Well, I couldn't put it off any longer. I'd made arrangements to collect some goods from Braintree, Essex. I could have relied on my rarely used Peugeot 207 HDi but, having invested in a Mennekes cable, it seemed a shame not to put it to good use and save me over £70 in diesel.
As you may recall, my major concern for my trip was the "getting out of Cornwall" part as well as the "getting back into Cornwall". I'd made contact with two charging possibilities seeing that the use of the Vospers RC in Plymouth was out of the question (interestingly though, Zap-Map indicates that some of the London Vospers dealers show their RCs as being part of Source East - I'd be interested to hear if anyone knows if these are available to non-Nissan drivers).
My two contacts were:
Adam Fox-Edwards, Managing Director, Arundell Arms Hotel, Devon and
Kay Bickley,Upcott House B&B, Devon.
Both were very helpful and provided some useful information repeated at the end of this update.
I chose to use The Arundell Arms for this trip as it appears to be a little closer to the A30 and it is well within my range.
I had an idea that the round trip might take up to 24 hours allowing for any minor problems such as needing the help of The AA.
I set off at 4.30am, estimating arrival at the final destination to be between 3pm and 4pm.
My first stop was at The Arundell Arms 45 miles into my journey - I needed 3 hours to charge up (Citroen C-Zero is limited to 16A) which would get me to the Cullompton RC. (I was told by Ecotricity, only 10 hours earlier, that the closer Exeter RC was off line).
<please also see my reply to http://speakev.com/threads/free-charging-room-discount-for-ev-drivers-devon-cornwall-border.2049/ >
Taking the advice of the gentleman I spoke to at Ecotricity, I decided to stop at all Services with RCs in order to ensure maximum range at all times. So, I stopped at Exeter and, to my surprise, the RC did it's job when I tried it out. I gained an extra 50% charge in 20 mins - this got me to 80% as expected.
I went on to stop at each of Services on the M5 and M4 and experienced the following problems at some of them:
> RC exhibiting ground error or communication problem. I met some engineers who had the job of replacing a certain resistor component in all of the RCs which they said would rectify the ground error.
> No access to opposite carriageway Services when RC offline - the Reading Services Duty Manager was not prepared to loan me a pass card to get through a barrier on the M4 East-bound.
> A Nissan Leaf had been left unattended at one RC with the cable attached but charging complete. Needless to say, this was easily overcome - I completed my charge and replaced the cable back in the Nissan. I'm sure there is an unwritten protocol for this.
Some of these problems were also experienced on my return journey.
Well, I eventually arrived at my destination at around 21.45 pm. Apart from the problematic delays that I had expected I should have know better than to try to navigate my way through the Car Park they call the North London Circular during rush hour - this added a good 3 hours to my journey. Don't ask me where the rest of the time went - it probably vanished with me deciding to try each RC on en-route.
Owing to the location of my destination, I only had one option for topping up enough to get me to the first RC on my return trip. This was the Radissonblu at Stansted Airport - only a 3 pin BS plug for me. I needed around 3 hours of charge so I decided to have a break and a bite to eat in their bar. I learned that you get 3 hours free parking if you eat or drink there. An added bonus, for the geek within, was that my C-Zero was parked next to a Tesla model S in the charging bay using the Blue Commando charger - photo.
Having eaten and caught 40 winks, I set off on my return trip around 3am. I am now writing this commentary at The Arundell Arms as I wait for those precious extra few bars on my dial to appear so I can get home. I should be home for the six o'clock news.
I hope my escapade gives others the confidence to venture further afield and I hope some of the tips also come in useful.
My next adventure will be visiting sunny Manchester at the end of May..... Ah! I knew there was a good reason not to want to get out of Cornwall.
Best wishes and happy motoring.
Useful Advice from my various contacts:
Arundell Arms charging points are available 24/7, are free for all to use and the keys are kept at Reception which is manned from 0730 to 2300 every day. If you are needing a charge outside these hours just call in advance and the night porter can give you access.
7 pin mennekes, 32A and BS 13A.
They have free parking for 60+ cars at the hotel and are interested in the possibility of hosting an EV car club if one exists.
They also offer a 20% discount on room rates for all who arrive in an EV.
You are very welcome to charge your car at Upcott House B&B for free.
The charging point is a ROLEC 32 amp charging point with a 7 pin mennekes connection and they also have a lead with a J1772 end and a mennekes end that you can use.
When you plan your journey telephone Ecotricity ahead of your departure to check the following:
a) if they are currently working
b) if they have a backup 13amp or 32amp point available
c) make sure that they are on the side of the motorway that you are travelling on.
Bristol now has loads of charging points and a rapid charger at IKEA as well as the Nissan garage. Check the opening/closing times of the garages.
On longer journeys stop at every RC station to top up just in case the next RC is offline.