A round-up of our 2 week family trip in an Electric car – the BMW i3s

Published by lucy rigley on

We were so lucky to visit so many amazing places – this was Snowdonia

So it’s a few weeks since we came back from our trip so we’ve had plenty of time to mull it over and think about how we got on. I must admit to feeling a bit deflated since we returned – we still miss the BMW i3s (we were only lent it for 3 weeks) and are hoping with all the new electric cars that are being released that second hand ones will shoot down in price soon so we can own one in the not too distant future! I’m a huge fan of electric cars but, with anything that is new, the majority of us need to wait until the costs comes down until we can own one.

I’m really glad to have had positive feedback from my blog and social media – friends told me that it looked like it was exhausting and not worth the hassle but it definitely was – any long journey travelling with the kids would be tiring but it did throw up a few things we hadn’t thought of. I’m currently pondering which way to go with my blog and facebook page – if any of you have good ideas let me know – it seems a shame not to continue with it but as I now don’t have an electric car to drive, I’m unsure of how to continue it.

The boys loved the car and the trip

For now, at long last, here are some of our top tips about travelling as a family in an electric car:

Trust the electric car’s range 

Overall it was much easier than we expected – the car was a breeze to drive – so much so that we got back after a few hours journey and Mike straight away wanted to get driving again so went to the shops to stock up the fridge! My worries about running out of charge soon subsided as soon as we had driven for the first full day realised we could totally trust the range. One thing I’d change in the future is not to stop too often – after 40 miles on the first was a bit silly on the first day but as it was the hottest day of the year (so not that pleasant to drive in), and we hadn’t had much chance to drive the car, we panicked and charged more than we should. So my first tip would be to trust an electric car’s range. Yes, using air con does drain the charge a bit – but when we switched that on, it only went down by about 10 miles for the whole trip. I had visions of it halving it from what I’d heard!

This was near Cambridge – at the same time the hottest ever temperature in the UK had been recorded. In Cambridge!

Enjoy feeling smug

Going back to the noise – we had to keep telling the kids to shut up as they are used to shouting in a car to drown the engine noise out! As well as being quiet, less smelly and being even easier to drive than an automatic (with one pedal accelerating / braking) you will soon feel smug for using virtually no energy to get around in and also for driving a pretty unusual looking car – we got some stares! I definitely feel more guilty now I’m back to driving an ‘ICE’ car. I do think, however, if I did get an EV car that I’d get more lazy as I’d drive shorter distances more – I cycle or walk for 99% of the journeys I do locally but there’d definitely be a temptation to drive more with an EV!

Make time to plan your trip well

I think the main downside of doing such a long trip was having to plan ahead so much. I’m definitely someone who often goes with the flow and doesn’t plan too much so it was quite hard to get my head around having to plan routes and stops rather than just thinking ‘oh it’s about time to stop let’s visit a petrol station’. As it is, with children, you need to stop at least every 2 hours anyway so in reality we didn’t have many more stops than we normally would.

Check the speed of a charger before you go and use it.

We factored in 2 stops at big shopping centres. Once we met friends so it wasn’t out of the way at all for us, but we found that the chargers at these big shopping centres seem to be really slow, hence it meant both times we needed to do a quick top up soon after in nearby hotels. If you have an EV, then topping up a charge this way is brilliant and free! If you’re at the centre a few hours it isn’t out of the way at all to just trickle charge. I now know the difference between speeds and types of chargers – definitely worth doing research on if you are going to be charging a lot in ‘the open’.

It’s not always obvious how fast an Electric Car charger is!

Plan your journey to include destination chargers

This really was a fantastic way to travel in an EV – we charged overnight at a couple of hotels with the slower chargers and some hotels had quick chargers where we charged and unpacked then moved the car quickly after. These are called destination chargers as you charge while at your destination so you’re not having to hang around at all for it to charge. Just be aware of any charges for overstaying on the rapid chargers. Destination chargers can also be great at places like days out (see above & below) where you can charge while shopping or having fun.

Always have a Plan B

Make sure you have a backup charger in mind in case you find one out of use or someone is already plugged in. At the Eden Project with 16 miles left, we found all 3 free chargers were in use so we had drive around to find the expensive rapid charger which was there – the downside of this meant it ate into some of our day.

Our Plan B at the Eden Project

If you can, don’t travel on your own on long journeys in an EV

We found having a passenger who could navigate to be so handy. We didn’t get on too well with the i3’s navigation system (another post about that soon!) so used Google Maps and apps such as PlugShare and Zap-Map to be invaluable – they had the nearest chargers, what sort they were and if they were available. I also enjoyed submitting photos and reviews – they have a great community feel.

The i3 Sat Nav wasn’t the easiest to understand!

Try not to get annoyed at Hybrids charging 

This is a difficult one for me – I think hybrids should be allowed to charge, but only for the amount of charge they need – not to hog a charger for hours. Sometimes we found that they charged for a few minutes then moved on which was perfect, others had been parked there hours which is very annoying when you are needing 200 miles of charge and they only need 30 and have an engine too! I believe the solution for this is to charge something for busy chargers so everyone gets a chance to charge. It would also stop people topping up their charge too.

But do get annoyed at ICE cars parking in the way!

Luckily for us, only once did we find ICE cars parked in the way – at a Welsh hotel where they obviously didn’t get many EV cars. We managed to plug in fine by parking in the way of their bins so all was fine. But I really feel for people who desperately need to charge and find a car or van or something else parked in their way!

Who’s that in our space?!

Keep the kids occupied

As with any long journey you need to factor in ways in which to keep the kids occupied. I will do a separate post about that but I really needn’t have worried too much – stopping often, going to new places and having tablets, books and audio books was enough really for them. I recommend getting Audible for the car and Dobble when eating out. For our boys the novelty of going away helped too – talking about the places we would visit and them learning about the car was both exciting and educational.

Don’t plan to stay at too many hotels to stay at if you have kids

Talking about children, we did find the trip exhausting. Not just the planning, navigating & driving but partly as each time we arrived somewhere different (I think we stayed in 11 different places) the kids got overly excited and wouldn’t go to sleep until really late – so by the end of the holiday they were absolutely exhausted and ready for their own beds! In future, I would suggest staying in each at least a couple of nights so at least there is not as much packing and moving on to be done or as many beds to bounce on!

Have fun

I admit to being quite apprehensive and worried about going on the journey – only having a few days to get used to the i3 and hearing horror stories of people running out of charge meant I had all sorts of thoughts going round my head but do you know what – it was so much fun! It wasn’t an easy trip so if you’re someone who likes sitting by a pool for your holidays then don’t do it but if you’re up for a challenge and adventure then I really recommend it. Just maybe go in an electric car with a bit more boot space!

What an ace car!

1 Comment

Neil Plumridge · October 25, 2019 at 7:52 pm

A great write up, with lots of useful EV driving tips. I’ve had my i3s for a month now and we’ve planned a trip to North Wales next week, so we may visit some of the places you stopped at.

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