Last year I asked if 2014 was the year to buy an electric car. Despite some reservations about cost and range, we did finally take the plunge in November and bought ourselves a lovely little Renault Zoe.
We have absolutely loved the car and found it perfect for our daily use. We actually kept our diesel car for three months in case we needed to make a long journey, but it didn’t happen. So we sold the other car and haven’t needed it since, but the one thing that was bothering me was the idea that we could no longer drive to mainland Europe on holiday, which we absolutely love doing.
Driven by this inner frustration, something snapped in my brain recently and I convinced myself that we could drive to Ghent in Belgium, one of our favourite cities. I had seen a post on the website My Renault Zoe about Surya, who drove from Belgium to the UK in a Zoe, so I thought it must be possible the other way.
Planning our first long distance electric journey
A bit of research showed me that there are a lot of charge points in Belgium, especially Type 2 Mennekes chargers that the Renault Zoe uses. The question then was whether we could actually use the chargers and whether they were located conveniently for our route.
A bit like the UK, I found that Belgium has several charging networks that each have their own membership schemes. However, I found a Dutch network called The New Motion that has partnerships with many of these networks and whose members can therefore charge throughout Holland, Belgium, Germany and beyond. I phoned them up to ask about membership and they told me that I could not get a membership card because I would need a Dutch or German bank account to register on my account. However, they suggested contacting Charge Your Car in the UK.
I didn’t have a Charge Your Car (CYC) membership card but when I went on their website I saw that their latest news article was announcing their two way partnership with The New Motion. I emailed them to ask if this was already in action and they confirmed, so I applied for the membership card.
This should have been enough, but to be honest I was really getting worried that our car would be stranded in Belgium if the CYC card didn’t work, especially because The New Motion is a Dutch network and so by going to Belgium we would be using chargers operated by partners of a partner of CYC. I needed a backup plan!
First, I asked our friend Dan if we could borrow his Granny cable, which he kindly agreed to. This should mean that we could charge from a regular wall socket in a worst case scenario, so long as the Granny cable worked with a European plug adapter fitted. Secondly, I found a German network called PlugSurfing that also covers much of Belgium, and would hopefully work as a fall back if the CYC card didn’t work. I also made a long list of chargers near our route in case any were out of action, including Renault dealers in western Belgium that have charge points. If all else fails, surely Renault can charge us up!
The journey to Belgium
We headed towards Dover and charged up at the Ecotricity point at the service station in Maidstone. However, it is 34 miles from Dover and I wanted to have as much range as possible when we got off the other side in Dunkerque. We therefore made what was supposed to be a quick stop in Ashford to use the 22kW charger in the Vicarage Lane car park. The charger worked perfectly and we were back to 99% in 20 minutes, but finding the car park took us ages!! Let’s just say that Ashford’s town planners are very creative!
Read more: Live Wholesome