The British comedian Tony Hawkes once wrote a very entertaining book about hitch-hiking around Ireland with a portable fridge. I would recommend Around Ireland With a Fridge for an enjoyable light read, without too much drama.
Myself and my wife just took a trip around Ireland, lugging the heavy 67kWh battery attached to our Kia e-Niro. This is our story of that trip. There isn’t an awful amount of drama in this one either!
TLDR: We drove around Ireland in an electric car. It was grand.
I had owned a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) since 2016, one that had a battery and electric motor that could take you about 30km, and a petrol (gasoline) engine that could take you a lot further. It was great because, like most of us, my daily commute wasn’t that far, so I could be very “eco” and use the electric engine. Then, when we needed to go somewhere further, the petrol engine would take over. It was still burning fossil-fuel and generating carbon though.
I had spent a good bit of time over the last 5 years in researching options around moving to a full battery electric vehicle (BEV), one that didn’t use any fossil-fuel to get around. Early on, the biggest issue that kept jumping out was the dreaded “range anxiety”. The next issue was infrastructure — there were not enough charging points in the country, and most were slower ones that would need hours to recharge your car. As a PHEV driver, I got to experience a bit of the public infrastructure, but actually I mostly charged at home or in the office. I could follow the main provider (ESB eCars) and their progress, and watch as they added new and upgraded chargers.
Funnily, as an internal combustion engine (ICE) driver, I did get range anxiety, and I don’t think it is uncommon. When the needle dropped to 1/4 tank, I started looking at options to refuel. This isn’t a new thing invented for electric cars! So, actually, it is the infrastructure that is the potential problem, not the range anxiety. I can find a petrol (gas) station almost everywhere, so it was easy to resolve my ICE range anxiety. It was less easy for a BEV driver to do so.
But that has changed to a large extent. Infrastructure is coming on in leaps and bounds. For the vast majority of EV drivers, for a large percentage of their driving time, it is a non-issue anyway, because they have their own driveways and have access to a charger to plug in at night (often at low off-peak rates). For others, chargers are springing up in local shopping centres, in car parks, and on-street. Fast, 50kw chargers, which can charge most cars to 80% within 30-45 minutes, are widely located on the main trunk routes around the country.
So, having done the research, and having the plug-in experience, myself and my wife decided to make a jump. Looking at the way the world is going and probable working from home a lot of the time, it doesn’t really make sense anymore for us to have two cars. We decided to get rid of the PHEV and the smaller ICE and purchase a BEV between us. Between that and an e-bike, we will have commuting fully covered.
We are lucky to have a second home in Wexford in the South-East of Ireland that we use on a regular basis. It is about 160km door-to-door. We have a charger at our Dublin home, but don’t have the option to have one in Wexford, which really ruled out some of the “city car” EVs with shorter range. These city-EVs, such as the Mini or the Fiat 500e, are great options for people who are going to use cars for shorter commutes. They are also a lot of fun to drive!
Looking at cars with range that will generally get us from Dublin to Wexford and back on one charge, we came down to looking at the VW id 3 or 4, the Hyundai Kona or the Kia e-Niro. We weren’t sold on the id interiors and the new haptic-style buttons. We have had Hyundai cars for several years, so it was a front-runner. However, in the end we decided on the Kia because of the combination of range and practical space. It is quite a well proven model as well, with great warranty and service options. So, we are now the owners of 212 reg (2021, July) MY21 spec Kia e-Niro. There is only one spec option here in Ireland, so it has most of the bells and whistles as standard.
The first few weeks have been great. We have been using it for our Wexford trips and it has all the range we need. We do have a good number of options for charging in Wexford if we need a top-up. That includes two 50kw fast chargers and 22kw supermarket charges within a 10 minute drive of the house. There are also a number of fast charge options on the main road up and down. So we can drive down, go wherever we need, and drive home. We never worry about range. Mostly using the one charge at home, but with options if we need them.
Coming into August, we had a couple of weeks vacation booked off, but with no plans other than heading down to Wexford. We thought about some options and decided to book a couple of nights in the seaside town of Youghal in Cork, on the South coast. It would be fairly easy to get to from Wexford, and there are a number of charging options around the town. It should be a good place to explore an area we haven’t spent too much time in before.
That was a good plan, but I thought that I could come up with something a little more challenging! I looked at the map and thought, well, why don’t we drive from the far South-East to the North-West, then down to the South-West, then over to Youghal and finally back to Wexford. It should be about 1,000km of distance driving plus whatever we get up to at the various locations. So, we booked a night in Sligo and a Night in Killarney to lead into the couple of nights we had already booked in Youghal.
Off we go!
The journey actually started in Dublin with a full charge of the 64kWh battery before we left for a couple of days in Wexford before heading to Sligo. We did some bits’n’pieces driving around during these days. We took the opportunity to add a few volts when shopping at the local Tesco (AC 10.48kWh for €2.81 in the just under an hour). The evening before setting off on the big trip, like my Dad would have done many years ago, I headed to the local filling station in Killinick to top-up the car at the 50kw DC unit— from about 50% charge to 80% (DC 16.41kWh for €5.01).
Worth noting at this point that the target for changing on DC fast chargers is usually 80%. This is because the car starts to limit the charge, to manage the batteries, after this and going from 80-100% would take as long as 20-80%. Charging to 80% gives the e-Niro in the region of 300km of range, so that is not really a problem.
We set off at about 10:30am on a Saturday morning for our roughly 340km journey to Sligo. The route was going to be on a mix of road types, from Motorway (typical limit 120kph) to “N” roads (typical limit 100 or 80kph) and “R” roads (varying limit between 50 and 80kph), using the A Better Route Planner (ABRP) app for guidance on charge locations, and Waze via Android Auto for the driving navigation. The plan was to head mostly diagonally on N/M11 — N80 through Carlow to Tullamore — M6 to our charge stop. We stopped at the Kilmartin Services there and plugged into the “Delta” 150kW ultra-fast charger there and headed for McDonald’s for a food and toilet pit stop. Before we had got to Kilmartin, we did drop in at the M6 Services at the previous exit, who offer a free-to-use fast charger, but it was very busy and there was already a Kona plugged in. They also have Ionity fast chargers there, but they are twice as expensive as competitors (unless you are in the right club!) which is why we went on to the eCars ones. It was great to be able to look at the app and see that the chargers were still available before we headed that way.
41 minutes after plugging in, all fed and watered, we were back up to 80% charge (DC 36.39kWh for €13.46).
From Athlone we followed the N61 north through Roscommon as far as Tulsk, where Waze decided that the N5 — R293 — N17 — N4 was the best route to Sligo. It was twisty in places, but otherwise fine — plenty of regen! We arrived at our lodgings after 344.1km and 5 hours 11 minutes of driving, at an efficiency of 15.2kWh/100km, about 6.6km/kWh. That is a Miles Per Gallon equivalent (MPGe) of 138 — which is pretty economical! The battery was at 52%.
When we went to dinner in Sligo, we found an available on-street charger so took that opportunity to add some more energy, getting us back up to 75% (AC 18.22kWh for €4.88). That meant we wouldn’t need to do another fast charge until lunchtime the following day.
Current wisdom has it that the DC fast chargers will have a slightly more detrimental impact on the life of batteries, so advice is always to mix it up with more AC slow charging (which is what you would have at home as well as the on-street chargers). It may or not make much difference though — the battery management systems are excellent and do a great job protecting the batteries. There are “fake news” ideas out there that batteries will need to be replaced after just a few years. That is just not happening! Batteries do deteriorate, but not that fast. Kia have given us an 8-year warranty on our battery! They would not do that if the battery was likely to be duff in 5 years. There are 10 year old Nissan Leafs and Renault Zoes out there with original batteries that are still going strong. The batteries will no longer carry the same level of charge as when the cars were new, but it is worth remembering that a diesel car will also be well off its factory efficiency after 10 years!
It had been a bit rainy when we arrived in Sligo so we didn’t venture very far that first evening, just dinner and a stroll around the town. The weather was better the next morning so, after our breakfast, we took a spin up to Mullaghmore Beach to have a look and a walk around. Then we set off for Killarney.
The route down was mainly the N/M17 to Galway and then M18 to Limerick then N21&N22 to Killarney. We planned to stop near Galway to have lunch and recharge the car. There are two main options for recharge — the Galway Plaza at J16 on the M6, and Glynn’s Service Station at the entrance to Galway Airport. We were keeping an eye on eCars app and could see that someone had connected in Glynn’s just before we turned towards there and, even though there were folks connected at the Galway Plaza, there are 2 CCS units there, so we wouldn’t have to wait long.
This is the biggest infrastructure hurdle right now, in that there are too few charging units at these major locations, especially at this time of year when there is a lot of vacation traffic. At the Athlone sevices area that we had been to the previous day, there was the (expensive) Ionity option, and they tend to have at least 4 units at the few sites they have in Ireland. The J14 services on the M7 does also now have several eCar units. However, most other sites with DC fast charging only have one unit so sometimes you will need to wait a short while.
For us, the wait was no more than 10 minutes and we were able to get charging and then go and get lunch and a comfort break. We got charged up to 75% just within the eCars 46 minute period before you get hit with a long-stay fee (DC 37.11kWh for €11.32) and headed for Killarney.
It has to be said that a lot of other EV owners are very helpful to each other and we experienced that on this occasion. We were also able to pay it forward by helping out with facilitating a couple of Tesla drivers to get charged.
Half the remaining journey was on motorway and the rest on “N” roads. The motorway driving does really hit your overall efficiency as driving over about 100kph (in any car, not just an EV!) becomes less efficient and you use more kWh per km. We arrived safely to our lodgings after 418.4km and 5 hours and 23 minutes of driving, with an overall efficiency of 16.3kWh/100km — lower than the previous day’s, which had much less motorway. The battery was at 20% charge, so would need a recharge before heading off the next day.
I got up reasonably early the next day and went to recharge before breakfast. By good fortune rather than good planning I had booked a place very close to Randall’s Garage on the Muckross Road which has a fast charger. I got up to 68% within the 46 minutes (DC 37.18kWh for €11.84). We were planning to head to Kinsale in Cork as a stop-off on the way to Youghal, and ABRP told me that the 68% should be good to comfortably get us all the way without another charge.
Charging the car early meant a couple of things: first, that it then gave us time to have a very pleasant walk around the grounds of Killarney House, and second, that I probably wouldn’t need to wait for someone else who was charging.
As it happens, we passed the site a few times that morning and it wasn’t busy. Just before we left Killarney, we noted a Tesla Model S had just pulled up. There is a useful website — https://ecars-stats.com — that will give recent stats on the usage of an eCars site to work out what the chances are of it being occupied at a particular time.
This is quite useful and shows what we experienced — earlier on a Monday morning has lower usage.
We headed for Kinsale along the N22 and then, after Macroom, Waze took us on an “interesting” route using local roads that avoided going through Bandon, then N71 and R605 and R606 into Kinsale. Almost all of this was below 100kph and often much slower. Plenty of twisty road and up and down hills too, which meant a lot of regen braking. At one stage, I noted efficiency at 13.2kWh/100km, which would have equated to an awesome 485km of range — just over the magic 300 mile mark!
Parking in Kinsale can be challenging so we drove to a local SuperValu supermarket that happened to have an eCars charger. It was one of the newer “Delta” ultra-fast 150kw chargers.
We weren’t desperate for a fast charge, and we also didn’t want to be restricted to the 46 minute limit, so we plugged into the AC socket, leaving the fast chargers for someone else who may have needed them. We then headed into the SuperValu to buy some food, which we ate sitting on a wall at the side of the water, enjoying the sights and sounds of this lovely harbour town.
When we got back, we were glad we had left the fast charger available as there was a Hyundai Ioniq charging there.
The car was up to 71% (AC 14.14kWh for €3.84) so we hit the road to Youghal. Following the R607 to the N71 and on to the N40 around the south of Cork City to the Jack Lynch tunnel and onto the N25. The last stretch was the R634 into Youghal. More faster stretches here, but none going faster (in general!) than 100kph. We arrived with 55% battery charge.
The final big driving day of the journey was 168.1km in 3 hours and 15 minutes of driving and the most efficient day at 14.0kWh/100km.
This is really the end of the story. We have arrived in Youghal and will spend the next couple of days exploring the area. We have 55% battery left and that will get us back to Wexford, with some to spare. We will probably use it in our explorations but there is a DC fast charger nearby and another couple of options for AC charging in the town. It will be grand, no drama.
Most people in Ireland use their cars to mostly travel just a few kilometers. According to the Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO) in 2014, the average drive in Dublin was 10km and 16km outside of the Capital. So, for the vast majority of drivers, an electric car makes a lot of practical sense.
For those who need to go longer distances, then these can be managed too — it just needs some planning. There are great apps, such as ABRP, that can help — add them to your trip planning along with Booking.com and TripAdvisor. You might need to take a break on your journey, but that is not usually a problem — it can be fit around food an toilet breaks.
I hope that this story can help anyone thinking about buying an EV to be comfortable that the car will fit in with what you want to do with it. I really hope that it might help someone thinking about buying a diesel or petrol car to have another think!
Stats — for those who like them.
Distance: approx 1,100km or 680miles.
DC kWh: 127.09
AC kWh: 42.84
Total kWh: 169.93
DC €: 41.63
AC €: 11.53
Total €: 53.16
For comparison, a Hyundai Kona Diesel “real world” efficiency*: 8.7l/100km
At €1.40/l for 1,100km: €133.98
(Kona selected as similar size car from the same company — Hyundai own Kia — available in Ireland. Using 8.0l/100km of the Kia Seltos, that would be €123.20 on Diesel)