This weekend just-gone was my father's 90th birthday, so since we don't go to Wales very often, we figured we should head down to visit. As this would be our first major journey in the Ioniq (I've done Manchester to Cambridge a few times now, but this is almost 3 times further) we took an additional day off (Friday) so that we could easily get from our home in southern Manchester to my parent's house in St Davids, Pembrokeshire.
I am not someone to enter into these experiences lightly. I spent several hours consulting with zap-map and also Google maps, looking at chargers en-route. In the UK there's a significant number of chargers on the motorway system provided by Ecotricity but this infrastructure is not pervasive and doesn't really extend beyond the motorway service stations (and some IKEAs). I made my plan for the journey to Wales, ensuring that each planned stop was simply the first in a line of possible stops in order that if something went wrong, I'd have enough charge to move forwards from there.
First leg took us from our home to the Ecotricity charger at Hilton Park Southbound services. My good and dear friend Tim very kindly offered to charge us for free and he used one of his fifty-two free charges to top us up. This went flawlessly and set us in a very good mood for the journey to come. Since we would then have a very long jump from the M5 to the M4, we decided that our second charge would be to top-up at Chateau Impney which has a Polar charger. Unfortunately by this point the wind and rain were up and the charger failed to work properly, eventually telling us that its input voltages were unbalanced and then powering itself off entirely. We decided to head to the other Polar charger at Webbs of Wychbold. That charger started up fine so we headed in, had a loo visit, grabbed some lunch, watched the terrapins swimming around, and when a sufficient time had passed for the car to charge, headed back only to discover that it had emergency-stopped mere moments after we'd left the car, so we had no charge for the entire time we were there. No matter we thought - we'd sit in the car while it charged, and eat our lunch. Sadly we were defeated, the charger repeatedly e-stopped, so we gave up.
Our fallback position was to charge at the Strensham services at the M5/M50 junction. Sadly the southbound services have no chargers at all (they're under a lot of building work right now, so perhaps that's part of it) so we had to get to the northbound services and charge there. That charge went fine, and with a £2.85 bill from Ecotricity automatically paid, we snuck our way along back-roads and secret junctions to the southbound services, and headed off down the M50. Sadly we're now a lot later than we should have been, having lost about ninety minutes in total to the wasted time at the two Polar chargers, which meant that we hit a lot of congestion at Monmouth and around Newport on the M4.
We made it to Cardiff Gate where we plugged in, set it charging, and then headed into the service area where we happened to meet my younger brother who was heading home too. He went off, and I looked at the Ecotricity app on my phone which had decided at that point that I wasn't charging at all. I went out to check, the charger was still delivering current, so, chalking it up to a bit of a de-sync, we went in, had a coffee and a relax, and then headed out to the car to wait for it to finish charging. It finished, we unplugged, and headed out. But to this day I've not been charged by Ecotricity for that so "yay".
Our final stop along the M4 was Swansea West. Unfortunately the Pont Abraham services don't have a rapid charger compatible with my car so we have to stop earlier. Fortunately there are three chargers at Swansea West. Unfortunately the CCS was plugged into an i3 which wasn't charging but was set to keep the connector locked in so I couldn't snarf it. I plugged into a slower (AC) charger to get a bit of juice while we went in to wait for the i3 owner to leave. I nipped out after 10 minutes and conveniently they'd gone, so I swapped the car over to the CCS charger and set it going. 37 minutes later and that charger had actually worked, charged me up, and charged me a princely £5.52 for the privilege.
From here we nipped along the A48/A40, dropped in on my sister-in-law to collect a gift for my father, and then got to St Davids at around nine pm. A mere eleven hours after we left Manchester. By comparison, when I drove a Passat, I would leave Manchester at 3pm, drive 100 fewer miles, and arrive at around 9pm, having had a few nice stops for loo breaks and dinner.
Saturday it had been raining quite hard overnight, St Davids has one (count it, ONE) charger compatible with my car (type 2 in this instance) but fortunately it's free to use (please make donation in the tourist-information-office). Unfortunately after the rain, the parking space next to the charger was under a non-trivial amount of water, so poor Rob had to mountaineer next to the charger to plug in without drowning. We set the car charging and went to have a nice breakfast in St Davids. A few hours later, I wandered back up to the car park with Rob and we unplugged and retrieved the car. Top marks for the charger, but a pity the space was a swimming pool.
Sunday morning dawned bright and early we headed out to Llandewi Velfrey to visit my brother who runs Silverstone Green Energy. We topped up there and then headded to Sarn Parc at his suggestion. It's a nice service area, unfortunately the AC/Chademo charger was giving 'Remote Start Error' so the Leaf there was on the Chademo/CCS charger. However as luck would have it, that charger was on free-vend, so once we got on the charger (30m later or so) we got to charge for free. Thanks Ecotricity.
From Sarn Parc, we decided that since we'd had such a good experience at
Strensham North, we'd go directly there. We arrived with 18m to spare in the
"tank" but unfortunately the CCS/Chademo charger was broken (with an error
along the lines of
PWB1 is 0x0008) and there was an eGolf there which also
had wanted to use CCS but had to charge slowly in order to get enough range to
get to another charger. As a result we had to sit there for an hour to wait
for him to have enough in his 'tank' that he was prepared to let us charge. We
then got a "full" 45 minute charge (£1.56, 5.2kWh) which gave us enough to get
north again to Chateau Impney (which had been marked working again on Zap-map).
The charge there worked fine (yay) so we drove on north to Keele services. We arrived in the snow/hail/rain (yay northern weather) found the charger, plugged in, tried to set it going using the app, and we were told "Unable to contact charger". So I went through the process again and we were told "Charger in use". It bloody well wasn't in use, because I was plugged into it and it definitely wasn't charging my car. We waited for the rain to die down again and looked at the charger, which at that moment said "Connect vehicle" and then it started up charging the car (yay). We headed in for a loo and dinner break. Unfortunately the app couldn't report on progress but it had started charging so we were confident we'd be fine. More fool us. It had stopped charging moments after we'd left the car and once again we wasted time because it wasn't charging when we thought it was. We returned, discovered the car hadn't charged, but then discovered the charger had switched to free-vend so we charged up again for free, but that was another 40 minute wait.
Finally we got home (via a short stop at the pub) and on Monday I popped along to a GMEV rapid charger, and it worked perfectly as it has every single time I've used it.
So, in conclusion, the journey was reasonably cheap, which is nice, but we had two failed charge attempts on Polar, and several Ecotricity cockups (though they did mostly end up in our favour in terms of money) which cost us around 90 to 120 minutes in each direction. The driving itself (in the Ioniq) was fine and actually meant I wasn't frazzled and unhappy the whole time, but the charging infrastructure is simply not good enough. It's unreliable, Ecotricity don't have support lines at the weekend (or evenings/early mornings), and is far too sparse to be useful when one wishes to travel somewhere not on the motorway network. If I'd tried to drive my usual route, I'd have had to spend four hours in Aberystwyth using my granny charger to put about 40 miles in the tank from a public 3 pin socket.