Everyone told me that I was crazy. That I’d never make it to such a remote part of Scotland. That I’d spend hours at charging stations. That I could potentially run out of electricity and be stranded.
But their words of discouragement did anything but deter me from the task that I had set out to do. In fact I felt inspired to prove everyone wrong.
I was going to drive 300 miles into the Scottish highlands in an electric vehicle as a test trip to see if an electric vehicle was the right car for me to purchase. I was already pretty set on purchasing one due to the environmental benefits of the car. But it felt strange to purchase something so different to what I was used to driving without trying it out first. Plus, I was looking forward to the challenge.
Why Switch to Electric Vehicles?
The world is facing its most severe crisis in history – climate change. Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, the planet has started to increase in temperature at an exponential rate. There are many human activities that are to blame for this temperature rise including burning fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels including petroleum (petrol for short) are a huge contributor to not only climate change but in toxic gases in the atmosphere, water pollution and land degradation.
It is therefore essential that we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. There are countless ways to do this such as switching to greener energy sources. Another way is to switch to an electric car.
A study found that in America the transportation sector was the largest source of emissions. In fact nearly 30% of emissions were released from transportation.
Experts agree that electric vehicles are far greener than petrol or diesel vehicles over their lifetime, with a paper being published stating that if the world switched to electric vehicles, net emissions would reduce.
There are complications, however. Much of the electricity produced globally comes from fossil fuels. Despite this, the amount of emissions created would still be lower than driving a gas powered vehicle.
Renting an Electric Vehicle in the UK
Now that I’d decided I was going to drive an electric vehicle to Scotland I needed to find a car to drive. I was pretty set on driving in a Tesla. The company were leaps and bounds ahead of all other EVs in terms of their technology and charging network, being the only EV company to have designated superchargers which are said to charge the car in under an hour.
Unsurprisingly, not many rental companies offered Teslas. When hiring a car I always choose small, independent companies. However, that was looking unlikely in this instance. The closest independent hire company was located over an hour away from where I was based.
Therefore I ended up hiring a car from Enterprise. I wasn’t too thrilled due to all the bad reviews they have amassed online. However, the company was actually okay to deal with. They arranged for the Tesla to be delivered to my local Enterprise and off I went on my road trip.
Introducing my Electric Vehicle: Tesla Model S
I was pretty excited about the car I had just collected. The Tesla Model S is not only an eco-friendly car but it is very luxurious and very, very quick.
In my mind I almost envisioned electric cars as being sensible and boring. But this car couldn’t be further from that image.
The acceleration on Teslas is crazy, the fastest Model S going from 0 to 60 mph in just under 2 seconds! The Tesla I was hiring today wasn’t quite that quick but 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds is still something.
The technology in Teslas is also something to rave about. My rental car had self-driving features such as the ability to drive itself on motorways. I was very much looking forward to testing this out on my trip as the vast majority of it would be on motorways.
The Tesla Model S has a 360 mile range (405 miles if you have a long range version) which places it firmly within the top 5 electric cars when it comes to range. This means the car should technically be able to travel 360 miles in a full charge.
The key word is technically. Range figures refer to a car driving in perfect conditions along straight, flat roads whilst going consistent speeds. It means you don’t have the air-con blasting at you or your heated seats on.
It is also worth noting that most car manufacturers recommend you never actually charge your car to 100% as it degenerates the battery. 70% or 80% is considered the optimum battery level in order to keep the battery in good condition.
My Route to Scotland
I had accommodation booked in the small village of Kenmore in the Scottish highlands. Kenmore is a gorgeous village, perched on the banks of Loch Tay, the sixth largest loch in Scotland.
From my base in Manchester the drive would cover 280 miles and would take an estimated 5 hours.
1 hour and 15 minutes of that drive would be on country roads in Scotland covering a distance of 40 miles. The rest of the drive would be on a combination of motorways and A roads.
Planning My 300 Mile Trip to Scotland
As electric vehicles are so new, charging stations are not as common as petrol stations. Therefore I had to do a little more planning for my road trip than I would have done with a normal vehicle.
Fortunately Teslas have access to the Tesla supercharger network and when you pop your route into the sat-nav it shows you where all the superchargers on route are located. It even goes so far as to recommend exactly which chargers you stop to on route and also tells you how much charge you would have to reach your destination and back again.
Of course, you can charge your electric vehicle at any public electric vehicle charger. These can be found at a lot more service stations than Tesla superchargers. However, there is normally only 1 or 2 of these at each set of services (compared to between 4 and 8 Tesla superchargers per set of services) and these take immensely longer times to charge your car. I’m talking up to 12 hours!
I was encouraged by the car’s capability of planning its route and also the number of chargers available on the motorway segment of the route. But being completely new to electric cars, part of me was still concerned about whether or not the car could accurately predict if it would make it to a location on a certain amount of charge. I was what is known as a ‘range phobe’ – someone who is terrified of the range of electric cars.
The last supercharger on my route was still several hours away from my end destination. Not only did I need to have enough charge to reach my end destination but I needed enough charge to reach the destination and return to the supercharger. I had no idea if there were any electric vehicle charges at my destination.
Things were getting a little complicated.
The car was assuring me that it was possible to do the trip but I was nervous at how tight it was going to be.
The supercharger closest to Kenmore was in Abington, Scotland – over 2 hours and 100 miles away from my destination in Scotland. With perfect driving conditions my Tesla would make it to Kenmore and back to Abington in 200 miles, leaving me with only 160 miles to play with. 160 miles that may well be lost whilst navigating winding country roads in Scotland.
It looked like once I reached Kenmore I wouldn’t be able to drive the car at all until I decided to come home!
I just prayed that there would be some electric vehicle chargers in Kenmore.
So How Was The Journey?
Ignoring my niggling doubts about if the car would be able to make it to Kenmore, the journey went incredibly smoothly.
The Tesla was an absolute joy to drive. The car has ‘regenerative breaking’ which means as soon as you take your foot of the accelerator, the car breaks which, in turn, charges the battery. I loved this feature. It made the drive feel incredibly controlled.
The autopilot feature on the motorway was wonderful. Due to safety features I had to keep my hands on the wheel and had to constantly reassure the car that I was there. However, the car stuck to its lane, keeping a consistent speed unless it had to slow down due to another driver on the road. It would turn with the road and even let me know when it thought I should overtake another car (I would have to approve the movement in order for it to happen).
I found the autopilot to be a very safe feature as often I find myself thinking about so much at once when driving and by taking away some of the responsibility, I actually found myself noticing a lot more of what was going on around me so I felt like a safer driver.
Charging at the superchargers was also pleasant. At each supercharger I stopped at there were a couple of other Teslas there and it was interesting to chat to their owners. I may have required a little bit of guidance with how to charge my car at the first charger I went to!
The car really didn’t take long to charge. Once I’d bought myself a tea and used the toilet at the services, the car was always nearly up to charge. The only time it took longer was when I decided to charge it to 100% at Abington (the last charger before Kenmore). It turns out that the last bit of charge happens incredibly slowly!
Did I make it to Scotland?
I arrived at Kenmore with 100 miles left on the car. This wasn’t encouraging for returning to Abington services! However, to my absolute relief I discovered there were 4 electric vehicle charges at my accommodation. I could have danced with delight! This meant I could charge the car each night and thus use the car whilst I was staying in Scotland. It also meant I could return to Abington services with ample charge.
Even if the accommodation didn’t have an electric vehicle charger, I could have found another one nearby. There was another set located near Loch Tay marina which you could use if you purchased something from the store or restaurant. Finally, all Teslas come with adaptors so you can charge them off of normal power sockets so in a worst-case scenario I could charge the car out of the window of my accommodation! Thankfully, that was not required.
Things Are Only Getting Better!
Since my road trip in an electric vehicle in summer 2020, infrastructure has in fact improved – dramatically. Here are some of the positive changes.
More Tesla Superchargers
Even more superchargers have appeared, including one in Glasgow which is even closer to Kenmore than Abington.
Superchargers are Even Faster
The superchargers themselves have improved. Whereas it took around 30 minutes to charge on this trip (from around 40% to 80%) it now takes more like 15 minutes for the same amount of power.
This is as a result of them being upgraded from Type 2 plug (fast charging – approx 75 miles range per 30 mins of charging) to Combined Charging System (rapid charging – approx 85-200 miles range per 30 mins of charging).
Rapid Electric Charging Stations are Appearing
It’s also good news if your electric vehicle is not a Tesla as more and more rapid electric charging stations are appearing.
Gone are the days where you have to wait up to 12 hours to charge!
Most chargers appear to me Type 2 chargers which is a great improvement from the slow chargers which used to dominate the roads.
It is highly likely that much more Combined Charging Systems appear as electric cars get more and more popular.
Despite my initial ‘range phobia’, I was extremely impressed with the Tesla. I was so impressed that I went ahead and purchased a Tesla Model 3. I loved the fact that the car wasn’t pumping any fumes into the atmosphere and found it an absolute joy to drive. Seriously, once you’ve driven a Tesla, it’s hard to go back!
I’m always keen to do as much as I can for the planet. That’s why I installed a charger for my electric vehicle at my home. I use an energy supplier who only uses renewable energy so I am happy knowing that my car only runs off green energy – no fossil fuels involved.
I have also been pleased to see more people around me purchasing electric vehicles. Friends and relatives now have them and everyone who has purchased one has been happy.
I definitely think going electric is the way forward and cannot wait for the day when all cars on our roads don’t pump fumes into the atmosphere.