Electric Cars / Employee / Salary Sacrifice

Driving to Belgium, in an electric car

As EVs become a common sight on our roads, more and more drivers are using them to head off on a holiday or road trip across the continent. Our very own Katie Brown, Communications Manager at Tusker, recently drove her family to Center Parcs in Belgium in her Audi e-tron 50 which has an electric range of circa 180 miles.

Katie found that the continent’s charging network was really comprehensive which helped the family further enjoy their holiday in their EV. This included the bonus of finding free 22kW charging in a well-known supermarket on the way!

Read her diary blog about her trip below which includes some useful tips for when you next take your EV abroad.

Preparation is key!

The one thing I’ve learnt from being an EV driver is that you always need to be prepared before making a long trip to ensure you have charging capabilities on your journey. When we decided to drive all the way to Belgium, we knew that to have a successful road trip, we’d need to be super prepared with our journey planning. Our pre-holiday prep included ensuring our car had a full charge at home before travel, downloading the chargemap app so we could locate EU chargers, and downloading the app from Ionity for our planned charge at Folkestone.

Thursday 25th August (Hemel Hempstead to Folkestone – 104 miles)

An excited family of four left home at 7pm on Thursday evening once we knew the traffic would have died down and we made our way to Folkestone where we had a hotel booked overnight so we could start our drive abroad fresh the following morning. As we arrived in Folkestone, we stopped to charge the car at an IONITY charger, which was very near the hotel, before we checked in so the car would be fully charged and ready for our adventure through France the following day.

Charged via the IONITY app, total stop time 32minutes, cost of full charge £36

Friday 26th AugustFolkestone to Lommel – 182 miles

We had booked a 10.30am crossing and wanted to get to the terminal for around 9am and we were pleasantly surprised to see a bank of charge points in the terminal so we could have chanced a last-minute charge without issue. We boarded the train in the car and got onto the road in Calais without a problem. Knowing we wouldn’t get all the way to Lommel in Belgium on a single charge (only by a few miles annoyingly), we stopped at a charge point en route in a small town called Gentbrugge for a quick charge to top up – we went from 44% to 100% in 30minutes – so plenty of time to stretch our legs, get a coffee at a nearby cafe and let the dog have a quick walk.

Total cost of 56% charge, £28

During the holiday in Belgium, we decided to stop at a supermarket for some groceries and were delighted to find that Lidl offered free charging to customers – result! We did our shopping while the car was on charge for 30 minutes and got around 30% charge while we were there (as it was only a 22kWh charger) which saved us a few £s!

Total cost of 30% charge – £0

We were all really happy to arrive at our accommodation, Centre Parcs de Vossemeren, where they had 4 working charge points which allowed us to fully charge the car on our last day, so we had a full ‘tank’ for our journey home.

Total cost of full charge £23

Return journey – Lommel, Belgium to Hemel Hempstead, England – total journey 313 miles

Friday 2nd September

After a fantastic week at Center Parcs, we left with some fantastic memories (as well as a full charge) and stopped on the way at Lidl for a free top up charge and to break up the journey  but unfortunately, it was out of service. We did try and call the chargepoint provider and the people at the end of the phone were really helpful and reset the machine for us but they couldn’t get it to work so we had to abandon that charge.

Fortunately, as our route back was on more rural roads (thanks Google!) we had enough charge to get to Calais so although there multiple charge points locally, we decided to continue on our journey. When we arrived at Eurotunnel at Calais, we charged the car again so we could get straight home to Hemel Hempstead without having to stop again. The Engie charge points at the Eurotunnel required an app download, but very straightforward once we changed the language settings to English! We were at only 30 miles range when we arrived at the tunnel, so filled the car to full for £24

Points to note

Each of the charge points in France and Belgium asked us to download their app to charge. Not an issue at all, but they don’t offer contactless on many charge points yet so it isn’t as straightforward as in the UK. There wasn’t a problem though, as mobile signal is the same as in the UK.

Zap-Map is usually my preferred map of charge points in the UK, but it doesn’t cover Europe fully yet. I therefore downloaded Chargemap’s app to find the charge points before we left the UK. It didn’t cover them all but gave us a good starting point. From there, we had a few preferred operators as we already had the apps, which also showed how many were available and which were out of service, so we chose those over others to minimise wasted holiday time.

The main thing I took away from our week, was not to worry. There are literally hundreds of charge points in Europe, many more fast and rapid chargers than in the UK and most sites had several 50/60kWh chargers as well as 120 and 350kWh chargers too. Some require an RFID card, some require an app, but they are plentiful, even in more rural areas outside of the big cities. At no point was charging an issue, even though we travelled about a bit. And of course, everyone speaks English, so we didn’t have to worry even when we phoned for assistance in France, as we were immediately accommodated (if not a little embarrassed to be a typical English person with no language skills!)

If you would like to learn more about driving in Europe: https://tuskercars.com/knowledge-hub/driving-in-the-eu-after-brexit/ 

We had a blast on our holiday (plus, Center Parcs was an ideal holiday for us – see photo below) and will definitely be returning to Europe in an EV. So, if you are in doubt, just do it!

Interested in finding out more?