the range.
However, a 3-hour charge in Nantes meant we were very delayed with our planning. Luckily for us, the charger manufacturer Grolleau, hidden in the hills of the Loire region, who had kindly offered their fast charger, waited for us despite the late hours (arriving at 20:30 at their factory!). We were greeted by company’s top management who offered for our use their fast charging device still in the testing stage, inside the warehouse of the company to charge to 100% (80% in 30 min and 20% in another 30 min). They also provided us with biscuits and juice for the next part of the road in case our 121 km of range shown on the km counter would not be enough to cover 113 km to our final stop. To our satisfaction, eco-driving skills of the pilot have spared us this pleasure and we arrived at our next destination, Nissan Migne-Auxance with 10 km left on the battery. A quick top up just to be ready for the morning and finished our route for the day.
In the end we managed to cover the planned distance of 330 km in approximately 11 hours. We fast-charged 3 times (12 min, 1h, 30 min) and slow charged once (3h). The conclusion of the day – travelling long distances in a CHAdeMO-compatible EV when there are CHAdeMO fast chargers on the way is perfectly doable and pleasant. However, the lack of a substantial fast-charging infrastructure (and their scattered character) means that a broken charger can destroy all the travelling plans and turn the journey into … well, an adventure.
Day 1 - Poitiers
The official day 1 of the rally. 41 rally teams comprising of marks such as Citroen, Peugeot, Nissan, Renault, Mia, Brandt Motors, Smart, I-CARE, B. Wood, Opel, Volvo and Tesla were greeted in front of Poitiers’ Hotel de Ville and offered a welcoming word by Segolene Royal, the president of the Regional Council of Poitou Charentes. Having decorated their cars with rally numbers and plugged them in in a local park for a night-long charge, the teams were all set and ready to compete in accuracy of the execution of the route and energy-saving driving the next day.
Day 2 – Poitiers – Niort – Arçay – La Rochelle, 165 km
A departure at 7:20 with EVs ‘full of juice’ after a night-long charge felt early, but the convivial atmosphere of the rally made up for the short night. We covered 165 km in a day, with a charging pause in Niort, a drive through the beautiful Marais Poitevin, a pause coffee-and-charge in ‘la Maison de Flore’ and a charge-and-visit in a depot of La Poste (who has the biggest fleet of EVs in France). No fast chargers on the way meant slow charging (= many picturesque pauses). And once arrived in La Rochelle, a CHAdeMO fast charger provided by EVTRONIC just for the occasion of the rally enabled to fast-charge all 10 participating CHAdeMO compatible vehicles. While others had to remain plugged-in overnight, Peugeot i-ONs, Citroen C-Zeros & Nissan LEAFs were all ready to go in less than 4 hours (all 10 cars!), with only one fast charger at work. A great relief for the organizers of the rally (no need to worry about the slow chargers for those EVs!) it also served as a good demonstration of the capabilities of CHAdeMO fast charge. We finished the day with a comfortable 80% of battery range and were made even happier by a joint call of the rally’s organizer Jean-François Villeret and AVERE’s president Joseph Beretta ‘to install more fast chargers’ on French roads!
Day 3 – La Rochelle – Angoulême, 165 km
Another early start, 7:31 am and another 165 km to cover, we started the day fully determined to continue our eco-driving and executing the rally route accurately. A pause-and-slow-charge in Rochefort was followed by a longer stop at the headquarters of Saintronic where all CHAdeMO-compatible cars were able to charge with the company’s in-house SGTE fast charger. A quick top-up, each vehicle getting to 80% of the battery in 20-30 min meant we could leave the slow-charging spots for those EVs that needed them (and get on the road before them!). After a lunch pause in Cognac during a charging time for EVs with smaller battery packs, we left to complete the last 56 km of the rally, this time with co-pilot taking over the wheel of CHAdeMO’s vehicle.
The final part of the rally ended in Place du Champ de Mars in Angouleme, where one vehicle per category (based on battery pack: more than 24 kWh, 24-18 kWh, 12-18 kWh and less than 12 kWh) was awarded for its eco-driving and route reading accuracy. Despite our best efforts, CHAdeMO-coloured EV did not win (we found out later that it was by a really narrow margin!), but a great consolation was the fact that the winner turned out to be the second Citroen C-Zero of the rally, participating in EDF’s colours.
The rally to its end, it was time to start the way back. Having descended from Rennes to Poitiers and then to Angouleme, the CHAdeMO-coloured C-Zero had another 414 km to get back. Apart from the new route between Angouleme-Poitiers, that included slow charging at a friendly EV driver’s house (no fast chargers in the close vicinity at the moment…), the route back meant re-tracing our own steps and fast-charging at the same CHAdeMO chargers. The now-working fast charger at Nissan Nantes enabled us to save some time (and stress!) and shortened the whole trip by a good few hours.
- CHAdeMO fast chargers can greatly facilitate a life of an EV driver and enable them to make longer distances and inter-city travels,
- However, due to insufficient infrastructure, long distance electric driving, even if in a CHAdeMO-compatible EV, is an adventure and one needs to be prepared for the ‘unforeseen circumstances’,
- We need more fast chargers on European roads, ideally one fast charger every 50 km as in some EV-advanced countries!
20 minutes Rennes, 17/09/2013