Arles for a Van Gogh Exhibition

The trip to Arles in France in my Nissan Leaf at the end of December went fairly well. I like to stop a place in Figueres which is only about 70 km away from where I live. It’s good for a quick top up before arriving in France. It’s a Nissan dealership with a rapid charger. I wasn’t successful this time to get much charge because the connector on the end of the cable was slightly damaged. We talked to the salesman in the shop and he told us it was down to users dropping it on the floor. This was one of the big and heavy connectors and you think it would be more robust. The machine kept giving me errors and I couldn’t get any DC juice.

We continued driving on towards a place called Rivesaltes which is just north of Perpignan. I drove past the chargers at the Nissan dealer in Perpignan and at the Auchan supermarket because I wanted to try out this other one. I saw in a tweet that Glyn Hudson and his wife had used this one on their way down from Wales in their ENV200 campervan. They said it was free to use and I was surprised because it’s at a petrol station. They were correct and it was a charge for no charge.

Charging the Leaf Rivesaltes

Renault Zoe Country

Our next stop was in a place called Sete where there’s a charger at an Auchan supermarket. It wasn’t too difficult to find because the car park wasn’t too large. When I pulled in, there was a Tesla model X next to the charging bay. I don’t know if it was waiting to get some charge but he moved anyway. In the charging bay there was a Renault Zoe. Fortunately I only had to wait about five minutes for the owner to return so I could plug in. At this charger we plugged in for about 40 minutes and got the battery level up to about 90%. I was about 10 minutes longer than I expected to be because I fell asleep in the passenger seat while charging. A Nissan Leaf pulled in beside me while I was there. He left a message by leaving the charge port open on his car. I was able to oblige by plugging his car in before I left. This was made possible because the charger was also on the free vend. I do have a couple of RFID cards which would have worked with this machine, but they weren’t necessary.

No Destination Charger at the Hotel

That was all the charging necessary for the journey of about 380 km. Our next stop was at the hotel in Arles. We arrived there with around about 30% in the battery. I didn’t plan it, but there’s a Nissan dealer just around the corner from the hotel. Shame there wasn’t a charging point at the hotel itself. More hotels are going to have to install destination chargers. I think next time I go travelling I will choose the hotel based on whether they have a charger or not. I left it too late to get any charge at the Nissan dealer that day. We were able to go into the dealer and ask if they were open the following day which was a Saturday. They told us they opened at nine and we were welcome to use the charger. I was able to get a reasonable amount of charging and still have time to get to the Van Gogh exhibition in a village not far away.

It's all About the Art...

The exhibition took place at a quarry. You might think it was a strange place for an exhibition, but this was kind of special. This quarry has been converted to show audiovisual exhibitions. You go into a big cave with large flat walls onto which they project the pictures. The pictures were animated and there was music to go with it. It was like being inside Van Gogh’s life or at the very least inside his paintings. it was impressive and we were able to watch the show twice. There was also a showing at the same time of Japanese art. It was all extremely enjoyable!

Arles was a pleasant town to visit. We also got to see the Roman arena in the centre of the town. It’s impressive that buildings so old can last so long. The town is still able to use it for things like music concerts.

Van Gogh

Chargers Not Working or Missing Completely

After exploring the town we went back to the car park where I had left Rosie the red Nissan Leaf. It was beside the river and there were two DC rapid chargers. I was planning to get a good amount of charge into the car ready for our journey back home the following day. I couldn’t get either of them to work. It’s recognised the card, but then no electricity actually flowed. We really need to move to a situation where you can use credit cards to pay for your charging at whatever charge point. These RFID cards are a stupid idea. I couldn’t go back to the Nissan garage because it was closed on Saturday afternoon. If Nissan were serious about electric cars they would have these rapid chargers more accessible. They could even provide two or three bays with Type II connections. They can make it so that only the Nissan vehicles could use them if they want to.

Auchan Montpellier

Sunday is not the best day to go travelling with an electric car. The Nissan dealer is still closed. We headed away from the town towards Montpellier. I planned to try to get some charge in a place called La Grand Motte and was unsuccessful. Using the application PlugShare we got to the place where the charger was supposed to be. Drove around the car park and the road to the car park two or three times and there was no charger there. Very disappointing. According to PlugShare there was another charger at the other end of town. I decided not to bother. I considered it a better plan to head towards Montpellier towards the next charging possibility. If I’d a fully charged battery which would have been possible if the hotel had chargers, we could have seen more of the coastal area. I had to spend time thinking about where I would get the car charged rather than enjoying my trip. It’s at times like this when having a larger battery or maybe just having a Tesla would have been a good idea.

Tesla Drivers Behaving Badly

When we pulled into the charger there was a Nissan Leaf connected to the CHAdeMO. There was also a Tesla plugged into the AC connector. The Tesla had been sitting there for a long time. Hours and hours. All we could do was to wait for the 30 kWh Nissan Leaf driver to finish. He was at 74% with his battery and told me he would be another 10 minutes. 25 minutes later I had to remind him. He was just being cheeky using the free electricity. While we were waiting another Tesla pulled up. So the Nissan driver pulled out and we pulled in and I connected up. Just after that the driver of the first Tesla who was connected to the AC turned up and moved his car. It got kind of amusing because the other Tesla driver was asking me if he could jump the queue. For some strange reason he thought he should be able to get in to charge before me. I had been waiting longer and didn’t want to wait even longer than that. He was happy when the other Tesla moved out of the way because he thought it would be able to get charging. Except, he wanted to use the CCS cable. This is one of those machines where you can only connect one DC charger at a time. I was using the CHAdeMO so the CCS was not going to work for him. If you have a look in the video you’ll see that he was getting kind of angry at this time and started bashing the machine with his fist. I would have been annoyed if he’d done something to stop my car from charging. He must have been new to the car because he didn’t understand how this worked. While he was waiting he could have used the AC connector, but didn’t. He had to wait until I had sufficient in my battery for my drive home.

Chill Out Driving a Nissan Leaf

When driving on the motorway I like to set the intelligent cruise control to about 104 km/h. It’s not too slow and usually feels quite relaxing. There are some lorries and other vehicles going a little bit slower. So every now and then I have the job of overtaking which helps to break the boredom on a long trip. I left myself the option of stopping in Girona for a top up. I could also have pulled into Figueres. I didn’t have to do either and I was able to arrive home without having to worry about the number of kilometres I had left in the battery. The complete trip worked out at about 800 km and for the most part worked very well.

About Being an Early Adopter of Electric Cars

With my Nissan leaf I am still what you would call an early adopter. I am happy and proud to be driving an electric car. I love my Nissan leaf and I’m pleased to be doing something for the environment. Greta Thunberg would be proud of me and Extinction Rebellion could give me a thumbs up also. There are still insufficient charging points. The balance between the range of my car and the infrastructure is still not quite right. My car would be perfect if there were more available charging points. Having a single charging machine in a town is not good enough. Hotels without destination chargers will not be getting my business in the future. It’s still necessary to have a relaxed frame of mind to be a driver of an electric car. At least that is the case when you’re going on a longer trip. You have to be prepared to do a certain amount of planning. You need a plan B and sometimes even a plan C for those times when chargers are not working or not there. Things are changing and will get better in the next couple of years. I’ve had my car for 18 months now and I’ve already seen some improvements. Could be better though.