Tower Bridge to Tuscany in a Tesla
When thinking about the future, we need to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.” For Alfonso, that solution is about so much more than rhetoric. It’s about taking real action to make a genuine difference. And at LeasePlan UK, that action starts with Alfonso himself.
Leading by example, Alfonso, the Managing Director of LeasePlan UK, was the first driver in our internal fleet to switch to electric back in 2019. (Today, every single LeasePlan UK employee that’s eligible for a company car drives a zero-carbon vehicle.) Then, in September 2021, rather than taking an emission-loaded return flight to visit their son and grand-daughter in Tuscany, Alfonso and his wife embarked on a more than 3,000-mile round trip from their home in central London, driving their Tesla Model X.
The aim? To prove that EVs aren’t just for short commutes; with a little planning, they’re also perfectly viable for long-distance journeys. Sure, a road-trip to Italy is time-consuming. But when you’re the MD of one of the UK’s most environmentally conscious fleet leasing companies and you believe in personal accountability, you live by the mantra that green is the way to go.
Visiting family in Italy was the driving reason behind the trip
Our son, daughter in law and baby granddaughter live in Italy and after months of not being able to see them I took the opportunity, as soon as I could, to take my EV, jump in it and enjoy a nice road trip.
Adding a bit more than 3,000 miles to our Tesla and having the chance to visit beautiful natural areas in Tuscany: Sea, mountains and Firenze (Florence) made the trip one to remember. In Tuscany, we also made regular trips to the Alpi Apuane in search of some adventurer hiking.
My current car is a Tesla Model X but it’s not my first EV! When I was working in Italy, I used to drive a Mistubishi i-MiEV to work and around town so I would say I’m more of an experienced EV driver.
The route taken: From London to Tuscany
I took the Eurostar and, on the way, crossed France (Saint Quentin, Reims, Troyes, Dijon and Chamonix) then entered Italy in Aosta down to Genoa and the Garfagnana Valley where we spent a week. Then on to Firenze, Lucca, Pisa, Livorno and several trips to the Alpi Apuane to finish in Varese where we left the family and headed back home.
On the way back we took a slightly different route. One that crossed Gotthard Pass and went through Switzerland. We made sure to stop in France, enjoying Mulhouse and Saint Quentin before getting the Eurostar back to Folkestone.
I covered +3k miles and used the Tesla Superchargers most of the time. When in Italy I used the Italian public charging network, which in most of cases were still free for the early EV adopters.
The first long trip in an EV: what’s different
It’s my very first long trip in a fully electric car and the main change compared to driving an internal combustion engine car is that I now stop every 2hrs or so, for a battery top up. This typically takes 15-20 minutes or longer if we stopped for lunch or a nap. This new way of driving made the trip a little longer but not by much. We were definitely more relaxed and rested with the extra stops, which is good for your attention levels on the road.
Most of the route was on highways and some planning was needed
I travelled at normal road speeds and probably 70% of the time on highways. For the other 30%, a good portion of the driving was on small local and mountain roads, which helped with battery consumption as electric vehicles regeneratively charge with breaking.
I normally don’t worry about range although it can require a bit of planning. My battery dipped below 10% only once in the trip to Italy. My lack of concern over range has been built up over time with regular trips in my EV to the Welsh mountains. In the Welsh mountains, charging infrastructure is at a low level and growing slowly, especially in the northern area. This made me conscious of what range means and where the limits are.
While on the trip, we only had a problem finding a charging spot once
This was in Varese and the battery was below 10%. Most public charging points were busy and the one I found free needed a reboot. The time was close to midnight, so it was hard to find support. I have to say that the Enel customer service was great and while there was a wait, due to the late hour, it wasn’t that long.
The route planners and apps used were:
- Tesla’s inbuilt route planner - I would set the destination as the next super charger.
- ABRP (A better route planner) to plan the route and charging stops, but it is not accurate in terms of arrival times.
- Charge map to find charging locations in the local area I was staying, fortunately there was a public, free to use Tesla Destination charger near where I was staying.
For charging and paying the best thing is to have one of the aggregator apps covering more than one country
I have evway, an Italian company covering most of the European territory and growing in the UK, with them you can pay in almost every single public point disregarding of the provider and pay through their app or with a token (interesting in areas with low phone coverage).
With Tesla, and some other manufacturers they do have their navigation app including charging points that facilitate the route planning, but you can’t trust them completely as battery consumption is calculated on optimal conditions, and they try to minimize your stops. For me, I find frequent and shorter stops make the trip more pleasant.
All other costs, including tolls, I paid regularly with my credit cards, although if you travel frequently through Europe it is good to have the device that allows you to pay by passing through toll booths without stopping like Telepass. There are also some companies aggregating different systems and countries that make it a lot easier.
We didn’t travel through many major cities but there can be some great benefits for EV drivers in many main European cities. Early EV adopters get some benefits in certain cities like being allowed to enter areas of controlled traffic, park for free or even park on residents permit only areas.
For next time: I would like to learn more about supercharging points
I made 2 stops in the middle of the night one in an empty mall and another one in a closed golf club that made me a bit nervous. I could have changed those 2 for others in a populated service area but lack of info put me in that situation. No issues at all but not the best feeling at the time.
My advice for anyone setting out on a longer road trip in an EV:
- Make a plan A, B and C. You’re not likely to need all of them but better to be ready for it just in case.
- As previously said, try to get a good understanding of the charging point locations to be able to take the right choice.
- At the end of the day is just a car, it could let you down at any moment like any ICE model… don’t blame the EV, relax and enjoy the trip.