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The Great European Green Car Road Trip

At NewMotion, we are passionate about people choosing to go electric and charge smart - but we know many people aren’t aware of the benefits of EVs. We teamed up with a guest blogger to trial ‘green travel’ - read on to find out what happened…

Like many of you, I started my life as a driver with a ‘normal’ vehicle. I’ve been driving now for more than 10 years and recently decided that I wanted a change. My old car is ready to be replaced and I’ve become far more aware of my carbon footprint in recent years. Therefore, I consider buying an electric vehicle for the first time in my life. I want something new, something more environmentally friendly and something that can withstand a lot of driving.

I love to travel, and ever since I was a young boy I enjoyed exploring the world. I’ve been backpacking, stayed in hostels and island-hopped, but I’ve never tackled a travel trip by driving - so maybe I can combine my need for a new car and my love of travelling. But, a trip by EV raises some substantial questions for me. How far can I really travel with an electric vehicle? How long does it take to charge an electric car? Does the range of an electric car really make it suitable for a road trip? Sometimes there’s just no substitute for practical testing when it comes to questions like this, so with that in mind, I’ve decided to find out for myself. How? Well with an EV car European road trip! I’ll be renting an electric car and driving across Europe - combining ‘green travel’ with tourist travel.

The itinerary

When you’re travelling with a green car, one of the most important factors is going to be the EV charging stations and whether there are enough of these along the way. My car of choice is the Renault ZOE Z.E. 40. The Renault ZOE charge time is around two hours with 22kw charging points (it takes longer with lower powered charging stations, but that gives me more time for sightseeing!) and has a theoretical max electric range of 400km. For general use, the range is approximately 350-370km, which seems to be the perfect choice for heading out on a road trip around some of Europe’s most appealing foodie and cultural spots.

I’m setting out with an ambitious itinerary that will tell us once and for all whether the electric car really is suitable for long-haul trips.  We will be starting out in my home town of Amsterdam, then driving to Bruges, travelling on to Luxembourg, then Strasbourg, stopping at Lausanne and then Munich, followed by Frankfurt and Cologne before finally returning to Amsterdam.

Day 1 Amsterdam —> Bruges (250km)

Fortunately for me, a friend of mine is an EV user and has a NewMotion charge point installed in his home driveway. For non-Amsterdam residents though, there is a charging point a few streets over from my home in the Dam Square area, which is also close to several hotels. There are plenty of other charging points around Amsterdam, even outside the city centre, so it’s the perfect place for EVs. After making a quick stop, coffee and a catch-up whilst charging the car, I start off on my road trip!

Day 2 Bruges —> Luxembourg (300km)

The first step for me in Bruges is to find a charge point near me to fully load the vehicle. I’m using the NewMotion app, which gives me key information relating to more than 64,000 public charge points all over Europe so that I can find the closest one to my destination. I’ve got a NewMotion charge card, which means I can use all of these charge points without a subscription fee and pay for my costs by credit card. It also means that I can fast charge without incurring an extra fee - this is perfect for travelling, as if you’ve booked a slot somewhere for sightseeing or a tourist experience, you can charge quickly on a tight timeframe without worrying.

For today, I’m all about the chocolate - Belgians are connoisseurs of fine chocolate and there’s plenty of it here to indulge in, so I go to see where it’s made with a tour of a chocolate shop. At lunch time I pick up the Renault ZOE and drive to Luxembourg in just under three and a half hours. I’m keen to try the local speciality here which is Judd mat Gaardebounen - smoked collar of pork with broad beans – and sample some of the local Crémant de Luxembourg sparkling wine with dinner.

Day 3 Luxembourg —> Strasbourg (225km)

I’ve been staying near the Galerie Schortgen in Luxembourg, which is two streets from the Renault ZOE charging station. So, this morning while the car charges, I head off for some sightseeing. I take in the Pfaffenthal Lift, the Pont Adolphe bridge and the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral – and when I get back to the car it’s fully charged. Then it’s on to Strasbourg, which is just over two hours to drive. Whilst spending so much time driving between destinations, I’ve noticed a real difference in the EV compared to a normal car. It’s comfortable, quiet - and has the added bonus of being eco-friendly!

Day 4 Strasbourg —> Lausanne (337km)

Strasbourg is the capital city of the Grand Est region (formerly Alsace) and current seat of the European Parliament. It’s also home to a very convenient charging point near the Parc de L’Etoile. It’s raining today so I can’t do the segway tour I was interested in and instead wander around Petite France – the beautiful historic quarter – with coffee and enjoy the rather majestic Strasbourg Cathedral. It’s Alsatian specialities for lunch today: choucroute and an incredible onion tart. After that I head off to pick up the car and drive through rainy conditions without much trouble, making my way to Lausanne.

Day 5 Lausanne —> Munich (532km)

When I arrive in Lausanne I’m pretty tired and need to have an early start tomorrow so I head for the Pathé Flon Lausanne movie theatre to catch a film (which is conveniently close to a public charger station). These public installations make my journey so much easier and so far I haven’t had to worry at all about running out of power. The next morning I’m up at the crack of dawn to see something of Lausanne – my main priority is to enjoy Lake Geneva while no one else is up and then spend some time at the Olympic Museum. By the time I set off for Munich later in the day, the sun is shining brightly.

Day 6 Munich —> Frankfurt (392km)

The drive to Munich yesterday afternoon was a long one, although I was very lucky with the weather and had a beautifully sunny drive. Given the distance from Lausanne to Munich, I made a charging stop in Zurich to power up the car. The publicly accessible charging points have been really convenient on the trip so far - there was another one located by my hotel near Isartorplatz when I arrived, which was a blessing considering I was so tired! Today, I’m feeling refreshed and start out with a traditional Bavarian breakfast – salty bread, white sausage and mustard. Yum! I want to do something a bit different today so I head for the Rathaus-Glockenspiel mechanical clock and time it just right for a chiming. I find the Weiße Rose Pavement Memorial, which is a powerful memorial to a group of Germans who fearlessly opposed the Nazis here in Munich. Later in the afternoon, I get pleasantly lost in Munich’s Old Town. Then it’s time to head to Frankfurt, which turns out to be a straightforward four hour drive in rather dull conditions – made better by German radio!

Day 7 Frankfurt —> Cologne  (190km)

I’ve nearly finished my road trip now, but in Frankfurt I do a bit of shopping near Konstablerwache in the morning. I’ve made a list of a few sites I really want to visit, including the symbolic Paulskirche and the Town Hall. Fortunately, there’s a charging point conveniently close by! Then it’s a quick two hour jaunt to Cologne, where the Heumarkt charging points are just around the corner from the Hard Rock Café. After a burger late lunch/early dinner I check into my hotel – in the evening I’m booked in to see some awesome cabaret at Star-Treff.

The home leg Cologne —> Amsterdam (263km)

Today I’ve got a three hour journey back to Amsterdam but before I go, I visit the Hohenzollern Bridge and leave a padlock there – the bridge is covered in “love locks” left by visitors. I do one of the guided tours designed by the Cologne Tourist Board and pay a quick visit to a brewery - although just to satisfy my curiosity, I won’t be drinking! Then, finally, I make the three hour trip back to Amsterdam as the day is coming to an end. I return the car somewhat reluctantly to the rental service and head home for a well-earned rest.

It’s been an action-packed seven days on this trip and an experience I’d highly recommend! Charging the car has been simple, with public charge points in plenty of convenient locations, I’ve never had to worry about not having enough charge to make my itinerary – despite covering several thousand kilometers (2,489 in total)! I’ve loved this road trip and I’d absolutely do another one with a green car like this - I have officially been converted. I’m definitely considering buying an EV for my next car… now all I need to do is choose where I’ll be headed next!