Long distance travel in Germany, with an EV — not an issue!

This is an opinion piece by Juhani, CEO of Snapp Automotive a company building Android Automotive OS software and founder of Snapp Mobile. Some portions of the post might not reflect the opinions of the companies.

We recently took our trusty Polestar 2 and drove through Germany from Munich to Travemünde and back.

There’s this myth that EVs are only suitable for city driving and you need an ICE or a Tesla for driving anything longer than few tens of kilometres. Turns out that at least in Germany that is no longer true. The last limitation of an EV use has been eliminated.

For context, we traveled with a 1,5 year-old as well as a dog.

I tweated our trip’s progress while we were going. So I won’t be repeating all the details here. Take a look at the Twitter thread if interested:

Planning the drive and fast charger availability

Polestar and Plugsurfing have made a deal with Ionity for a special price for Polestar 2 drivers. So I decided to plan my trip around charging at Ionity stations. For those who do not know, Ionity is a charging provided owned by the major German car manufacturers as well as Ford and Hyundai. Their chargers are extremely fast (350kW) as well as reliable and very well available in Germany.

Ionity fast-charger network in the central Europe: https://ionity.eu/

On the way up we stopped for overnight in the middle but the way down we drove all in one go. As this was our first time with long distance EV travel I planned stops a bit more conservatively than it was really necessary.

I wish Android Automotive Google Maps would sync user’s lists so I’d have this in the car as well.

I uses the Ionity app as well as Google Maps’ lists feature to save potential stopping points for every 100–200 km. While the Polestar 2’s range is 350 km in these conditions, our stops were mostly dictated by the patience of our child.

Ionity network is so well distributed in Germany that you can even be picky on which stations you chose. I chose only locations with 6 or more chargers to make sure there was room when I arrived.

We then started the drive and skipped planned stops based on the what our son felt like and how our range was when approaching a planned stop.

If I had had issues with the planned Ionity charger, there were multiple alternatives always available within just a short drive. Providers like EnBW and allego, for example, are equally fast, reliable and easy to use. The total distribution of non-Tesla chargers in Germany is good for the current demand. Long distance travel with EV really isn’t a problem.

Charging experience

During the whole trip (both ways) we stopped to charge 7 times at Ionity, 2 times at a hotel and once at an Aral charging station as well as once in a public charger in Finland. The charging worked without an hitch in all cases except one.

On one of the Ionity stations the car did not initialise charging despite payment working fine. I tried 2 separate chargers and applied pressure at the connector during the handshake (Polestar 2 has a known issue with the handshake sometimes failing unless you hold the cable a bit). Nothing worked. So I dialed up the support number on the station. A real person picked up immediately and after couple of questions rebooted the station remotely and waited on the phone until I tried again and this time it worked fine. So if you face issues, just pick up the phone and call.

Overall, I expected much more issues with charging. 1 out of 11 times I had an issue and even that was sorted in couple of minutes. Reliability really isn’t a problem!

Cost of charging

So, is EV driving cheaper than ICE? Yes, but only just. Fast charging is expensive. The real cost savings come from home charging. To me Ionity charging costs 0,35EUR / kWh.

My charging costs were:

Munich — Travemünde: 35.23 EUR — I arrived with less than 100% battery but enough to get to the next free charging place. I also charged for free in our hotel on the way. Total driving was 860km.

Travemünde — Munich: 37.48 EUR — I arrived to Munich at 25% battery but again, this charging is cheap. There was no free charging anywhere on the way. Total drive was 840km.

If you do the math (and assume I’d charge back full with the same price =19.95EUR) the cost becomes about 6.84 EUR / 100 km.

Charging infrastructure and future demand

The EV transformation is happening. EVs are soon going to sell more than ICEs even in this country. How the infrastructure stays in pace remains to be seen. We might have enough chargers now but soon we don’t unless we keep on building more with an increasing pace.

While we arrived to empty stations, couple of times they were full or nearly full when we were leaving.

Tesla opening their network to the rest of the EVs is likely going to provide a great fallback solution but I’m expecting Tesla charging to be expensive, and rightly so.

We also need to speed up building our home chargers. More people charging home less people are charging on the roadside chargers in cities. This, of course, won’t impact the fast charging situation but will have impact elsewhere.

German government has initiatives under works that if successfully executed will make this country a very EV friendly. Remains to be seen though.. Politicians can’t be trusted.

Traveling with an EV vs. an ICE

It’s no secret that EVs are better to drive in general then ICE cars. Lack of gears, engine issues, noise, smell and just simpler driving interface makes EV driving better and more comfortable experience. But what mostly surprising to me was the psychological impact of charging.

On a long trip you should stop at least every 300km anyways. Bio-breaks, coffee and lunch are things that just have to happen. On our trip we at no time were waiting for our car to charge. The car was always ready to go when we were ready. But on the other hand we were not rushing through our snacks or pulled our kid out from the kids’ play area either. I never felt anxious about continuing as if we let the kid play a bit longer our battery was just fuller for the next stint and it was more likely that he’d be happier sitting still longer. This changed my experience the most. I arrived to end of every day completely relaxed. I expected to be bored when waiting for charging but the opposite was true. To me this was the biggest revelation of the trip. I now look forwards to the next long trip we can make.

Polestar 2

I used to miss my BMW M3(e46) from time to time. The experience it gave to me was immense. But now. I don’t miss it anymore. I absolutely adore the Polestar 2. From the fantastic infotainment system to the design and comfort and the 408bhp kick available under my right foot, this car is perfection. I feel like if I have seen the light and opened my eyes. EV future is not boring, EV future is goddamn fantastic and exciting on a level an ICE can never deliver.

A masterpiece.

Conclusion, TL;DR

In Germany, long distance travel isn’t an issue with EVs. Charging is easy and readily available. The costs are not higher than ICE travel and it doesn’t take longer either. EV pricing remains an issue but if you can, you should buy an EV as your next car. It is the future and it is here now.

Dad | Founder, CTO @snappmobile_io | acting CEO @snappautomotive | GDE, Android | GDG-Android Munich organiser