Catalonia road trip testing chargers
Before I could go out on the Catalonia EV Road Trip the first thing I needed to do was to clean the car. I only cleaned it a couple of days ago, giving it a proper wash with the pressure washer. Have to do it again because it rained the day after, typical! That was when I found a small bump that happened on the passenger side by the front wheel. Someone must have caught it someplace where I was parked. Today I only found a strange thing on the front bumper at the bottom part where there seem to be some sort of plastic strand -like from a brush stuck into the paint. I was working quickly with the wash so I haven’t had a proper look at it again.
So once the car was washed and properly ready for a trip. (Rosie has to look her best when I take her out.) I loaded up my two passengers and we set out in the direction of Vic. I had been to Vic before quite some years ago and I remember it having a rather large town square. It also has some sort of Roman building there too. We didn’t make it into the town due to the loose and fluid plans for the day.
A detour off the Vic road
I had seen in my incoming information, either Twitter or Facebook or an email there was a public charger installed in a town called Viladrau. I decided to make a visit to test out the charger. In Plugshare app it was listed as a Type II Mennekes connection. One of the main things I wanted to test today was how well the electric vehicle card from Girona Ajuntament worked in various charge points. Until today I’d only used it briefly at the charger in Olot. The road into this small village was extremely bendy and full of curves to drive around. It was also used by large trucks and there was a point where we had to reverse back over a bridge to let one through. It’s extremely useful having the camera show me what’s behind making reversing quite easy. Fun Catalonia EV Road Trip, but less so with two queasy passengers.
Getting the charger to activate
It took a couple of tries for the RFID card to do its magic with the charging post. I think there must be a set order for connecting. I obviously keep getting it wrong on my first couple of tries on my Catalonia EV Road Trip. So one of the things I learned today was to persevere and not give up on the first, second or even third try. You would kind of wonder why I bothered, but I was there and felt sure it should work, so I kept at it. Eventually the post gave me the electrons through my own T2 cable I got out of the boot to plug the car into the charging post. The screen on the charging post is very small and quite difficult to read. It’s an LCD display and could do with some backlighting to make it readable.
Timer Setting causing a problem
It’s possible that I scuppered the first tried by myself by having the wrong setting in the EV settings of the car. You need to have it switched so the timed charging only applies when at home. I changed this to the correct setting and did some unplugging and plugging back in again for it to work. I didn’t really need to much in the way of charge, but I did want to have a little walk around the town. While I was walking the car was charging and I think I added about 5% to the battery. Not a huge amount, but it was a test and a successful one.
Failed to activate with the card
In Olot we went to the electric charging point, a rapid charger which is at a roundabout with a restaurant. The food was better in this version of the restaurant. We had a decent feed for €10 each. When I tried to plug into the rapid charger it kept telling me the card was not recognised. I was not able to use the charger and I was disappointed. This meant I had to go with Plan B. This meant driving two minutes up the road to the Nissan dealership which had a rapid charger in the car park at the front of the building. I was surprised and delighted I was able to easily plug-in and start the charge. I was half expecting it to tell me I needed a code or some other RFID card to activate the charging. Connection was as easy as falling off a log. I walked back down to the restaurant and left the car charging for 45 minutes and it went from about 50% to 98%. This was a good state of play for the rest of the trip. There was one other place in Olot I could have tried. Maybe I would have got lucky at the other public charger. No point in trying to charge it after I’d already taken it up to 98%. Next time in Olot I will try out the other one.
A trip to Figueres
My passengers and I had no particular place we wanted to go to. So I decided to go and test a charger in Figueres. There is a public charger which I should have been able to use the charging card from Girona. A pleasant drive from where we were to the town famous for the museum of Salvador Dali. Using Apple Carplay in the car to guide me to the charge point was easy. The large fly in the ointment was that there were works going on all around the square where the charger was situated. This had affected the rapid charger. There were barriers all around it and tape. It was impossible to park there let alone plug-in and get some charge.
Moving on to the next destination
The next destination for the Catalonia EV Road Trip was Girona to test another charging point. I had enough juice in the battery to get me all the way home. Even so, I want to try out another charger and test the charging card once more. This rapid charger is situated to the south of the city. I’d spotted it a couple of times in the PlugShare application and I’d wanted to give it a try.
BMW i3 gets the spot
As we pulled into the charging point there was a BMW i3 pulled in just in front of us. The female driver was plugging in as we were parking. This was a single charging point and one thing I’ve learned today is that even if someone is using the different type of connection, the CCS as you find with the BMW this will put the CHAdeMO charging out of action. I was able to test the card still by connecting my car to the AC Mennekes. I just checked to see that the electrons were flying into the car and the easiest way to do that is with looking at the flashing blue lights on the dash. It is also possible to see in the Leaf Spy Pro when there is charge going into the car. The maximum I can get in to the 2018 Nissan Leaf is just over 6 kW using this connection. I suspect future Nissan leaf vehicles will have an on-board charger at least as fast as the 22 kW you find on the Renault Zoe. That speed of charging is half as fast as you normally get with the CHAdeMO when you first start, but is still pretty quick. The lady with the BMW i3 was in there for the long haul, which is the maximum of 30 minutes. She had got her phone out and had put the seat back to relax as she chatted with her friends. Time to move on to the next charging point.
Girona shopping centre charging
In the underground parking for the shopping centre I knew there were some chargers. The Type 2 Mennekes plugs hanging from the same sort of charging point as I have in my garage at home. It took me a while to find these chargers. Now I know where they are will be easy to find and use the next time. Not that I like going to the shopping centre because there’s hardly anything there for us boys to look at. There’s more there for the female of the species. Although, I did get a very nice cake and was able to sit and relax for about half an hour or more. I didn’t really time how long I was at the shopping centre for. The main thing is it put about 16% into the battery bringing it back up to 80%.
Stop Start and Pro Pilot Assist
For part of the way home I was able to use the Pro Pilot Assist. This was really useful at a town called Quart. The traffic was slow going, doing the stop and start thing. I was able to sit and relax while the car did most of the work. Occasionally the traffic would stop completely for more than three seconds and my preference is to press the reset button on the steering wheel. It just feels a little safer than tapping the accelerator pedal to get the car moving again. It’s going to be marvellous when I get the radar sensor at the front of the car fixed on the 16th of this month. There’s a lot of people have been affected by this sensor problem. I’m surprised Nissan allowed so many cars out the factory with a faulty radar sensor. I would have expected these parts to have been fully tested when they were being supplied. It’s a little strange way this fault works. It is intermittent, but not right from the beginning of a journey. The Pro Pilot Assist will work perfectly for 40 or 50 km before it starts complaining.
A useful road trip in Catalonia
Apart from enjoying seeing the fantastic countryside here in Catalonia, the road trip was useful to learn more about my car and charging it. I already knew it was a good idea to have a plan B and possibly a plan C. My experience of driving the car today and charging confirmed that. It’s quite possible if I was going to a place without having any planning I could end up getting into difficulties. Finding chargers which are out of service is one thing. There is also the unreliability of the charging card. It really should have worked on the charger in the car park of the restaurant. It did work two weeks ago when we used it. It should have worked perfectly for us today also. Every time I tried it just gave me the same message to say the card was not recognised. Very disappointing!
Overall I enjoyed the drive in terms of being entertained while travelling and being a tourist. I would have enjoyed better if I had to run into problems to deal with regards charging. Mind you, part of it is all about it being a learning experience today. The fact I ran into problems and was able to deal with them was a positive thing overall.
It can only get better for the next Catalonia EV Road Trip
I think there are lots of changes to be made with regards the provisioning of charging points around Spain. At the moment there are still not enough. The town of Vic had only one charging point and it was of the wrong type of connector according to PlugShare. This was one of the reasons why we gave the town a miss. We could have gone there to eat and to charge the car. Towns need to realise they need to provide charging points for electric car drivers if they want to encourage us to visit their town. Olot is a smaller town but has many more charging options.
Crowd sourced Information
One of the excellent things with the PlugShare application is the ability to add charging points to it. I had expected to find the charging points for the shopping centre in the application already. I didn’t see them but I was able to add them myself. I took photos and included information to do with the charging points, such as how to use them. I left a notification in the application on where to find the charging points in the underground parking area. Other electric car drivers will be able to benefit from my additional information in the PlugShare app. I’m looking forward to my next Catalonia EV Road Trip.