Environmental Management

Motor Services Guest Blog: Edinburgh to Silverstone in an EV

July 13, 2015 by No Comments | Category Transport

 Motor Services Fleet Manager Sean Cronin shares his experience of travelling in an electric car all the way from Edinburgh to Silverstone – a whopping 366 miles! The Scottish Government Fleet includes 30 hybrid electric cars, 3 electric vans and 3 fully electric Nissan Leafs. There are also operational electric car charging points at 7 Scottish Government sites. Sean and his colleague David Martin tested out a Nissan Leaf for their journey to Silverstone.

#IncredibleEVJourney – Edinburgh to Silverstone

Earlier this year I tagged along with colleagues from the Environmental Team who were conducting sustainable travel road shows. They’d requested that we showcase the low carbon vehicles currently operated by colleagues within the SG. Always more than happy to leave the garage we embarked in taking staff out for test drives in the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Outlander and the Toyota Plug-In Prius. The main question faced with was “How far can you travel on electric power?”. The longest journey I’d undertaken was Edinburgh to Glasgow and that was a bit of an eye opener, especially when it came to how quickly the battery charge dropped. I was due to travel to Silverstone to attend a fleet show and decided that this was an ideal opportunity to put the Leaf through its paces on a longer journey.

After planning out the 366 mile route down to Milton Keynes it was onto Zap Maps to see what charging points were available along the way. By utilising rapid chargers we could charge the vehicle up to 80% in around 30 minutes. Taking advice from other Leaf owners this was seen as the best option as the rapid chargers reverted to a standard charge rate for the remaining 20%. Zap maps gave us all the information we needed, along with detail of who owned the charge points, location and the tariff it was on. After reviewing what charge cards were needed and applying for an Ecotricity card, meant we could take advantage of free charging for the whole of the journey.

Sean and David about to set off

The day arrived and after a quick photo call we checked on Zap Maps and Charge Your Car to confirm that the points we’d selected were still operational before setting off. I was accompanied by David Martin who as well as being the co-driver was there to tweet our progress to Silverstone. Our aim was to make it there without getting towed and in the least number of stops. Planning is crucial and having an alternative charge point is just as important. I’d taken the details of most of the rapid points along the route. This gave us the option to skip a point if we could make it to the next on the list.

One thing we’d thankfully already planned for was keeping our speed down. The difference in consumption between 55mph and 70mph is vast – you can get a really good distance at lower speed. By driving conservatively we managed to miss out some of the proposed stops. Rapid charging increased battery temperature and this aided us with how fast the vehicle would accept a charge and the distance we could achieve on that charge. We eventually reached Milton Keynes after 12 hours and 7 charges, which may not sound very impressive but you have to take into account the time to charge, waiting at the point as somebody was there before you and a little hiccup on my part writing down the northbound points post code! We had intended once into our hotel to look for a local point to recharge the car before heading to Silverstone the next day, but after a quick discussion with the hotel staff they allowed us to put the power lead out the window and charge up with the additional 13 amp lead supplied with the vehicle.

On the return journey we tried to push the distance between charge points further and managed to make it back to Edinburgh on 5 stops and if it wasn’t for a Tesla charging up at Berwick we would have been back in around 10 hours. We did experience the dreaded zero miles and zero % battery charge with 3 miles to go before reaching Berwick. The previous days discussions with a Nissan EV guru about our journey highlighted that there is a small reserve once the battery read zero, not something that I would rely on normally though…


When I arrived home I was unsure if I would undertake such a long journey again. We drove 730 miles and it cost us nothing except the additional hours it took to complete the trip. What should have been a 6 1/2 hour journey became 12. We did save £100 but at the time I questioned whether it was worth it.

David plugging in

Now that a few months have passed since the trip I find myself looking at the prospect of using the Leaf once again for a trip to Birmingham. The knowledge that I gained from my first long distance trip was invaluable. Planning is the key, as the saying goes ‘fail to plan- plan to fail’. I’m familiar with the motorway network and have a good idea where all the service stations are but you should always have a backup plan. A good understanding of the limitations of the vehicle is key to a successful trip.

Sean and David’s experience shows that travelling a long distance in an electric vehicle is possible with the help of meticulous planning and the increasing availability of public car charging points. The environmental benefits of using electric vehicles are a great incentive when considering this method of travel. Battery electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf Sean and David travelled in produce no emissions at the tailpipe. Furthermore, Scotland has ambitions to produce the equivalent of 100% of our electricity demand from renewables by 2020, making EVs charged in Scotland some of the greenest in the world. For more information on electric cars, including charging facilities and grants available, take a look at Greener Scotland’s website.

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